Developer: Startly Technologies
Requirements: 500 MHz Mac with Mac OS X 10.4, access for assistive devices enabled.
Trial: Fully-featured (30 days)
The idea behind Docktopus is one that you’ve had before, I assure you: it’s along the lines of, “Well, couldn’t that information be displayed on a badge on the icon in my Dock, à la Mail?” Startly’s answer is, “Sure, we can do that! Kinda. Er… well, only if it fits a very regimented definition of our tasks.” So from the get-go, Docktopus is both delightful and infuriating.
Docktopus has a set of predefined badges that it will allow you to put on applications, four at a go. They consist of: CPU Meter, Drive Space, Number of Objects, Item Size, and Memory. There are also application-specific badges for iCal, iTunes, and Apple Mail, and a Launch Menu option. The concept behind Docktopus is great: click the cute little cartoon octopus on the dock and a floating palette will appear above the dock, providing you with clever badges that you can attach to any of the four quadrants of the application’s icon.
Want to know if Safari is being a memory hog again? Docktopus makes that easy. Drag the memory badge to a corner of the icon. Want to know if Mailsmith is using up extra processor cycles again? Docktopus makes that really easy. Drop the CPU monitor on a corner of the icon and away you go. It’s in doing the hard things, the really useful things, that Docktopus drives me bats. See, their mail badge only works with the Apple Mail client, not with Entourage, Mailsmith, FirstClass, or the other mail programs that I have handy. Their calendar badge only works within iCal, not with Palm Desktop or with Now Up-to-Date. So, some of the tasks I hoped Docktopus might solve remain frustratingly unsolved.
However, Docktopus is aesthetically quite nice, providing badges that are both useful and pleasant to look at. The memory badges display the memory that the applications are actively using, and the CPU monitors can be set to trigger when they pass a certain percentage of the available load, so you can see when Mailsmith begins to enter a death spiral. This, alone, is worth the $20 price of admission. What really acts as this application’s saving grace is its expandability: there’s an API for building further badges, and Startly even makes an SDK for making a badge freely available. This is the sort of thing that made Konfabulator so valuable, Dashboard and Automator so interesting, and Web services like Flickr, Google, and Yahoo Maps into multi-million dollar products. Until we see someone taking note of that, however, I will keep Docktopus firmly in the Good category.