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Use Ctrl+Alt+Del for Task Manager in Linux to Kill Tasks Easily

In Windows you can easily kill any task by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del and bringing up the task manager. Linux running the GNOME desktop environment (i.e. Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, etc.) has a similar tool that can be enabled to run exactly the same way.

Setting up global key bindings

The GNOME desktop environment by default uses the Ctrl+Alt+Del shortcut to bring up the shutdown, logout, restart, and hibernate dialog. This is not useful for users who are used to quick access to a task manager.

000_log-out

To change the settings of Ctrl+Alt+Del in GNOME open the keyboard shortcuts preferences. In Ubuntu it is located under System -> Preferences -> Keyboard Shortcuts, and in Linux Mint open the mintMenu -> Control Center -> Keyboard Shortcuts.

001_control-panel

The keyboard shortcuts preferences will show all of the shortcuts that the GNOME desktop environment can control.

Note: Other program specific or Compiz keyboard shortcuts will not show up here. You will need to look in those programs for what shortcuts are available.

002_Keyboard Shortcuts

Adding custom global keyboard shortcuts is as easy as clicking Add.

003_new-shortcut

For a Ctrl+Alt+Del replacement we will name the new shortcut “Task Manager” and the command to run is gnome-system-monitor.

005_Custom Shortcut

Click Apply and notice the new keyboard shortcut shows up under Custom Shortcuts but is disabled. 006_Keyboard Shortcuts

Click where it says “Disabled” and then press the new desired keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Alt+Delete. If the keyboard shortcut already exists as another GNOME keyboard shortcut you will be prompted to reassign the keyboard shortcut.

010_replacement-warning

Click Reassign and the new keyboard shortcut will now be enabled and will show the keyboard sequence for the command.

012_Keyboard Shortcuts

For an even easier way to kill programs that are not responding, set up one more keyboard shortcut and name it “Kill Window” with the command xkill.

013_xkill-shortcut

Click on “Disabled” just as before to set the keyboard shortcut for Kill Window to Ctrl+Delete.

014_Keyboard Shortcuts

Using System Monitor

To test out the new keyboard shortcuts push Ctrl+Alt+Del. The System Monitor will open and will have a lot of useful information on the System tab. This tab gives you easy access to your Linux distribution and release, current running kernel, GNOME version, and available disk space.

015_System Monitor

The next tab is the Processes tab and is similar to the task manager in Windows. You can sort by CPU usage, memory usage, process name, etc.

016_System Monitor

To kill a process, find the name and click the End Process button. A confirmation will pop-up and you can easily kill the non-responsive process.

019_Selection

The Resources tab shows CPU, memory, and network history and is very helpful in troubleshooting system performance. The history is only stored as long as the system monitor is open so make sure you leave it running if you want to view performance while running certain programs.

017_System Monitor

The last tab, File Systems, shows information about local hard disks and partitions. Particularly useful is the device, directory, and used information. The device shows how the system identifies your partition, and directory shows where that partition is mounted or if it is mounted at all.

018_System Monitor

Using xkill

The last keyboard shortcut that was set up was for a program called xkill. This program doesn’t have a user interface or settings. When you push the keyboard shortcut to run xkill the only thing you will notice is your mouse cursor will change into an X.020_xkill

To kill a process with xkill move the mouse over the window that needs to be killed and left click with the mouse anywhere in the window. The program should instantly disappear along with any sub-windows the process had opened.

If either of these methods are used to kill a process just remember that any unsaved work will be lost because neither of these programs allow the program to save work before closing.

Justin is a Linux and HTPC enthusiast who loves to try new projects. He isn't scared of bricking a cell phone in the name of freedom.

  • Published 06/28/10

Comments (15)

  1. Jordan

    I would recommend “sudo gnome-system-monitor” that way you can also see errant system processes that may be causing trouble. Or just bind it to a different set of keys.
    I generally just leave the System Monitor applet on my panel, clicking it up brings up Gnome System Monitor, but not as root.

  2. Dr Stephen

    Is it possible to use Ctrl+Shift+Escape like in Windows?

  3. abadidea

    Built into Linux is the control-alt-backspace shortcut for rebooting the entire graphics subsystem. A necessity for those of us with a less than stable video card driver :)

  4. ben

    nice idea – thx

  5. EL-Dante

    Thnx alot. This is really a time saver.

  6. jsd

    Thnk alot dude… it help a lot. huhuhu :)

  7. Hari

    I had posted a How To in Ubuntu forums which covers even more settings. The url is : http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?p=8041957#post8041957

  8. Kevin

    what about force quit? I got the icon in my top panel…easy

  9. Jon

    Great “how to” here, Justin! Good job!

  10. Stanley

    how do i change it back?

  11. Amir

    nice 1 dude… intelligent

  12. Bik

    thanks a lot ! Small things but very useful ones .

  13. Messias

    It will sound guy but still : I LOVE U :D

  14. shrav

    loved the tip on xkill. i killed the taskbar the first time i used it, but getting used to it.:)
    thanks a lot.

  15. Sreeraj

    Thanks a lot…. Very useful informations…

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