I recently got into the beta of BumpTop – You may have heard about it: it’s a replacement for your Windows desktop.
BumpTop lets you use “real” actions such as tossing items around the desk, creating piles of items and such. Their site claims that BumpTop is “a fresh and engaging new way to interact with your computer desktop”…
So does all this actually work, and most important of all, is this a practical way to manage your computer desktop?
After watching the BumpTop demonstration video on YouTube, it looks really cool and nice. However it doesn’t really tell you what it is like to actually use it yourself.
The first thing you notice after installing BumpTop that it loads quite slowly, even on a powerful PC (Athlon 64 X2 6000+, 4 GB RAM, Geforce 8600). This could simply be an issue now – it is still a beta afterall.
When it loads though, it looks very good. The icons show up cleanly and image files show a small preview of the contents as their icon.
Then, you try some of the actions you saw in the demo videos, such as tossing icons… which feels really awkward. The tossing movement with the cursor is just… weird. The movement was somehow different from what I had gotten used to from games. You do get used to it after a while, though.
When you get used to tossing the icons around, it does feel somewhat convenient, for example when deleting useless icons, as you can just throw icons you don’t need into a corner rather than ctrl+clicking them out, and then select them all by lassoing them.
You can also create piles from icons, which group a bunch of icons together. You can then interact with the pile in various ways: you can flip through it like a book with the scroll wheel, which lets you look at each icon in the pile in order, you can spread it out or make it into a grid. The grid is probably most like the typical windows desktop thing, but it leaves a big X mark in the corner to mark that you can click it to put the gridded icons back into a pile, which is a bit annoying if you want to just keep them in a grid. The same happens with the other interaction methods as well.
I can’t really vouch for BumpTop’s practicality when you actually need to get things done, or find things from the desktop. If you’ve tossed icons around, they’ll probably be quite messy and it may be difficult to tell them apart. Piles are a bit more convenient, as you can expand them into grids to see what’s in them, but if you have many piles, it’s not exactly very convenient, especially if you’re simply going through the files for something.
You can also make piles out of folders, which is possibly the most practical way of showing items on BumpTop, as it shows the folder’s name under the pile – this way you can easily tell your piles apart by the name.
BumpTop’s demo video also shows you how to “easily” create a new email with some files as attachments: Select the files, and toss them to the email icon. The easiness of this is debatable – which is easier, moving the cursor to a location on screen, or making a flick towards a certain direction, where you also must adjust the speed and direction of the flick to make sure the icons actually end up where you intend?
It’s also a bit questionable to the whole usefulness of all this. I don’t spend a lot of time watching the desktop, nor do I store many files there either. When I run apps, I either run them from the run dialog, start menu, or with Enso.
One feature does stand out from a practical point of view though: It’s very easy to find the file you want if you know it’s name, or part of the name. Simply type it, and BumpTop will make it easier to find and highlights it. While you can type the name to find an icon in the normal desktop, it won’t work with just a part of the name, say from the end.
Do you toss your documents on your desk into messy looking piles or arrange them in grids? No? But the website says that BumpTop lets me use realistic interactions… I guess not then.
So what can we actually say about this then?
As BumpTop’s website says, it’s definitely fresh, clever.. and engaging, at least for the first two minutes or so. While it is an interesting approach, I can hardly call it fun either, despite what the demo video claims. It may be refreshing, but after a while you get bored of the tricks you can do with it, and it starts to get in your way more than make things easier.
It’s not practical, it’s not nice to use in the long run.. is it good for anything?
It’s a fascinating tech demo, that’s for sure. For a while it was fun to see what you could do with it, but it wore off. I think this kind of approach might be better suited to touch screens where the tossing and all probably feels more natural than when done with the mouse.
You may also like it if you’re generally into making everything in your computer look really cool and different. Or if you’re 10 years old.
I would encourage you to try it yourself, if you’ve read this post to this point, as it is interesting to see, despite all the flaws that make it completely inpractical in actual usage.