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boilerplate

In information technology, a boilerplate is a unit of writing that can be reused over and over without change. By extension, the idea is sometimes applied to reusable programming as in "boilerplate code." The term derives from steel manufacturing, where boilerplate is steel rolled into large plates for use in steam boilers. The implication is either that boilerplate writing has been time-tested and strong as "steel," or possibly that it has been rolled out into something strong enough for repeated reuse. Legal agreements, including software and hardware terms and conditions, make abundant use of boilerplates. The term is also used as an adjective as in "a boilerplate paragraph" and also as in "The entire document was boilerplate."

A boilerplate can be compared to a certain kind of template, which can be thought of as a fill-in-the-blanks boilerplate. Some typical boilerplates include: mission statements, safety warnings, commonly used installation procedures, copyright statements, and responsibility disclaimers.

In the 1890s, boilerplate was actually cast or stamped in metal ready for the printing press and distributed to newspapers around the United States. Until the 1950s, thousands of newspapers received and used this kind of boilerplate from the nation's largest supplier, the Western Newspaper Union. Some companies also sent out press releases as boilerplate so that they had to be printed as written.

This was last updated in October 2006

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