Peek-a-Boo Process Throb

We are very excited about the Process Throb view. This is a substantially new way of looking at a machine’s process behavior, and one that we’ve found is a very intuitive way to look at how resources are being used across a system.

Powered by OpenGL, the Process Throb window makes it easy to see as processes use the CPU and as new processes are spawned and old ones go away.

A static screenshot really doesn’t do justice to the shifting, throbbing, pulsing, “breathing” appearance of the Process Throb window. For a better idea, you can download and try Peek-a-Boo, or watch a screencast of the Process Throb window.

Each process shows up as an icon. If a process is an application that already has an icon, that icon is used; otherwise the generic unix executable icon is used.

Subtle lines can connect each process to its parent process. This makes it easy to detect processes (such as launchd and WindowServer) whose main job is to handle launching other processes.

Each icon is sized according to how much processor time it has been using. Very CPU-intensive processes are much larger than quiescent processes.

New in version 2.7.1, each icon’s velocity is based on the virtual memory it uses. This makes memory-intensive processes more obvious since they are moving more quickly.

When doing a lengthy processor-intensive task such as processing in iMovie or GarageBand, the icon will grow according to its processor usage, then when the processing is down, the icon will shrink down again.

When performing a lengthy task such as an XCode-based build, where the compute-intensive process spawns many sub-processes to do much of the processing, the Process Throb view will look almost like a miniature fireworks display, with newly-spawned processes appearing, growing, then disappearing as their tasks are completed.

You can make idle processes disappear from the window by turning off “always show idle processes” in the preferences panel. This is very useful if you want the Process Throb window to show only “interesting” processes.

You can watch processing throbbing in an overlaid fullscreen transparent window. Just press F7 to switch to fullscreen mode; if you have multiple screens, F7 will cycle the process throb to fullscreen mode for each screen before finally cycling back around to restore the normal Process Throb window.

If you click in the Process Throb window, the closest process to your mouse click is selected in the Process List window.