Often people find themselves with a computer that's locked up. Usually that person is busy trying to get some work done, and on a roll. At least until the computer suddenly grinds to a hault. Keystrokes usually don't work, usually on Windows XP computers the mouse and other programs will still work, but the one you're in is all messed up. In addition, you're unable to get the program to close. I'm about to explain the windows task manager. The windows task manager gives you a friendly environment in which you have control over what programs run and what programs don't. There are three ways to launch the task manager. The first way is to press [ctrl+alt+delete]. An alternative is to press [ctrl+shift+escape]. Still another choice is to type [windows key+r] then type in taskmgr before pressing [enter]. The windows task manager presents a multipaged dialogue. Across the top of the screen, just below the menu bar, are five different tabs. They say:
Applications, Processes, Performance, Networking, and Users.
Clicking applications will give you a list of currently running applications. These applications are usually in the alt+tab loop, which means they are currently running and are in the background somewhere, ready to be called to the foreground. The alt tab loop term refers to the fact that you can press and hold down [alt] then tap [tab] to flip amung the currently open applications. Next to each application's name in the list is displayed whether the application is "running" or "not responding" or some other type of status. Even if the application is locked up on you, but the task manager informs you that it's running, the application could be processing some kind of code over and over or otherwise be stuck but still functioning. Obviously, the application manager wouldn't realise that the application wasn't functioning properly in that case.
There are several different things you can do with the applications that show up in the list on the applications tab of the windows task manager. The most used command is the "end task" button. It's placed near the bottom of the screen. Pressing this button will terminate the currently selected application in the "applications" list view. Having said that, to terminate a faulty application, select it, then pres the "end task" button. The easiest way for a blind person to do this is to arrow to the screwy application in the "application" list, then press [alt+e]. Remember, nothing says a sighted person can't use these methods as well. To bring the selected task into the foreground so you can make use of it, activate the "switch to" button, which is located to the right of the "end task" button. Clicking the "new task" button, which is located to the right of the "switch to" button will pull up the run dialogue for you to type in the name of an application to launch.
Another option you can use to do some interesting things to the applications in the "applications" list is to right click an application in the list. You get a menu of options that are similar to the below.
Switch To - (This closes the task manager, then brings the application you just right clicked to the foreground).
Bring To Front - (This brings the application you just right clicked to the foreground).
End Task - (This terminates the application you just right clicked).
Go To Process - (This switches you to the processes tab in the windows task manager and selects the main executable for the application you just right clicked. For example, the main executable for Microsoft Office Word would be WINWORD.exe).
The only other thing I want to mention before moving onto the "processes" tab is the status bar. At the bottom of the screen you'll see something like this:
Processes: 35 CPU Usage: 100% Commit Charge: 283M / 1717M.
This is a handy dandy way to see how loaded down with work your computer is at the moment. As you can see, my 1.8 ghz processor was running at it's maximum when I grabbed a screen shot at my status bar. The "Processes: 35" part of the status bar tells you how many processes my computer is running. It counts the ones that are running in the foreground and in my alt+tab loop, as well as programs that are running in my system tray and processes that are just running in the background. A good example of a background process is wltray.exe which is the windows program that worries about wireless networking for you. As you can tell, I have 35 processes running. It's common to have about 40 or so. I'd say anywhere from 16 to 50. Now you know, if you didn't already, that even though there may seam only to be three programs running, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office Word, and Microsoft Office Outlook, there are other smaller programs running in the background at the same time. The "CPU Usage: 100%" part informs you how much of your processor is being used at the moment. The "Commit Charge: 283M / 1717M" part tells you how many mhz (Megaherts) are being used compared to how many you have available. For some people the second number that takes the place of my "/1717m" will change, because some processors change their top speed to match the current needs, in an attempt to save battery life.
Ok, now let's explore the "processes" tab. Click the tab at the top of your screen while in the task manager or press ctrl+tab to flip to it. Every currently running process will pop up on screen. Some of them may look similar to the names of programs with which you are familiar. For example, iexplor.exe is Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Msnsgs.exe represents windows messenger, msim.exe represents outlook express, WINWORD.exe represents Microsoft Office Word. For the multiple listings of svchost.exe, that is a program that loads programs and runs them for windows. In general, svchost.exe needs to be left alone. If you want to know what a process listing stands for, point your browser at
and type in the name of the process into the edit field. Processlibrary will tell you what the process does, and what it does it for. In addition, it'll tell you whether it's malicious and whether it's a good idea to terminate that particular process or not. I've never had processlibrary not be able to tell me what the processes I specified were for, it's pretty good. Your options of things you can perform on processes is pretty much exactly the same as those that we mentioned earlier. We do have some more options, however. Right click a process, or arrow to it, and press applications key.
End Process - (This terminates the process).
End Process Tree
Set Priority - (This allows you to specify how much of it's power the CPU allows the process you just right clicked).
/Clicking set priority presents you with the following menu.
Realtime - (application gets as much as is available unless it doesn't need it)
High (Application gets a lot of priority).
AboveNormal (You get the point).
Note to be careful with priority, setting too many applications at too much priority may cause the CPU to get extra warm, or may cause other processes to malfunction.
Some final notes are advisable. First, if you minimise the task manager, it'll follow you around as you do other things with the computer, staying visible. This allows a sighted person to watch how much effect the application they are using has on the CPU, but it prevents screen readers from functioning properly. If a blind person is reading this, they may wish to disable this feature. To do so, go to the options menu from within the task manager, and press enter on or click always on top to toggle it. Another useful note is the ability to change the speed at which the task manager updates the status that's on screen. To change this, I recommend that you have it set to high, go to the view menu from within the task manager, click or press enter on update speed, and click or press enter on the speed you want. Note that some blind users may find themselves with a screen reader that insists on reading the status every time it changes, which will make it difficult to read the information they are looking for. For jaws users, this can be avoided, if you are effected by it, by pressing [insert+s] repeatedly if necessary until jaws says something like 'none'. Another interesting feature of the task manager is that if you close it by minimizing it or pressing escape while it is in focus, it will continue to run, but show it's information in the system tray near the clock on your desktop. Jaws users should note that when the task manager shows itself in the system tray, the status doesn't update when it changes when the system tray is brought up by jaws when you use the insert+f11 keystroke.
The next tab, the performance tab, gives you detailed information about average usage of your pc's resources over time. A blind user will need to use their jaws cursor or any other form of mouse navigation available to them if they wish to read this information manually.
The next tab, the networking tab, contains information about the current networks which your pc has the ability to connect to. You can find out whether you are connectedd, what the speed is, and how much of the bandwidth is being utalised at this moment.
The last tab is the users tab. Here, you can look at all the people logged on to your computer, and if you are an administrater, you can do things with those accounts. Right click a user account to be presented with a menu similar to this one.
Send Message... - (if available, this allows you to send a text message prompt to that user).
Connect - (If available, this allows you to connect to that user account and log on to it).
Disconnect - (If available, this allows you to disconnect from that account, but not to log off it).
Log Off - (If available, this allows you to log off the account).
Remote Control - (If available, this allows you to remotely control that account).
My favorite feature is the send message. I can send a message warning that user that I'm about ready to restart the computer, therefore, they must save all data and log off immediately.
This about wraps up my overview of the task manager. While probably not the best review of the task manager, I do hope it comes in useful to someone. I know for a fact that there is another review on the task manager done by The Smart Computing Magazine. Se http://www.smartcomputing.com
This document was completed on Tuesday, March 27, 2007 at 10:55 AM by Aaron T. Spears
You can visit us on the web at http://aarontech.randylaptop.com