LINUX CHEATSHEET – vmstat, ps, top

LINUX Quick Reference Cheat Sheet

vmstat, ps, top

v 0.1 : Last Updated: March 2009 : <kaiwan at designergraphix dot com>
(c) kaiwan billimoria.

Much of the information below gleaned from various Linux man pages.




vmstat fields quick reference

The -a switch displays active/inactive memory, given a 2.5.41 kernel or better.
The -f switch displays the number of forks since boot. This includes the fork, vfork, and clone system calls, and is equivalent to the total number of tasks created. Each process is represented by one or more tasks, depending on thread usage. This display does not repeat.
The -m displays slabinfo.
The -n switch causes the header to be displayed only once rather than periodically.
The -s switch displays a table of various event counters and memory statistics. This display does not repeat.

delay is the delay between updates in seconds. If no delay is specified, only one report is printed with
the average values since boot.
count is the number of updates. If no count is specified and delay is defined, count defaults to infinity.

The -d reports disk statistics (2.5.70 or above required)
The -p followed by some partition name for detailed statistics (2.5.70 or above required)
The -S followed by k or K or m or M switches outputs between 1000, 1024, 1000000, or 1048576 bytes
The -V switch results in displaying version information.



r: The number of processes waiting for run time << ready-to-run >>.
b: The number of processes in uninterruptible sleep << blocked >>.

Memory << (default) in kilobytes >>
swpd: the amount of virtual memory used.

free: the amount of idle memory.
buff: the amount of memory used as buffers.
cache: the amount of memory used as cache << page cache, not incl. swap cache>> .
inact: the amount of inactive memory. (-a option)
active: the amount of active memory. (-a option)

Swap << in kilobytes/second >>

si: Amount of memory swapped in from disk (/s).
so: Amount of memory swapped to disk (/s).

IO << in blocks/second >>

bi: Blocks received from a block device (blocks/s).
bo: Blocks sent to a block device (blocks/s).

System << ‘in’ and ‘cs’ are per second >>
in: The number of interrupts per second, including the clock.

cs: The number of context switches per second.

CPU These are percentages of total CPU time.
us: Time spent running non-kernel code. (user time, including nice time)
sy: Time spent running kernel code. (system time)
id: Time spent idle. Prior to Linux 2.5.41, this includes IO-wait time.
wa: Time spent waiting for IO. Prior to Linux 2.5.41, shown as zero.

       total: Total reads completed successfully
       merged: grouped reads (resulting in one I/O)
       sectors: Sectors read successfully
       ms: milliseconds spent reading 

       total: Total writes completed successfully
       merged: grouped writes (resulting in one I/O)
       sectors: Sectors written successfully
       ms: milliseconds spent writing 

       cur: I/O in progress
       s: seconds spent for I/O 

       reads: Total number of reads issued to this partition
       read sectors: Total read sectors for partition
       writes : Total number of writes issued to this partition
       requested writes: Total number of write requests made for partition 

       cache: Cache name
       num: Number of currently active objects
       total: Total number of available objects
       size: Size of each object
       pages: Number of pages with at least one active object
       totpages: Total number of allocated pages
       pslab: Number of pages per slab



ps fields quick reference

The ‘usual’:

ps -Aef[ww]

ps aux[ww][f]
To print a process tree:

ps -ejH

ps axjf

Signal information:

ps s
To get info about threads:

ps -eLf
ps axH
ps axms


H Show threads as if they were processes

-L Show threads, possibly with LWP and NLWP columns

-T Show threads, possibly with SPID column

m Show threads after processes

-m Show threads after processes

L List all format specifiers.

-V Print the procps version.
The output from the ps au option is displayed in the following columns:

USER is the username for the running process.

PID is the process ID.

%CPU is the CPU utilization.

%MEM is the memory utilization.

VSZ is the virtual memory size.

RSS is the resident set sizethe number of kilobytes of program in memory.

TTY specifies which terminal the process was started from.

STAT is the process state.

START is the start time.

TIME is the execution time.

COMMAND is the command name.

Here are the different values that the s, stat and state output

specifiers (header “STAT” or “S”) will display to describe the state of

a process.

D Uninterruptible sleep (usually IO)

R Running or runnable (on run queue)

S Interruptible sleep (waiting for an event to complete)

T Stopped, either by a job control signal or because it is being


W paging (not valid since the 2.6.xx kernel)

X dead (should never be seen)

Z Defunct (“zombie”) process, terminated but not reaped by its

For BSD formats and when the stat keyword is used, additional

characters may be displayed:

< high-priority (not nice to other users)

N low-priority (nice to other users)

L has pages locked into memory (for real-time and custom IO)

s is a session leader

l is multi-threaded (using CLONE_THREAD, like NPTL pthreads do)

+ is in the foreground process group

wchan WCHAN name of the kernel function in which the process is sleeping, a “-” if the process is running, or a “*” if the process is multi-threaded and ps is not displaying threads.


