"Software toy or useful desktop alternative?"
Nearly three years ago, a video demo of a new desktop user interface, the BumpTop, captivated YouTube viewers. A year later the creator, Anand Agarawala, was called to the august TED conference to present. Now the BumpTop software is here, ready for you and your Windows PC. I gave it a spin.
It's certainly very cool. In many ways it is a better desktop than the one that comes with Windows (even Windows 7) or OS X. But as cool as it is, it feels like a toy. That's because the locus of modern personal computing is not the desktop. People live in apps and in the browser.
BumpTop makes the desktop better, but so what? It won't make you more productive in your e-mail app, and it currently doesn't touch the Web browsing experience. BumpTop doesn't go deep enough into Windows to replace the way we work with information. Instead, it adds yet another interface to use in addition to the Windows utilities (like the file manager), your apps, and your Web browser.
Meantime, BumpTop is worth a try. It's a lot of fun.
BumpTop is exclusively available for download courtesy of Download.com. Download BumpTop 1.0.
BumpTop replaces your desktop with a visual environment unlike any you've used. It's a bit like a futuristic gesture-based interface, but it's tied to your mouse. Were it capable of simultaneous Web browsing, its utility would be much more apparent.
BumpTop makes the items on your computer's desktop more like their real-world counterparts. Icons and folders are assigned a virtual weight based on the amount of memory they take up and their importance to you. You can move them by click-and-drag, or fling them across the BumpTop space. The program determines their importance based on how often you use them, but you can also alter that by hand. In a way, BumpTop takes the "Cover Flow" concept to the next level. Stack items to keep them organized, flip through them as you would a photo album, sprawl them across the desktop arbitrarily, or order them in staid grids. Circular wheel pie menus make options a mouse flick away, and the 3D "walls" make for fast posting to Facebook, e-mailing, and Twittering.
To alter a group of items, you lasso them--but you probably haven't used a lasso like this before. Unlike the square-edged standard Windows lasso, this one lets you select objects by drawing circles around them. Icons can be more scattered without it slowing your work flow because factors like angle, size changing, proximity, and icon flipping all impact on how you interact with your desktop. There's a built-in photo viewer, and although it doesn't allow for user interactions yet, the Safari and Chrome browsing engine WebKit is baked in, too.
If WebKit moves toward integrating browsing with your desktop in a customizable manner, and more gesture-based hardware support becomes commonplace, it could push how we use our computers into a whole new dimension.
Publisher's description of BumpTop
BumpTop is a fun, intuitive, 3D desktop that keeps you organized and makes you more productive. It combines the look and feel of a real desk with the power of your PC. You can pile your files, flip through websites and toss your photos up to Twitter or Facebook quickly and easily, right from your desktop. Advanced search and sort capabilities make sure you can find your files when you need them. Personalize your desktop with custom themes, sticky notes and photo slideshows and turn your desktop into a useful, fun space instead of a graveyard of lost or forgotten files. An upgrade to Pro version will add such features as unlimited sticky notes and enhanced productivity and piling features.
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