Windows 8 Task Manager Gets Tweaked for Enhanced App Killing
At the Windows 8 BUILD event, Microsoft unveiled most of the nooks and crannies within Windows 8, but there were plenty of questions and criticisms about a variety of things, from ARM-based Windows tablets to Metro-style applications. One such criticism was the apparent non-Metro style of the Windows Task Manager. But as it turns out, Microsoft has put a lot more effort into redesigning the Task Manager than initially noted …
No, it’s still not a Metro-style Task Manger, but look beyond the obvious “traditional” Windows-style layout, and you’ll find a few surprises. According to the Building Windows 8 Blog, a hearty amount of R&D went into reworking the notorious app-killing box. And that’s exactly what the Windows 8 team uncovered: Most people use the Task Manager to kill tasks, not manage them, and because of that, the initial Task Manager window has been given a minimalist makeover with a simple list of running apps and an “end task” button.
If you’re tinkering around the back end and not looking to end a frozen process, Microsoft has included the “more details” button, which provides a complete overview of application processes and a more traditional Task Manager view similar to that found in Windows 7. But it has been enhanced with a “heat map” style of progressively warmer colors that show which are the most resource-intensive tasks. Specific window processes from each app are also now individually detailed, meaning, for example, users can kill a single window in Internet Explorer without actually ending the entire browsing session. When browsing through the services (such as those running in the Windows task bar) users also can search what they are directly from the Task Manager with a simple right-click menu option, “Search the web.” Using Bing, users can find out if the service is just a funny-sounding Windows process or if it’s some malware that needs removing.
Ostensibly, all these upgrades make for a much easier Task Manager experience, with a friendly user interface enhanced through a more visually-intuitive way to understand the computer. But for me, there’s still a few annoying problems. Why is Microsoft building something to make it easier to perform a task nobody really likes performing? Who actively enjoys the micromanagement of their operating system? And if research shows that people use Task Manager to kill frozen or unresponsive tasks, wouldn’t the Windows 8 team be using their resources better if they focused on automatically making Windows smarter at handling crashing processes?
For those existing outside the Metro interface, it may not be a big deal, and by all means, it certainly is an improvement. But if Windows 8 is also supposed to be providing a full Metro-style experience along with a Windows desktop experience “without compromise,” this certainly seems like the first compromise Metro users will be dealing with. Micromanaging applications is never elegant, but both Google, Apple and even HP have made strides to ensure their mobile operating system requires as little micromanagement as possible.
Windows 8 isn’t really a “mobile” OS, but Metro is planning on playing in that arena alongside iPads and Xooms. So can Microsoft make the Metro experience so friendly that a Metro user won’t ever have to see the Task Manager? (Can you do control-alt-delete on a keyboard-less device?) I think Metro’s usability will be key to Microsoft’s success on the tablet scene, but if users get the same old song and dance with a fancy GUI, Metro will be just as clumsy — if not more so — than the desktop counterpart.