Friday, October 14, 2011

The new Task Manager in Windows 8 is utterly horrible

Instead of improving upon the existing Task Manager in Windows like Windows Vista and Windows 7 did, Windows 8 attempts to re-invent, re-write, overhaul, re-imagine or {insert your favorite marketing buzzword here} the Task Manager. This approach is incredibly bad because it means all of functionality the Task Manager accumulated over the years from Windows NT 4.0 up to Windows 7 must be re-implemented. Did Microsoft do a good enough job? I think not. See for yourself.

Current list of issues with the Windows 8 Task Manager:

- Bug: Whatever columns you add to its various tabs, it resets/forgets them all the time!

- Design flaw: It is slow and unresponsive. It doesn't start instantly, especially when CPU consumption is high, and it takes a lot more memory, is overall far less responsive. Microsoft forgot what is the most important job of a Task Manager - to start as quickly as possible

- Bug: Last active tab is not remembered. The old Task Manager remembered the last active tab.
- The old Task Manager could be set to run at startup, minimized and hidden so it would start up in the notification area. The new Task manager requires UAC elevation and even if it is set from Task Scheduler to run as admin but minimized at startup, it does not minimize properly to the tray. 

- Removed feature: There is no global status bar showing the total number of processes, CPU usage and physical memory and/or commit charge.

- Removed feature: See this image. Which document is which? The old Task Manager showed the application name from the Title bar. The new one gets its name from somewhere else. The document name is only shown in More Details view after expanding by clicking the arrow/triangle. Why do they want to make our lives more difficult? Suppose there are 10 windows of an app open and 1 of them stops responding. With the old Task Manager, it was one glance away. With the new one, I must expand the arrow of each window to see if the not responding document is under one of those. Poor usability. Documents names must be shown without making users expand and collapse every instance of the app. This also breaks keyboard usability. In the above screenshot, I could hit L to go through List1.txt, List2.txt, List3.txt. Not possible any more.

- Unnecessary requirement: New Task Manager requires UAC elevation if UAC level is set to highest. Old Task Manager ran just fine without elevation to show current user processes. Now, why it requires UAC elevation is none of my concern (It needs ETW trace data) but the fact that it does is extremely wrong design.

- Bug/keyboard usability issue: Ctrl+ '+' (Ctrl + plus key) key to auto-resize all columns to fit does not work on Processes, App History, Startup and Users tabs.

- Removed feature: The options for the Networking tab "Show cumulative data" and "Reset adapter history" are removed.
- Limitation: Any column cannot be the first column on Processes, App History, Startup and Users tab as it can be in Details and Services tab. This affects keyboard usability too.

- Removed feature: Selection of multiple applications on the Processes tab (formerly Applications tab) is not possible. In the old Task manager, I could use Ctrl and Shift keys just like Windows Explorer to select multiple applications and do group window management actions or group End Task them.

- Design flaw/regression: Naming and order of tabs is not the same. Confusing change. What was previously the 'Applications' tab is now the 'Processes' tab. Unfortunately, there was also a 'Processes' tab before which is now the 'Details' tab. Very confusing for those who have used the Task Manager for years. In old Task Manager, the order of tabs is Applications, Processes, Services, Performance, Networking and Users. In the new Task manager, it is Processes, Performance, App History, Startup, Users, Details and Services. The correct order should be Processes, Details, Services, Performance, App History (because this is a new tab), Startup (also a new tab), and Users as the last tab.

- Removed feature: Window management functions (Minimize, Maximize, Cascade, Tile Horizontally and Tile Vertically) on the Processes tab (formerly the Applications tab) and "Windows" menu are removed. Why are these important? Because in Windows 7, the Taskbar removed the ability to select multiple taskbar buttons using Ctrl+left click when buttons are ungrouped and therefore group actions on window buttons in the taskbar are no longer possible. The Task Manager's Applications tab offered an alternative and now they have taken that away as well.

I just don't see Microsoft fixing these (they are just not that good any more). They will pass them off as "by design”.

I don't say the new Task Manager's all bad. It has some really nifty features. The new Performance tab is simply awesome. But it shows how quality control no longer exists at Microsoft as it used to in the Windows 1.0-Windows XP days. You win some, but you lose some.

Yet somehow, they claim their goal was not to remove any functionality and that they didn't. It is silly to re-implement an application without actually providing every feature the old one did. The old Task manager was included up to Windows 8 Consumer Preview but removed in Windows 8 Release Preview! Disgusting. The fact that the design of Task Manager is not backward compatible is enough for me to skip this crap OS.


Philip J Fry said...

Bear in mind that this is by far no finished product as of yet.

Gaurav Kale said...

One can only hope they fix it. Windows Vista and Windows 7 shipped with as many and as bad as these bugs in Explorer. Nothing changed between pre-beta, beta, RC or RTM.

waseem said...

like all the info you have shared..I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I'm seeing more and more that "reboots" of applications (and now OSes) are not confirming feature-parity before being released.

It's a sad state of affairs.

Unknown said...

I'm surprised to find so many flaws in what is one of the only few functional changes in NT 6.2 and regarded as an improvement by many. But I have to agree with you.

A task manager should use the most lightweight GUI possible, to enable to quickly start it in emergencies. I wish they retained both the style and basic UI, just like Sysinternals Process Explorer initially did.