Freeware Files: 5 Apps to 3D-up your Desktop... Now that BumpTop's Leaving Us!

TheMurph

Oh woe are we, for yet another freeware application has grown its wings and left the nest of awesome, available software that we can all install on our desktop and laptop systems ad infinitum . In case you haven't heard, Google has picked up BumpTop--technically, Bump Technologies--leaving fans of three-dimensional displays but a scant week or so to download the company's freeware app before it all goes away.

Of course, BumpTop isn't gone for good--it remains to be seen just how Google plans to integrate its multitouch-friendly, three-dimensional desktop transformations into the company's own services. Rest assured that you'll likely see some incarnation of BumpTop emerge in the future. But whether it's coming back as a standalone download or as a part of a brand-new device is anyone's guess.

However, that doesn't mean that you're left with no way to break your two-dimensional desktop out of its existing constraints. I'm taking a look at five different 3D transformation tools in this week's Freeware Files. Don't let the (brief?) demise of BumpTop be the end of your experimentation with three-dimensional system desktops!

Krento

I'll start with a simple one. Krento doesn't transform your entire desktop into some kind of complex, three-dimensional environment. No, this freeware app merely opens up a 3D application launcher that you can summon up on your desktop to quickly access shortcuts to your favorite programs. That's it. You can drag-and-drop files, folders, and shortcuts onto any of the available boxes, which then automatically becomes an easy-to-access link to said entity. To pull up the little shortcut halo, just click your middle mouse button or--for those lacking such a feature--just mash the Windows Key and "C" on your keyboard.

Download it here !

T3Desk

This freeware app reminds me a lot of Windows 7's default Aero Flip feature, whereby one can summon up a cascading, three-dimensional stack of windows by mashing the Windows Key and Tab at the same time. It's a fun way to access your windows, but it's impossible to view parts of the overlapping windows depending on just how many you have open at given time. T3Desk slaps your windows on top of your existing desktop, but uses transparency effects to show you all of your windows at once and, as best it can, their full contents as well. Of course, you can also take matters into your own hands and flip, swivel, or pivot these Windows as you desire.

Download it here !

DeskHedron

Ahh, the ol' cube. DeskHedron attempts to recreate that classic example of three-dimensional desktop technology--with a twist--by giving you the opportunity to run up to nine different virtual desktops at once in additional to your normal Windows desktop. Switching between this army of desktops occurs as a three-dimensional transition, which ranges in coolness from a basic flip for a two-desktop setup all the way up to a full-fledged, cube-like format for multiple desktops. This app hasn't been updated in awhile, but it's still a neat combination of pretty graphical prowess with usable desktop management.

Download it here !

Real Desktop

Well, if BumpTop ever does bite the big one and, for some strange reason, is completely unable to be hosted by any other mirrors on the Web... at least we'll have Real Desktop. For this quasi-freeware application (there's a paid version, if you so desire) represents a pretty strong clone of BumpTop's features. I'm not here to argue over who came first. Just know that the two programs are quite similar in their transformative capabilities.

In this case, Real Desktop completely changes your desktop into a fully working, modifiable, three-dimensional environment. And I'm not kidding when I say "fully working"--the walls around your desktop are rendered as such, giving you the ability to stick icons and files and what-have-you to them as if they were post-it notes in the real world. You can also kind of fly around your desktop like an avatar from one of those mid-90s chat room services ... or Second Life .

Download it here !

Compiz Fusion

If you're rocking Linux, then you owe it to yourself to get a handle on Compiz Fusion. And with luck, this three-dimensional desktop transformation is likely already a part of your specific Linux distribution to begin with. If not, just check out the site's helpful list of installation instructions for a variety of distros--I won't go over them all here. Suffice it to say, the visual effects packed within this particular piece of software must be seen to be believed. Extend your desktop into a giant, all-in-one curved display; transform your open programs into a 3D cube; drop rain onto your current background--there's a lot you can do in Compiz, and a significant majority of it will leave your jaw hanging slightly ajar.

Download it here !

David Murphy (@ Acererak) is a technology journalist and former Maximum PC editor. He writes weekly columns about the wide world of open-source as well as weekly roundups of awesome, freebie software. Befriend him on Twitter, especially if you have an awesome app or game you're dying to recommend!

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