Last but not least in the tour of Windows 8's new features is a revamped Task Manager, which makes it easier to monitor running apps, resource usage and startup apps, and quit them when necessary.
A New Default, Minimalist Interface
When you first start up Task Manager, you'll see it's much simpler than the Task Manager of yore. Instead of a bunch of tabs that, frankly, can be a little cryptic and confusing, you'll see a simple window with a list of running apps on it. You can click on one and hit the "End Task" button to end it if it's misbehaving. Metro apps will say "suspended" next to them if you've launched them, but aren't actively using them. That's because Metro apps don't run in the background when you exit them — thus, there's no need to "kill" Metro apps when you want to quit them, unless they're having trouble. They won't eat up CPU cycles when they aren't directly in use.
The Advanced Task Manager
However, this simple window is hardly enough for the power users out there. By hitting the "More Details" button, you can open up the Advanced Task Manager, complete with many more options and a lot more data about how your apps are using your system's resources.
The Processes tab groups things by category, like "applications" and "background processes" to help differentiate between them. It also gives you information about more than just the CPU and RAM they use; instead you'll also see whether they're actively using your hard disk and network connection and at what speed. There's even a restart button in the corner if, say, you wanted to restart the Explorer process without the tedious task of manually killing it and then starting it back up.
The Performance tab has been completely redone, with large line graphs detailing your CPU, RAM, disk and network usage over time. Click on one in the sidebar and you'll get more details about each, through large, almost Metro-style oversized text, which is nice. For example, clicking on CPU will tell you the speed at which your CPU is running, how much of it is being used, and how many processes are using. it. The RAM pane will tell you how much RAM you have free, how much is active, and so on.
The App History tab is new. This shows how often you use each app on your system, as well as how much CPU and network they use over time. I can see this being more useful for tablets and laptops, since it helps you keep an eye on your battery life (by eying the CPU and network usage) and your data caps, if you have any (by eyeing the network usage).
The Startup tab is similar to Startup tab we're all familiar with from msconfig. Here, you can change which applications start up with Windows. If you have a few processes that are slowing down your boot process (or slowing down your computer by being "always on"), you can just disable them from this list and they won't start up as soon as you log in. It's a good deal easier to use than the old Startup manager in msconfig, though, showing you icons, actual program names, the program's publisher, and even how much of an impact it can have on your startup time.
The Users, Details, and Services are pretty much the same tabs you know from the old Task Manager — they haven't been revamped much at all, but are still there if you need access to them.
It isn't the biggest addition to Windows 8 — at least compared with Windows 8's other new features — but it's something that's stayed stagnant for the better part of a decade, and this update is definitely a welcome change. The task manager will always seem cryptic to some, but they've done a good job of making it a bit easier to track resource usage and manage your running apps. Have you used the new task manager? Do you think this makes it any easier for you, or for the average, non-geek user? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.