Look at a picture of a Windows 95 desktop and a Windows 7 desktop. What’s changed? You may say they look entirely different with flashy themes and an orb in place of the old beige taskbar and start button, but when you see past the themes and modern graphics, you’re left with the same file management system on your desktop that you were using almost 15 years ago! The minimum system requirements for Windows 95 included a whopping 4MB of memory, 50MB of HDD space and a 386DX processor, which could be clocked up to an incredible 40MHz. See where I’m going with this? Needless to say, hardware’s advancing at such a rate, yet we’re still using a 2D desktop with limited functionality.
When I saw BumpTop, my interest was well and truly piqued. I’d been following its progress for quite a while after I saw a preview video on YouTube, and couldn’t wait to use it. If you’re not aware of it, BumpTop is an application which transforms your desktop into a 3D environment, imitating a real life desk / workspace. It’s available in two different versions, a free version and a professional version, available for $29. For the purposes of this review, I bought the professional version (1.2) and used it on a Windows XP machine with 2GB RAM and a 2.0GHz C2D processor.
When you open BumpTop for the first time, you’re introduced to a quick, 5 step tutorial showing you how to navigate around your desktop and use features such as piles. The first thing I noticed was how much RAM and CPU the app needed. When left idle in the background, it took up around 150MB of RAM and 40% CPU, which didn’t leave a lot of resources for everyday things I do on my PC such as internet browsing, MS Office applications, iTunes and Windows Live.
There are a lot of features you can use in BumpTop to help make your desktop as productive as possible, but I found myself concentrating on a few key features, the first of which is a simple, but great ability to open and display a folder in a grid, like you can in 7Stacks. To do this, all you have to do is double-click on any folder on your desktop, and you can view whatever’s inside that folder. If you want to move it from your folder on to your desktop, you can just drag and drop it out of the grid.
The second feature I found myself using often was the ability to create a “pile” on your desk. Say for example you have several documents and pictures on the same topic, and you wanted to group them together without having to use a folder. Just highlight the files, and either right click and select “Create Pile” from the options wheel, or press Ctrl+Q, and all of the files you selected are now brought together into one pile. The pile is, naturally, 3D, and when you want to navigate through it to find a particular document, just click on the pile, and use your scroll wheel to flick through all the items, like turning the pages of a book.
On your walls by default, you have some flickr feeds in photo frames, which is a nice touch, along with some sticky notes which can be used to jot down various things. The thing that impressed me the most about the application was the ability to just drag and drop photos into the Facebook or Twitter icon to upload them to your account. If you wanted to tweet about something, you can do so by double-clicking the Twitter icon, which brings up a window where you can type your update.
I must admit, I had a lot of fun using BumpTop, but it was more of a distraction than a useful tool to me. Most of the time I spend on my computer is spent in various windows, be it browsing the web or checking e-mail, but I very rarely see the desktop at any time between booting up and shutting down. In a way, it was more of a toy than a tool to help increase productivity, especially if you have a touch screen computer, as the new version also supports multi-touch gestures. Despite this, it’s definitely worth checking out, if only to satisfy your curiosity!