Process Management in GNU/Linux for beginners

Mike Turcotte-McCusker
Aug 30, 2017

CTRL+Shift+ESC... END TASK END TASK END TASK............ Seem familiar? Yeah, Windows.

Thankfully, it's pretty rare (at least in my experience) that GNU/Linux suffers from applications freezing or hanging. However, it does happen! But besides freezes and hangs, there are other needs for process management in GNU/Linux, and most beginners do not have a clue on how to do it!

In a previous article I described using the ps command to list processes and how to kill them, but that's a hassle. Thankfully, most desktop environments come with their own process manager; and the ones that don't can make use of others.

This article will focus on the KDE and GNOME based task managers, since they are the most popular environments (Cinnamon is included in this, since its a fork of GNOME Shell.) I'll also touch on a Command-Line tool for people to use who might prefer it.


GNOME/Cinnamon have a tool called "System Monitor," this tool allows you to view all sorts of information about your system, such as the CPU usage, memory usage, network usage, as well as information on the file systems on the drive.

There also and more to the topic, is the Processes tab. Anyone who has ever used Windows Task Manager knows how this works. Users have the option of ending processes or if need be, killing them which will absolutely force closure regardless of the reprocussions.



KDE has a similar application called KSysguard. There are two tabs, "System Load" and "Processes" which show the information you'd expect. Once again, users have the ability to end processes via right click and selecting "End", or you can simply press the "Del" key after selecting a process.



A very popular tool that can be used regardless of environment is "Htop." Htop is a commandline tool that can be easily installed from most distribution repositories, and launched via the command "htop" from a terminal.

Once running, Htop is surprisingly easy to use; and can be used entirely with the mouse. Simply clicking the task you want to kill, and then clicking "Kill" at the bottom of the screen, before selecting which way you want to kill the process. Typically when people think of killing, they refer to the command kill -9 which is absolute, and will end the process immediately. So, after clicking the kill button, you will be presented with a list of choices on the left side of the screen. Simply click #9, and it will be taken care of!

Final Thoughts

There are multiple ways to manage processes in GNU/Linux, these are just a few of the options, but all are simple to use and easy to get done what you need. For even easier usage, I recommend setting a keybind to launch the appropriate application, such as....CTRL+ALT+DEL or perhaps CTRL+ALT+ESC.

Now you: How do you manage your processes? Do you use an alternative than the few listed here? Let us know in the comments section below!

Process Management in GNU/Linux for beginners
Article Name
Process Management in GNU/Linux for beginners
Mike takes a look at different process management applications in Linux for beginners, and specifically inGnome and KDE.
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  1. Anonymous said on September 2, 2017 at 9:55 am

    LXTask Task Manager when needed which for me also is rarely needed. In the last year I only needed to 3 times and that was due to couple different browser addons.

  2. dark said on August 31, 2017 at 12:33 am

    I wish Linux system monitor had features like
    1. services tab which will allow start, stop, enable and disable services.
    2. startup tab which will allow enable and disable startup items.
    3. processes tab able to show disk and network usage of individual processes.
    4. gpu usage in resources tab.
    5. also it will be nice if Linux system monitor also shows cpu and gpu temps.
    Windows 10 task manager already has all these features except for temps.
    Linux system monitor needs to be improved.

  3. Anonymous said on August 30, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    Linux Mint KDE -> ctrl+esc = System Activity (simplified System Monitor)

  4. mikef90000 said on August 30, 2017 at 10:11 pm

    Thanks for reminding me of htop, much friendlier than top.
    I use lxtask in xfce as it has a better look and feel than xfce4-taskmanager IMO.

    Onward to network monitoring, Mike !!

  5. M. Paquet said on August 30, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    Atop is also great for managing processes on Linux.

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