6 best task managers for Linux

Whether you need a tool for killing an unresponsive app or for monitoring what's going on in your system, you need a task manager app. This article focuses on the best free and open-source task manager available for Linux.

One of the essential tools in any Linux distribution is a Task Manager. It is a system monitor application that gives you a report of all programs running on your computer and the status of your RAM and CPU usage.

It also comes in handy when you need to kill/stop freezing processes or applications that are consuming too many system resources. With advanced task-manager tools, you can even change the scheduling priority.

There are many Linux task manager programs available in the market today. Furthermore, every Linux distribution comes with a preinstalled task manager program depending on the Desktop environment.

We have both CLI (Command Line) and GUI task-manager programs. With CLI, these programs run on the Linux terminal and give you a full report of all running applications. You can stop running programs by running a command like “kill 13356”, which means; kill a process with id 13356. For GUI task-managers, these programs provide the user with an interactive graphical user interface.

In this post, we will look at both CLI based task-managers and GUI based task-managers.

CLI-based Linux Task Managers

Most Linux users like command-line tools. Since you don’t need to load a GUI, these tools consume fewer system resources and load much faster. Also, if you are a server admin, you need to use a CLI based task manager.

1. Top

“top” is one of the most common task managers used by Linux users. Unlike other tools, the top task-manager comes preinstalled on all Linux distributions. You can launch it by just typing the word “top” on the terminal. It gives you a dynamic view of all the programs running on the computer with other parameters like; user running the process, process-id, CPU usage, memory(RAM) utilization, and more. You can kill running processes using the kill command and PID (process id); kill -p 13356 or kill -9 13356 if it’s a persistent process.
To navigate up and down the top window, use (alt + k) to scroll up and (alt + j) to scroll down. For beginners, type the command “man top,” and it will give you all details and guidelines to using top.

Top Task manager
Top Task manager

2. Glances

“glances” is a cross-platform task manager written in python. It makes use of open architecture in that, and developers can add their custom plugins. Unlike most other system monitoring tools, glances make use of a client-server architecture, which enables remote monitoring of a system. It is achieved via an interactive web UI, terminal (command line), or through an API (XML-RPC and RESTful).
With glances, you can also view additional information like; upload and download internet speeds, Disk read and write details, and the mounted disks/drives.

glances Linux Task Mnager
glances Linux Task Manager

Glances use different colors to list the process running with “red,” indicating a process consuming much of the system resources.

3. Htop

“htop” is quite similar to Top only with several additional features. Unlike Top, Htop allows you to scroll both vertically and horizontally. You can, therefore, view all running processes together with their command-line parameters.
Htop also makes use of several Function keys displayed at the bottom, with each one performing different tasks. To start this system monitoring tool, type the command “htop” in the command-line. You can also add different parameters to this command.
E.g., htop -u –user=USERNAME, shows only the process under a particular user.

Other popular CLI task managers available are ps and, pstree.

htop linux task manager
htop Linux task manager

GUI-based Linux Task Managers

We have looked at some of CLI based task managers, now let’s put our focus on GUI based system monitor tools. These tools come with an interactive user interface that displays all activities taking place in the system.

1. Gnome System Monitor

This tool is one of the many software by GNOME family. It comes available with all Linux distributions that make use of the GNOME desktop. At the top of this application, there are three primary tabs, Processes, Resources, and File Systems. You can navigate around by clicking on any of these buttons.

GNOME gives system information like all running processes and their properties, CPU-Memory-Network and swap memory usage, mounted disks, and available space.

Gnome System Monitor
Gnome System Monitor

2. Mate System Monitor

Just like the GNOME system monitor, the Mate task manager is a default tool for any Linux distributions using the Mate desktop environment. It allows you to monitor and manage all running processes on your system. It also generates a general view on Memory usage, CPU utilization, and network usage.

With the Mate system monitor, you can identify processes and kill or stop them in case. You can also change process priority as you wish.

mate-system-monitor
mate-system-monitor

3. KSysGuard

KSysGuard is the default system monitor tool for the KDE desktop environment. It supports both GUI and CLI user interaction.

With its advanced Client/Server architecture, KSysGuard can be used to monitor the system on a remote machine. KSysGuard is regarded as a powerful task manager since you can kill/stop any persistent/problematic process with ease.

ksysguard task manager
ksysguard task manager

Conclusion

In this post, we looked at both CLI and GUI based task managers. For experienced Linux users and network/system administrators, you can use command-line based task-managers.

These tools have the advantage of not using much system resources, and some of the parameters used can be passed using scripts like bash or python. Otherwise, you can go for GUI-based task managers.

Arun Kumar
Arun did his bachelor in computer engineering and loves enjoying his spare time writing for FOSS Linux. He uses Fedora as the daily driver and loves tinkering with interesting distros on VirtualBox. He works during the day and reads anything tech at night. Apart from blogging, he loves swimming and playing tennis.

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