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Useful but Unknown Unix Tools: htop //at 02:20 //by abe

from the top-on-steroids dept.

You probably know about “top”, in Debian and Ubuntu part of the procps package.

Ever wanted to see CPU and memory usage as bars and not numbers?

Ever wanted to kill a process from inside top by just selecting its row instead of having to type its pid?

Ever tried to press a cursor key inside top? It makes a noise and says “Unknown command - try ‘h’ for help”. Short said: top is not that interactive.

Ever wanted top to be more colorful?

Well, there is a solution to all these issues. It’s called htop (Debian package) and is some kind of colorful, ncurses based cross-over between top and a Midnight Commander for processes:

htop on single core machine htop on single core machine with MC theme htop on idling 16 core machine htop on 16 core machine under load
More screenshots of htop at and at the project’s site at SourceForge.

It can do many things, top can’t do:

  • Different color themes including fore- and background (includes also a monochrome theme for people considering ANSI colors being eye cancer :-)
  • Highlighting the current user’s processes.
  • Scrolling up, down and sidewards.
  • Interactively selecting processes with cursor keys as well as with the mouse.
  • Kill or renice the selected process without having to enter its pid
  • Show the CPU usage for each core and a CPU usage summary at the same time.
  • Show CPU, memory and swap usage as textual bars, either encoded in colors or characters.
  • Easy interactive configuring while running.
  • Automatically saves the current state (sort order, color scheme, etc.)
  • Easy access to the most often used functions through F-keys like in Midnight Commander.

One more cool thing about htop: It’s also available on the Nokia N900 as “app”.

The only thing I found so far that top can do, but htop can’t, is top’s batch mode (e.g. with “top -b -n 1”) where it runs non-interactively and its output can even be piped to other processes. The Xymon/Hobbit monitoring system uses that as input for some machine statistics.

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Hackergotchi of Axel Beckert


Debian GNU/Linux is my favourite Linux distribution, being stable, flexible, consistent and having a great community. Although I'm not the biggest bug report writer, I try to contribute by staffing the Debian booth at events, carrying the necessary hardware there or even organising the whole booth.

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