Peek-a-Boo is no longer being supported.

Peek-a-Boo Process List

The process list window is where you see the list of processes and information for each process.

The Process List Window will look something like this.

The memory column shows a bar chart with the physical memory (the leftmost wide portion of the bar) and the virtual memory currently paged to disk (the rightmost skinny portion) used by a process.

When your system feels bogged down, it's usually either because of a CPU “hog” or a memory “hog.” The cpu% column makes it really easy to find processes using a lot of CPU power, and now the memory column makes it really easy to find processes that use a lot of memory, especially when they use enough to cause virtual memory “thrashing” on your system.

You can sort the list of processes by any column. Some of the more convenient columns to sort by are:

  • Sorting by icon (shown) groups all applications with a user interface (OS X Applications and Classic Applications) together sorted by name, then all the daemons together sorted by name. If you like to keep your applications all visible this is generally the best column to sort by.
  • The indicator column shows whether the process has had its priority adjusted, or whether it has been halted. This space will show a “halted” icon or an icon showing the priority setting, if it has been changed from the default. The bubble indicates whether a process has been idle recently. This can be useful if you only want to watch processes that have been active.
  • Sorting by cpu% keeps your busiest processes at the top. If you’re interested in generally keeping tabs on what’s using your computer’s resources, this will probably be your favorite. The cpu% bar will be green for values between 0% and 100%; it will show up as yellow if the cpu usage is between 100% and 200%; and it will be red if the cpu usage is greater than 200%.
  • If you sort by memory you will see the most memory-intensive processes at the top. If your machine is being unresponsive because of virtual memory thrashing, then the memory display will be your best way to find out what process is your memory-hogging culprit.
  • Sorting by name ensures that you can always find the processes (whose names you know) most easily.
  • For those with a unix background, sorting by pid may be most comfortable; if your machine hasn’t had many thousands of processes created and destroyed (so the pid numbering hasn’t “rolled over”), then sorting by pid may be an easy way to keep your most recently-launched processes at the top of the window.
  • Sorting by start time (available in the View->Built-in Items menu) will always allow you to sort by launch order, even if your pids have “rolled over”.

Double-clicking on a process in the process list will attempt to bring it to the front, exactly like choosing Bring to Front from the Manage menu or from the toolbar.

If you start typing the name of a process, that process will be selected.

Peek-a-Boo’s View menu controls which pieces of process information are seen in the process list. There is a handful of options immediately in the View menu, and many items in the Built-In Items and PS Available Items submenus.

The items immediately in the View menu are probably the most common and most useful items.

The items in the Built-In Items submenu are items that Peek-a-Boo can find programmatically. Their names are generally very close to the internal Darwin names for these pieces of information. Those pieces of information whose names are prefixed with “meta_” are pieces of information that may be found in different ways, or that are synthesized from other pieces of information. (For example, meta_name may be found from comm or name (Carbon).)

The PS Available Items submenu deserves some explanation. If you are familiar with unix command-line tools such as top and ps, you will see some functionality similarites to Peek-a-Boo. Indeed, in the days before OS X, the OS 9 (and before) versions of Peek-a-Boo were often referred to as “a top program for Mac OS.”

Peek-a-Boo has the ability to query the ps tool, and display in Peek-a-Boo’s process list the results of ps. This is all determined dynamically by parsing “ps -L” and offering all of ps’s options in the PS Available Items submenu.

The Process List is the launchpad for managing processes, whether from the Manage menu, the process list window’s toolbar, or the contextual menu (control-click or right-click the mouse).

The toolbar also has graphics for illustrating total system CPU usage and physical memory usage. (The barbershop-striped cyan/blue on the left of the memory graph displays “wired” memory, or memory that cannot be paged out. The blue section shows normal “in-use” memory. The barbershop-striped gray/blue section is “inactive” memory, and the gray section on the right of the graph is free memory.) There is also a “VM Thrashing” icon which changes color depending on recent pageouts: green for low, yellow for medium, red for high, and flashing red for severe virtual memory thrashing.