Apple has dominated the tech news of late and, as its fairly certain that Apple will continue to sell every iPhone the company can make, as Monty Python would say; Now for Something Completely Different. The Windows 8 development team is planning a major overhaul of the venerable Task Manager. The handy program has saved many a Windows user from a system reboot over the years and has come a long way from its humble beginnings in Windows 3.0 looking like this:
to the current version in Windows 7 here:
The Windows 8 team started their planning process by seeing how real world users make use of the tools provided in Task Manager, such as killing applications, determine what processes were taking up the most memory and CPU resources , starting up or terminating services, checking network issues, and general system-admin tasks. Shockingly enough, approximately eighty-five percent of users’ main feature of choice in the Task Manager was to terminate programs. Included in that number was monitoring processes as well, since in many cases a misbehaving program or process is eating up memory and processor cycles thereby causing the system to be sluggish or even freeze.
After gathering usage information, the following goals were adopted by the Windows 8 Development Group:
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.
The upcoming Windows 8 Task Manager will look something like this:
Before the reader panics that all they hold near and dear in Task Manager has been taken away, note that early on Microsoft was aware that adding too many new features would overwhelm users. The plan is to solve information overload issues with what the team describes as a “More/Fewer details" button. Anyone who has ever been technical support for Windows users will appreciate not exposing new or less than knowledgeable users to information they don’t understand and will ask incessant questions about. The expanded Task Manager is shown below:
Note the new design feature of the expanded Task Manager is color coding to highlight areas where the system is experiencing problems, thereby making it easier and faster to diagnose problems. Another laudable move by the development team is the decision not to remove features that are not used by the bulk of users. This will truly benefit the individuals responsible for small business or home network by letting them keep their sysadmin tools that can be a handy and free way to manage the network users.