June 26, 2006
Bumpin’ 3D desktop interface
BumpTop brings some fresh thinking to the 20+ year old metaphor of desktop organization. Check out this video to see how it combines 3D, physics, pie menus, and pen savvy to improve file handling.
Cool as it is, however, I was struck by what Merlin Mann has already written up: namely, that the future belongs to file management based on searching. It just isn’t possible for a traditional file system metaphor, no matter how slick, to keep pace with an explosion of data. We see this again and again:
- Google cruised past Yahoo (i.e. Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle) when categorization couldn’t scale.
- Smart folders (i.e. saved searches) in email take over when you can’t keep switching among your zillion mailboxes.
- Desktop-level searching like Spotlight, Google Desktop Search, and Vista’s built-in engine become essential when your number of files overwhelms your ability to categorize them meaningfully.
Maybe, then, the future belongs to slick, forward-thinking UIs that rest atop great search plumbing. This, I think, is where Adobe could make a difference. Why not enable developers to create powerful, lightweight interfaces as they do in Flash (e.g. Felix Turner’s Flickr Related Tag Browser) and use those on the desktop in tools like Bridge? Flickr has thrived by becoming skinnable in interesting ways. There’s no reason that local file management should be less innovative.
For more info on BumpTop, see also the personal site of researcher Bill Buxton. [Thanks to Joel Bryant of Wacom for the link.]