Desktops can be boring. Not the desktop that your computer rests on, but the desktop that resides inside your computer. Some of you are probably a little OCD about keeping the desktop spotless, while others just chuck everything on it until the screen is filled with files and folders. Regardless, they’re boring. But should they be?
Bump Technologies certainly don’t think so with BumpTop, which was just released for Mac OS X a matter of days ago. BumpTop completely transforms your Desktop into a 3D ‘room’ where you can spread files around, stack them, and stick them to the walls as if they were on a real desk.
When you open up BumpTop, your entire Desktop will morph into a 3D box in which all of the files and folders on your original Desktop will be placed. This app remains underneath all other applications just as your standard Desktop would.￼
The biggest difference, though, is that with BumpTop, you can grab files, throw them around, pin them up on the wall, or group them into piles without having to make a new folder for them.
Dragging files around is completely revolutionised in BumpTop, in that there is no ‘grid’. You can just move things to where ever you please. But what’s different (and really fun) is that files have momentum. So if you move a file quickly and let go, it will keep on sliding, and if it collides with another file, it will knock that one in its path using physics simulations.
This can lead to a chaotic mess after a few throws of the mouse, but luckily a simple Command + Z reverts everything back to the way it was.
BumpTop also allows you to place sticky notes around the desktop, and these work well as reminders stuck to the walls. The free version of BumpTop limits you to two notes, but the Pro version offers unlimited numbers for all your reminders.
It’s important to keep a little bit of organization on your Desktop, and after selecting files BumpTop gives you a few options. The first option is a fantastic one that I have found invaluable. This is the ‘Make Pile’ button, which groups all the files you have selected and stacks them together in a pile.
Double clicking a pile springs open the pile revealing its contents which can be scrolled through or edited. If you have the Pro version of BumpTop, you can simply scroll through piles by placing the cursor over them, as you watch the files flick out to the left and into view, from which you can drag them out or open them.
The second ￼option down is also quite important… Due to the nature of BumpTop, things can get out of hand fairly easily, but luckily organizing this scatter of files can be tidied with the click of the ‘Clean Up’ button. Alongside these controls, you can also grow and shrink files to create a sense of hierarchy.
￼BumpTop also allows you to ‘Pile by Type’ which instantly stacks all of your files into neat piles based on their file extension. This is great for quickly cleaning up your desktop.
If you find your desktop covered in files and you want to locate a specific one, a great ‘Find-As-You-Type’ feature in BumpTop Pro makes discovering obscure documents easy. As you type, BumpTop will highlight and physically jump files that match your search term.
The only slight issue with this is that if you are trying to find files within piles, BumpTop will only go as far as to highlight the pile for you rather than pull out the file you are searching for. You can see this in the screenshot below, where I have ‘Piled by Type’.￼
Using the Third Dimension
Having an extra dimension on your desktop gives you a lot more space to use for storing your files. The main ‘floor’ area is where most of your stuff will most likely reside, but the ability to stick things to the walls is handy.
Not only are there the three walls normally visible though, as a forth wall hides just out of view below screen. Double clicking on a wall zooms the view to that surface, revealing extra space, and allowing you to double-click your way around the walls. Double clicking on the floor zooms you to a more traditional 2D desktop look.￼
BumpTop requires no installation, yet still manages to integrate well into the Mac OS X system. For the most part it works smoothly with Exposé and Spaces, acting as a normal desktop would, and hot corners work great when dragging files from the BumpTop desktop.
The only slight nuisance I’ve found with BumpTop and Spaces is that when dragging a file from the desktop to the side of the screen (which usually triggers a switch of space in that direction) nothing happens unless you drag the file across the dock or a window first which somehow alters the way files are managed. Quick Look is also integrated into BumpTop letting you hit the space bar whenever a file is selected.
BumpTop also uses very little CPU (around 0.7%) when left alone. Of course, if you start throwing files around you’ll quickly get it up to 70%.
The only other criticism is that it doesn’t feel quite like a standard desktop app. The lack of a grid, and the unusual perspective of the icons can create a slightly odd feel. You adjust to it after a while, but it lacks the style and simplicity of the standard OS X desktop.
A wonderful feature of BumpTop only found in the Pro version is Multitouch Gesture support. These feel very responsive and natural, and don’t interfere with any Exposé or Spaces gestures you may already have set up.
Pinching and stretching selected files makes them shrink and grow respectively, and you can scroll through piles using two fingers. With a bunch of files selected, a three finger swipe down merges them into a pile, and upwards does the opposite.
These all work seamlessly and make BumpTop a pleasure to use if you own a gesture capable laptop.
Having more than one surface, BumpTop is a little harder to just splash on the latest desktop background for a quick visual fix. You can apply your own images to each wall, but generally they feel a little tacky in BumpTop’s 3D space.
Luckily, if you can’t find the energy to create your own ‘theme’ for BumpTop, there is a great selection to choose from here at Customize.org.
These are actually designed for the Windows version of BumpTop, but the ones I downloaded were easy to get the wallpapers up on each of the four walls.￼
There are a couple of things about BumpTop which mildly bug me. One is that if you have a bunch of files that have been grown or shrunk to different sizes, when adding to a pile the big ones stick out and the only way to change this is to break the pile, change the sizes, and then re-pile them.
But arguably BumpTop’s biggest flaw is that it is just so fun. Those easily distracted may find themselves spending more time throwing files across the desktop and watching the realistic collisions, than just using BumpTop as a more convenient way of storing data on the desktop. Much to my surprise however, I haven’t actually found this to be too much of a problem.
When I installed BumpTop, I honestly thought it looked like a fun, distracting gimmick which I would soon tire of. And despite the temptation to set up a miniature game of ten-pin bowling on my desktop using file collisions, I’ve only really used BumpTop as much as I used the standard Desktop.
If I resort back to the ordinary Desktop from OS X, there are certainly some features I will miss such as piles, but overall I feel that perhaps the best thing for a desktop is just a bit of simplicity. BumpTop is available as a free download, with the Pro version priced at $29.
Please do let us know what you think of BumpTop. Is it going to change the way you use the desktop, or do you think you’ll just stick with what shipped in your Mac?
BumpTop revolutionises the OS X desktop, creating a virtual 3D space in which you can manage files, work with piles, and pin things to the wall. It's not for everyone, but certainly worth trying out - if only for the experience!7