In the 1999 film Office Space, there is an ongoing joke about Peter Gibbons not putting cover sheets on his TPS Reports, and multiple people reminding him or showing incredulity at him not doing that.

I work in the IT industry, but I have never heard of TPS reports (except in reference to this film). Are they something that was invented specifically for Office Space? Or are they are something that only exists in more specialized areas?

  • TPS reports are what the screenwriting industry refers to as "McGuffins".
    – Beanluc
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 22:30

2 Answers 2



According to director Mike Judge, TPS reports stand for Test Program Set in the movie.

I guess I can settle this once and for all," Mike Judge, the movie's writer and director, said of the dreaded report his protagonist, Peter Gibbons, failed to attach a cover sheet to, despite his eight bosses' memo to do so. "When I was an engineer, it stood for Test Program Set. Isn't that exciting?"

In popular culture, TPS Reports are defined as mindless paperwork in an office environment:

After its use in the comedic 1999 film Office Space, "TPS report" has come to connote pointless, mindless paperwork, and an example of "literacy practices" in the work environment that are "meaningless exercises imposed upon employees by an inept and uncaring management" and "relentlessly mundane and enervating". According to the film's writer and director Mike Judge, the abbreviation stood for "Test Program Set" in the movie. In the movie, multiple managers and coworkers inquire about a single error that Peter Gibbons makes in utilizing a wrong cover sheet to send his TPS reports. It is used by Gibbons as an example that he has eight different persons he directly reports to.

There is also a definition in the urban dictionary regarding TPS reports defining them as Total Pointless Stuff (among other things).

  • 3
    The possibility amuses me that Mike Judge himself might misremember the abbreviation from his engineering time (or his former team didn't know better) and it really was the abbreviation for the IEEE 829 Test Procedure Specification mentioned in another answer.
    – Dubu
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 8:20
  • 5
    @Tetsujin It was WENUS, for Weekly Estimated Net Usage Systems (or Statistics, they weren't consistent). Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 15:14
  • 6
    @Dubu : If it did come from IEEE 829 and change, it's even funnier. In enterprise situations, an term like "Test Procedure Specification" might come from a common standard like IEEE 829. The company adopts it, but writing "Test Procedure Specification" over and over is irritating, so people started writing "TPS". The company hired new engineers, they see "TPS" but don't know where it came from. Someone mistakenly calls it a "Test Program Set", and it catches on. Now that's the term the company uses, even though it doesn't actually mean it. Someone updates a process document, and now it sticks.
    – Robert P
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 17:49
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    @T.E.D. I wasn't using urban dictionary as any kind of reference. I included it in my answer to show the relevance of this term in pop culture. I certainly didn't get my answer from urban dictionary...I fail to understand what is a serious reference from urban dictionary. Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 16:27
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    @Segfault - No, it is nowhere near as reliable as Wikipedia. WP has forces that at least try to cull crap from it. The only real useful information a person can really get from UD is that the term really is "A Thing".
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 16:37

The Wikipedia post for TPS reports (yes, it exists) lists the following definition, from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers:

IEEE 829 – Test Procedure Specification The Test Procedures are developed from both the Test Design and the Test Case Specification. The document describes how the tester will physically run the test, the physical set-up required, and the procedure steps that need to be followed. The standard defines ten procedure steps that may be applied when running a test.

  • Never believe Wikipedia. The claim that it derives from IEEE 829 is mere conjecture, and a doubtful one at that. Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 13:49

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