/proc/meminfo fields quick reference

MemTotal Total usable RAM.

MemFree The sum of LowFree + HighFree.

Buffers Memory in the buffer cache.

Cached Memory in the page cache (doesn’t SwapCache).

SwapCached Memory that once was swapped out.

Active Memory that has been used more recently and usually is not reclaimed unless absolutely necessary.

Inactive Memory that has been less recently used.
HighTotal The total amount of memory in the high region. Highmem is all memory above (approximately) 860 MB of physical RAM.

HighFree High region free memory.

LowTotal The total amount of non-highmem memory.

LowFree The amount of free memory in the low memory region.

SwapTotal The total amount of swap memory.

SwapFree The total amount of free swap memory.

Dirty Memory waiting to get written back to the disk.

Writeback Memory that is actively being written back to the disk.

Mapped Files that have been mmapped.

Slab In-kernel data structures cache.

Committed_AS An estimate of how much RAM is needed to make a 99.99% guarantee that there is never an OOM (out of memory) for this workload. Normally the kernel overcommits memory. So if you do a 1 GB malloc, for example, nothing happens, really. Only when you start using that malloc memory do you get real memory on demand, and just as much as needed. Other cases might include when a file is mmapped that’s shared only when a write to the file occurs and a private copy of that data is created. Normally it is shared between processes. The Committed_AS is a guesstimate of how much RAM/swap is needed in the worst case.
PageTables The amount of memory dedicated to the lowest level of page tables.

VmallocTotal The total size of the vmalloc memory area.

VmallocUsed The amount of vmalloc area that is used.

VmallocChunk The largest contiguous block of vmalloc area that is free.
/proc/<pid>/tasks : threads of process <pid>

Hardware information




lshw (Ubuntu specific?)

lshal (Ubuntu specific?)





top fields quick reference

A : toggles multiple windows display

Z : colour changes


The command-line syntax for top consists of:

-hv | -bcHisS -d delay -n iterations -p pid [,pid…]

The typically mandatory switches (‘-‘) and even whitespace are completely optional.

-b : Batch mode operation

Starts top in ‘Batch mode’, which could be useful for sending output from top to other programs or to a file. In this

mode, top will not accept input and runs until the iterations limit you’ve set with the ‘-n’ command-line option or until killed.

-c : Command line/Program name toggle

Starts top with the last remembered ‘c’ state reversed. Thus, if top was displaying command lines, now that field will show program names, and visa versa. See the ‘c’ interactive command for additional information.

-d : Delay time interval as: -d (seconds.tenths)

Specifies the delay between screen updates, and overrides the corresponding value in one’s personal configuration file or the startup default. Later this can be changed with the ‘d’ or ‘s’ interactive commands.

Fractional seconds are honored, but a negative number is not allowed. In all cases, however, such changes are prohibited if top is running in ‘Secure mode’, except for root (unless the ‘s’ command-line option was used). For additional information on ‘Secure mode’ see topic 5a. SYSTEM Configuration File.

-h : Help

Show library version and the usage prompt, then quit.

-H : Threads toggle

Starts top with the last remembered ‘H’ state reversed. When this toggle is On, all individual threads will be displayed. Otherwise, top displays a summation of all threads in a process.

-i : Idle Processes toggle

Starts top with the last remembered ‘i’ state reversed. When this toggle is Off, tasks that are idled or zombied will not be displayed.

-n : Number of iterations limit as: -n number

Specifies the maximum number of iterations, or frames, top should produce before ending.

-u : Monitor by user as: -u somebody

Monitor only processes with an effective UID or user name matching that given.
-U : Monitor by user as: -U somebody

Monitor only processes with a UID or user name matching that given. This matches real, effective, saved, and filesystem UIDs.

-p : Monitor PIDs as: -pN1 -pN2 … or -pN1, N2 [,…]

Monitor only processes with specified process IDs. This option can be given up to 20 times, or you can provide a comma delimited list with up to 20 pids. Co-mingling both approaches is permitted.

This is a command-line option only. And should you wish to return to normal operation, it is not necessary to quit and and restart top — just issue the ‘=’ interactive command.

-s : Secure mode operation

Starts top with secure mode forced, even for root. This mode is far better controlled through the system configuration file (see topic 5. FILES).

-S : Cumulative time mode toggle

Starts top with the last remembered ‘S’ state reversed. When ‘Cumulative mode’ is On, each process is listed with the cpu time that it and its dead children have used. See the ‘S’ interactive command for additional information regarding this mode.
-v : Version

Show library version and the usage prompt, then quit.

