Intelligent Machines

Messy PCs

Program makes the virtual desktop like a paper-strewn office.

For those who prefer messes, there’s now a program that turns the PC desktop into the equivalent of the paper-strewn office. Abandoning ­folders ­within folders, the new approach, called BumpTop, uses paperlike icons that can be scattered, stacked, or stuck to virtual walls. The brainchild of Anand Agarawala, a former computer science graduate student at the University of Toronto, BumpTop borrows animation techniques from video-game development, and the icons move as if they were subject to real gravity, momentum, and friction. “The ‘PC desktop’ was supposed to be a meta­phor for managing our files,” says ­Agarawala. “But my real desk looks nothing like my desktop.” He has cofounded a startup in Toronto to commercialize his technology.

People who use Anand Agarawala’s Bumptop PC interface can be as messy or as organized as they want, leaving file icons in jumbled piles or arranging them in tidy stacks.

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