Overflow (file and app launcher)

Overflow, from Stunt Software, is another addition to the expanding line up of file and application launcher options on the mac. Everyone has their own preference as to how they like to access their most used items as quickly as possible, whether that be folders and apps in the dock, Quicksilver, Butler or ToDos, so I’m not going to even attempt to compare Overflow with other launchers on the market – but simply give an overview of what it is capable of, what it has going for it and its flaws, and whether it is worth the $14.95 asking price.

The first paragraph on Stunt Software’s website outlines the aims of Overflow:

Overflow is an application designed to quickly launch applications, open documents, or access folders while keeping the size of your dock in check. Anything you want can be added to the Overflow interface, making it accessible through a few simple mouse clicks or keystrokes. The interface is resizable, and fully customizable. Create separate categories for your applications, work files, games, or anything else you want to be able to access quickly. After using Overflow, we think you’ll find it just as indispensable as we do.”

For me, a screenshot says a thousand words – here is my current Overflow setup:

Overflow Screenshot

I would also recommend checking out the screencast that Stunt Software have produced, as it really shows off what Overflow is capable of. It’s available on the Overflow page of Stunt Software’s website.

Thinking of Overflow as an extension of your Dock makes a lot of sense – it performs similar functions and acts in a similar way, giving quick access to apps, files, folders and shortcuts. As it is only a hotkey away it’s quick to appear on your screen (and the fade time is customisable, making it even quicker if you want it to) and simple to use, as it is fully controllable via keyboard shortcuts. Typing the first few letters of the item you want for example highlights it, hit enter and it launches. Done. Assuming the app or file that you are looking for is in the category you have already setup, I often find this quicker than Quicksilver – although the command space habit is quite hard to break.

Setup is fairly simple – drag and drop items onto an available square and they stick; click the add or edit buttons to refine the windows further, and use the left hand column to set up various categories to hold different batches of files and applications.

It’s eye candy is quite customisable – about as much as I want anyway. You can set the number of rows and columns, font size (and item title visibility), icon spacing and opacity and colour settings. Here however, lies my first feature request – the size of the window applies globally across all categories, so if you want say only 4 items in your ‘Web’ category and 14 in ‘Photography’, there is a lot of blank space in Web to accomodate for those extra items. I suppose you could set the window smaller, and allow scrolling through the items in Photography, but it would make life much easier (and prettier) if there was the option to set the size of the window (numbers of rows and columns) on a per category basis, and have the window dynamically expand or contract as necessary.

However, Overflow does manage to bug me occasionally, as it is really persistent in mounting network drives that you have added as shortcuts upon launching the app. If I haven’t yet mounted a drive, or can’t at my current location, it should really respect that decision. As it can’t find the drive if I’m not connected to that network, it makes launching Overflow very slow and beachbally until it works out that it can’t find it. This really turns me off, and I almost keep taking it out of my startup items for this reason – however I enjoy it’s other features, and live in the hope that the developers will read this review give me the option to mount, or not, network drives that are saved in its shortcuts. (To be fair, I haven’t emailed the developers about this, so if this is being fixed or on the todo list, please let me know).

Otherwise, as a nice looking and customisable extension to the standard dock, it works well, doesn’t hog resources and shows itself quickly on command. Would I buy it? Well, to be honest, at $14.95 I’m very borderline. Quicksilver can do all this app can do for me for free, taking a second or two longer to do it with a few extra keystrokes. If that’s worth the $14.95 to you, then the decision is clear – buy Overflow, it’s nice and will do the job. $14.95 for me however is just a little to steep for me to fall in love and keep it for certain. It’s the kind of price and I would um and ah about for ages. If pricing were set at $8 then I probably wouldn’t think about it, as it works well and looks nice, (and I like supporting indie mac developers too).

In summary – clear aims and good execution make Overflow a very usable application for frequent and quick access to the most used items on your mac. Setup is quick and painless, and customisation options let you tune the appearance and functionality without getting too deep, involved and without the option of extended procrastinatation. In this case, keeping it simple, stupid, does work well.

Rating: 3.5/5

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