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BumpTop Mac review

Verdict:

Quirky but intriguing, BumpTop Mac is worth a try for free, though it won't be suitable for everyone.

Review Date: 16 Feb 2010

Price when reviewed: Free or $29 (about

Reviewed By: Giles Turnbull

Our Rating 3 stars out of 5

BumpTop Mac is a 3D Desktop environment for Mac OS X. Instead of a flat 2D workspace, you look down into a virtual box that replaces the built-in Desktop. The base of the box is visible, as are parts of the walls. All these surfaces can be used for storing and sorting files.

The Desktop you see is the same as the Mac OS X folder of the same name. Any files you already have there will show up straight away when you start BumpTop. If you have a tidy Desktop folder with nothing in it, you'll have to add something to it to make use of BumpTop's features.

Those with tidy Desktops will find this irritating, because their screens will be a mess of files and folders when they quit BumpTop. It would be nice if the program could be mapped to any folder, rather than tied exclusively to the existing Desktop folder.

Those with cluttered Desktops will probably like what they see, though. At first, BumpTop displays files as an untidy heap of icons, but the application's true power lies in making it easy to sort through them. Choose the Pile by Type command to instantly put everything into useful virtual piles of icons. All text documents will be in one pile, all spreadsheets in another, and so on. BumpTop will cleverly create a 'misc' pile for any odds-and-ends that remain.

One odd issue when using BumpTop is the way you bring it to the foreground. By default, it runs behind all other programs, in an attempt to replicate the behaviour of the OS X Desktop. However, it displays no Dock icon, so if you launch it when you have multiple applications running, all those other programs will be hidden from view, so that only BumpTop remains. It does display a Menu Bar icon, but this doesn't include any command for quickly showing the BumpTop environment; it would be nice to see one added.

Items inside BumpTop are subject to a subset of the laws of physics. Grab a file and throw it around, and it will bounce off walls and other files. Throw it at a pile and the pile will wobble, or even fall over. Drag a file to the wall and it will stick there like a poster. Stuck items can be made larger, so they are easier to find.

Select a group of files and they can be made into a pile of their own. Double-click on a pile to browse the pile, either as a flat grid or to flip through it like a book (this latter option is only available in the Pro version, as are a number of other features). The browsing grid looks smart, but is restricted to nine icons in view, so if your pile contains more than this, you'll have to scroll through the grid, which can be a little fiddly.

BumpTop Mac makes a very positive first impression, but won't suit everybody. If your Desktop is a shocking mess of files, and if you like storing them all there, you might find it a handy way of seeing through the clutter and making things tidy. It has some nice ideas, but needs some additional tweaks to really take off.

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