In a new post on their Windows 8 Dev Blog, Microsoft have gone into detail about some of the changes that they are making to the task manager in Windows 8.
They built the new task manager in order to address the following challenges:
Building a tool that was well designed, thoughtful, and modern.
Fill some of the functionality gaps that drove some of our most technical customers to use other tools such as Resource Monitor and Process Explorer.
Organize and highlight the richness of data available to make it more elegant and clear for those who want access to a new level of data.
Based on their data and research, the following were Microsoft’s goals for the new and improved task manager in Windows 8.
Optimize Task Manager for the most common scenarios. Focus on the scenarios that the data points to: (1) use the applications tab to find and close a specific application, or (2) go to the processes tab, sort on resource usage, and kill some processes to reclaim resources.
Use modern information design to achieve functional goals. Build a tool that is thoughtful and modern by focusing on information design and data visualization to help achieve the functional scenario goals.
Don’t remove functionality. While there are some notable core scenarios, there is a really long list of other, less frequent usage scenarios for Task Manager. We explicitly set a goal to not remove functionality, but rather to augment, enhance, and improve.
Take a look at the contrast between the default view of the old task manager in Windows 7:
Windows 7 Task Manager
and the new task manager in Windows 8:
Task Manager Windows 8
Much cleaner huh?
In addition, they did the following:
Heat Map Task manager
Added heat map colors to the task manager:
The most noticeable difference in the new processes tab is the new heat map, which represents different values with color. Our telemetry data told us that it was very common for users to go to the process tab, sort by CPU or memory utilization, and then look for applications consuming more resources than expected. The nice thing about a heat map is that it allows you to monitor anomalies across multiple resources (network, disk, memory, and CPU utilization) all at the same time, without having to sort the data.
Network and disk counters
Many power users supplement their usage of Task Manager with other tools such as Resource Monitor simply because in the past Task Manager did not show per-process network and disk attribution. This was a gap, when you consider that a spinning disk or multiple applications competing for network bandwidth are the root cause of many perceptible PC performance issues. The new Task Manager now shows these resources at the same level of detail as memory and CPU.
Lighting up the resource usage
One of the biggest causes of PC performance issues is resource contention. When a particular resource is being used at a rate above a threshold number, the column header will light up to draw your attention to it. Think of this as a warning indicator, letting you know a good place to start looking if you are experiencing performance issues. Below, you can see that the CPU column header is highlighted to draw your attention to the fact that you may have multiple applications competing for CPU time.
Figure 13: Resource usage indicators
Grouping by applications, background processes, and Windows processes
A big challenge with today’s Task Manager is that it is hard to know which processes correspond to an application (apps are generally safe to kill), which are Windows OS processes (killing some of these can cause a blue screen), and which are miscellaneous background processes that may need to be explored more deeply. The new Task Manager shows processes grouped by type, so it is easy to keep these separated while still providing an ungrouped view for situations where you need it.
My favorite by far is the new feature they included where included a web search to the Task Manager
What’s a fussvc.exe?
Have you ever looked through the process list, seen something like “fussvc.exe” and wondered what it was? Adding friendly names was a good first step to resolving this problem (fusssvc.exe is actually the Fast User Switching Utility Service), but of course, to really find out what this process is, you need to search the web.
The new Task Manager integrates a search context menu on right-click, so you can go directly to your default search engine (which you can customize) to see more details and relevant information. This can make a huge difference when deciding whether a background process is doing something useful or just wasting cycles.
Onuora Amobi is the Founder and VP of Digital Marketing at Learn About The Web Inc. Onuora has more than a decade of information security, project management and management consulting experience. He has specialized in the management and deployment of large scale ERP client/server systems.
In addition to being a former Microsoft MVP and the founder and editor of EyeOnWindows.com, he is the CEO of a Pasadena based online marketing education startup - Learn About The Web Inc. (www.learnabouttheweb.com).