BumpTop as a Finder Replacement: Unlikely


bumptop_logo Most people have seen the BumpTop videos on YouTube and TED by now. (If you haven’t, I’ve embedded their current demo vid below. Take a look!) The official desktop replacement has been in private beta (for Windows only) for a little while now, and I’ve had the pleasure of playing along at home. The OS X release is pending, and after what I’ve seen on Windows, I’m interested to use it on my computer of choice.

Immediately, you get the cool vibe when using it. As a geek, I must say it’s just as slick as the video presentations we’ve seen. Though probably much better suited for the multi-touch interface it was designed for, at face value the features seem pretty useful. (Or at least a good alternative to the native Desktop.) But is BumpTop going to be worthy of daily use in place of the vanilla desktop we’re all used to? Right now I think its focus is a little too narrow for that. Here’s why.

BumpTop is first and foremost an application that runs in place of your computer operating system’s desktop interface. It’s neat, but it’s the Desktop, which is usually covered-up by the applications you’re actually using 90 plus percent of the time. In many cases, one of the applications being used quite regularly is probably a file browser, like Finder. This is the space into which I think BumpTop could become a great fit because honestly, who keeps the majority of their files right on the desktop?

Personally, I just don’t focus on my desktop all that much. Some of the craftier among us have begun making their desktops pretty interactive (by using widgets and GeekTool, for instance — see Lifehacker for some of the cool stuff I’m talking about), so they may have room to disagree. For now though, they’re in the minority. But I submit that many of us spend more time in the likes of Finder, looking for files to work with. If BumpTop can come up with a more file-browser-centric strategy, I think it will gain more longevity. Otherwise, I think its cool factor will wear off after a short honeymoon period and fall by the wayside for many users.

You can sign up to get updates on the availability of the Mac version by entering your email address at BumpTop’s web site. If you have a Windows machine, that version is currently available to the public, so you can download and enjoy it for yourself.



I’m pretty sure Anand, the developer, is an Academic. BumpTop does nothing to eliminate organizational complexity, but it sure does demonstrate coding skills.

Donald Nordeng

It seems like it would be very cool with touch, much more so than the finder. Some people are very kinesthetic and need to feel the paper in their hands or need to feel their pen writing to create. I would be interested to know if there was touch feedback in the touch version of this demo. It was hinted at with different weights of objects. If the brain can be taught to see and feel things on the desktop, then the adoption rate will improve as it will be more like real life.


This is very cool, but definitely not a complete replacement for Finder…just a nice desktop environment. I do think it’s a potential improvement over the Dock paradigm, esp. the Stacks features


BumpTop will never replace the Finder. It is the epitome of our old technological development habits. What we need to remember is that in the past we spent our time trying to make new technology fit our old habits. That is why the desktop is called the desktop, because we wanted to make it more like the top of our desk. We tried to make email more like letters, and we try to make blogging and online journalism more like newspaper articles. But, it doesn’t work that way, it never has. Inevitably the new technology becomes its own beast that is completely different than the old thing we were trying to emulate. BumpTop is a step backwards in that the desktop has already become its own thing and BumpTop attempts to move us back to that old way of thinking of the desktop.

I’m sure that we won’t be using Finder forever and that a new way of thinking about file browsing will emerge, but we can’t do it by emulating things of the past, we need to figure out how to create something that behaves in its own way.

Frank N. Stein

Great. That’s all I need, a desktop that lets me take all the electronic crap I’ve gathered and put it in a big pile. Don’t I have that on my real desk already?

Yes, it takes the desktop metaphor a bit further, but not sure if it’s really useful.


This is a neat idea, but just not that useful for me. Thanks to spotlight/quicksilver/launch bar, I barely even use the finder anymore. My desktop is usually empty.


Make it touchscreen compatible, throw it on a netbook, and build a feature so i can shuffle files like poker chips when I’m deep in thought and I’m sold!

Nick Santilli

@Gazoobee – I like the idea of environments other than walls. That could be pretty cool, but still goes back to being more a potential distraction (as @Eric mentions) than useful tech. Of course these are still just one person’s opinions…

@Chet – I’m with you. I hate having anything but the hard drive icon on my desktop, so far as files/folders are concerned.


i don’t even put files and folders on my desktop!
It’s such a Windows thing to leave files on the desktop


Seems very interesting but once you’ve made the move to a 3D environment, why stay in a “desktop” metaphor? When he zoomed out it was like the whole desktop was in a tiny shoebox. What I would find more useful is a full virtual environment where my desktop might be a beach or a planetary surface or a forest, and most importantly, can be customised. At least Microsoft Bob had three or four interconnected shoebox spaces. :)

Also, I hope these guys are open source because I can think of at least a dozen Apple patents that this thing rips off just off the top of my head. It can never be a commercial product without going through some heavy litigation over those ideas. The whole concept is lifted wholesale from one of Apple’s early tech demos.


BumpTop looks fun, but all it really does is allow you to mess about with stuff, and will likely distract you from actually doing the things you should be doing. Who wants to bunch documents up then have to search through piles of icons to find the document you want? That’s like GOING BACK TO PAPER. I much prefer an ordered list and an organized 2D folder structure. I do admit, though, that having a few cool icons to upload to Facebook, Email etc. looks cool – but I can drag documents to icons in my Dock and actions happen. So, not really more beneficial. This will be cool to some people for a while, but I don’t think it will go mainstream. It’s a toy, a game, a teenager’s plaything, not a serious productive environment. Productive people have clear and organized desks, and spend time doing work, not messing about with their desk space. So, in my opinion, this is really for people who spend time on their computer not really doing anything productive. It was interesting that the Facebook image upload was the coolest thing in the demo.

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