A workaround is a bypass[1] of a recognized problem or limitation in a system or policy.[2] A workaround is typically a temporary fix[3][4] that implies that a genuine solution to the problem is needed. But workarounds are frequently as creative as true solutions, involving outside the box thinking[5][6] in their creation.

Part of the Miles Glacier Bridge, with a temporary repair after a 1964 March earthquake which was finally repaired in July 2004.

Typically they are considered brittle[7] in that they will not respond well to further pressure from a system beyond the original design. In implementing a workaround it is important to flag the change so as to later implement a proper solution.[8]

Placing pressure on a workaround may result in later system failures. For example, in computer programming workarounds are often used to address a problem or anti-pattern in a library, such as an incorrect return value. When the library is changed, the workaround may break the overall program functionality, effectively becoming an anti-pattern, since it may expect the older, wrong behaviour from the library.

Workarounds can also be a useful source of ideas for improvement of products or services.[9]


When the legal system places an obstacle in the form of a restriction or requirement, the law may provide a possible workaround. Laws intended to tap into what may seem to be deep pockets may lead to what are at least temporary solutions such as:

  • Since "most French workplace laws affect businesses with 50 or more employees... many French companies opt to employ only 49 people in avoidance of crippling legislations."[10]
  • An injunction against Microsoft regarding XML features and an easy technical workaround, a patent attorney suggested having two versions of MS Word, one with and one without the feature.[11]



Some well-known acronyms were created to work around bureaucratic or contracting restrictions:

  • PDP - The term was used to describe a computer by another name, due to contracting complications for purchasing or leasing computers. The term PDP (Programmed Data Processor or Programmable Data Processor) was a workaround.[12][13][14][15] The name "PDP" intentionally avoids the use of the term "computer".[16][17] PDPs were aimed at a market that could not afford larger computers.
  • GNU - GNU's Not UNIX. As AT&T's prices for academic licensing and use of UNIX increased,[18] new restrictions on maximum number of concurrent users and limitations on types of use[18][19] created a motivation for an alternative: a work-alike workaround. Among the better known ones are:
  • PSAP. By contrast with hearing aids, the sale of which is more regulated[20][21] and more expensive,[22] a Personal Sound Amplification Product (PSAP) is lower in price albeit more limited in capability.

See also



  1. ^ "Workaround/Bypass on 3900 length limit on formula field".
  2. ^ Arif Wibisono, Ibrahim Alhassan, David Sammon, Ciara Heavin, Gaye Kiely, Erma Suryani (2019). "Understanding Theory of Workarounds in Practice". Procedia Computer Science. 161 (3): 187–194. doi:10.1016/j.procs.2019.11.114.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ "IT: a temporary method for dealing with a computer or software problem until a more permanent solution is found: One easy workaround is to ..."
  4. ^ "work around - Definition". Cambridge English Dictionary.
  5. ^ "It requires that social workers think 'outside the box' - outside their normal frames of ...
  6. ^ Mel Gray; John Coates; Michael Yellow Bird (2008). ndigenous Social Work Around the World: Towards Culturally Relevant. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 978-0754648383.
  7. ^ "Workaround [#1176558]". 2 June 2011.
  8. ^ "How to Fix the 'A [?]' Autocorrect Bug in iOS 11 When Typing 'i'". 7 November 2017.
  9. ^ "Can't You Just Ask People?". TheAnthroGuys. Retrieved 2014-08-08.
  10. ^ Anurag Harsh (2017). Thinking Tech: Thoughts On the Key Technological Trends of Our Times. ISBN 978-1483595900.
  11. ^ "'Easy workaround' could solve Microsoft Word's legal woes, says expert". August 14, 2009.
  12. ^ Montgomery, H. E.; Uccellini, L. W. (October 1985). "VAS Demonstration" (PDF).
  13. ^ "New Market Disruption: The DEC Programmable Data Processor".
  14. ^ R Belcher (2013). Computers in Analytical Chemistry. Elsevier. p. 153. ISBN 978-1483285627. "The term PDP is an acronym for Programmable Data Processor ... the series was introduced by their manufacturer, Digital Equipment Corporation ..."
  15. ^ "The History of Digital Equipment Corporation".
  16. ^ Henderson, edited by Rebecca M.; Newell, Richard G. (2011). Accelerating energy innovation : insights from multiple sectors. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 180. ISBN 978-0226326832. {{cite book}}: |first1= has generic name (help)
  17. ^ Huang, Han-Way (2014). The atmel AVR microcontroller : MEGA and XMEGA in assembly and C. Australia ; United Kingdom: Delmar Cengage Learning. p. 4. ISBN 978-1133607298.
  18. ^ a b "Old licenses and prices".
  19. ^ restricting " universities that wanted to use the system for their internal business (e.g. student registration) as distinct from teaching and research
  20. ^ Since a licensed audiologist is required
  21. ^ Neil DiSarno (22 June 2014). "Pros and Cons of Inexpensive Hearing Aids Called PSAPs". Wall Street Journal.
  22. ^ Kochkin, Sergei, Ph.D. "MarkeTrak VIII: Utilization of PSAPs and Direct-Mail Hearing Aids by People with Hearing Impairment" (PDF).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)