2. FIELDS / Columns

2a. DESCRIPTIONS of Fields

Listed below are top’s available fields. They are always associated with the letter shown, regardless of the position you may have established for them with the ‘o’ (Order fields) interactive command.

Any field is selectable as the sort field, and you control whether they are sorted high-to-low or low-to-high. For additional information on sort provisions see topic 3c. TASK Area Commands.

a: PID — Process Id

The task’s unique process ID, which periodically wraps, though never restarting at zero.

b: PPID — Parent Process Pid

The process ID of a task’s parent.

c: RUSER — Real User Name

The real user name of the task’s owner.

d: UID — User Id

The effective user ID of the task’s owner.

e: USER — User Name

The effective user name of the task’s owner.

f: GROUP — Group Name

The effective group name of the task’s owner.

g: TTY — Controlling Tty

The name of the controlling terminal. This is usually the device (serial port, pty, etc.) from which the process was started, and which it uses for input or output. However, a task need not be associated with a terminal, in which case you’ll see ‘?’ displayed.

h: PR — Priority

The priority of the task.

i: NI — Nice value

The nice value of the task. A negative nice value means higher priority, whereas a positive nice value means lower priority. Zero in this field simply means priority will not be adjusted in determining a task’s dispatchability.

j: P — Last used CPU (SMP)

A number representing the last used processor. In a true SMP environment this will likely change frequently since the kernel intentionally uses weak affinity. Also, the very act of running top may break this weak affinity and cause more processes to change CPUs more often (because of the extra demand for cpu time).

k: %CPU — CPU usage

The task’s share of the elapsed CPU time since the last screen update, expressed as a percentage of total CPU time. In a true SMP environment, if ‘Irix mode’ is Off, top will operate in ‘Solaris mode’ where a task’s cpu usage will be divided by the total number of CPUs. You toggle ‘Irix/Solaris’ modes with the ‘I’ interactive command.

l: TIME — CPU Time

Total CPU time the task has used since it started. When ‘Cumulative mode’ is On, each process is listed with the cpu time that it and its dead children has used. You toggle ‘Cumulative mode’ with ‘S’, which is a command-line option and an interactive command. See the ‘S’ interactive command for additional information regarding this mode.

m: TIME+ — CPU Time, hundredths

The same as ‘TIME’, but reflecting more granularity through hundredths of a second.

n: %MEM — Memory usage (RES)

A task’s currently used share of available physical memory.

o: VIRT — Virtual Image (kb)

The total amount of virtual memory used by the task. It includes all code, data and shared libraries plus pages that have been swapped out.


p: SWAP — Swapped size (kb)

The swapped out portion of a task’s total virtual memory image.

q: RES — Resident size (kb)

The non-swapped physical memory a task has used.


r: CODE — Code size (kb)

The amount of physical memory devoted to executable code, also known as the ‘text resident set’ size or TRS.

s: DATA — Data+Stack size (kb)

The amount of physical memory devoted to other than executable code, also known as the ‘data resident set’ size or DRS.

t: SHR — Shared Mem size (kb)

The amount of shared memory used by a task. It simply reflects memory that could be potentially shared with other processes.

u: nFLT — Page Fault count

The number of major page faults that have occurred for a task. A page fault occurs when a process attempts to read from or write to a virtual page that is not currently present in its address space. A major page fault is when backing storage access (such as a disk) is involved in making that page available.

v: nDRT — Dirty Pages count

The number of pages that have been modified since they were last written to disk. Dirty pages must be written to disk before the corresponding physical memory location can be used for some other virtual page.

w: S — Process Status

The status of the task which can be one of:

‘D’ = uninterruptible sleep

‘R’ = running

‘S’ = sleeping

‘T’ = traced or stopped

‘Z’ = zombie

Tasks shown as running should be more properly thought of as ‘ready to run’ — their task_struct is simply represented on the Linux run-queue. Even without a true SMP machine, you may see numerous tasks in this state depending on top’s delay interval and nice value.

x: Command — Command line or Program name

Display the command line used to start a task or the name of the associated program. You toggle between command line and name with ‘c’, which is both a command-line option and an interactive command.

When you’ve chosen to display command lines, processes without a command line (like kernel threads) will be shown with only the program name in parentheses, as in this example: ( mdrecoveryd )

Either form of display is subject to potential truncation if it’s too long to fit in this field’s current width. That width depends upon other fields selected, their order and the current screen width.

Note: The ‘Command’ field/column is unique, in that it is not fixed-width. When displayed, this column will be allocated all remaining screen width (up to the maximum 512 characters) to provide for the potential growth of program names into command lines.

y: WCHAN — Sleeping in Function

Depending on the availability of the kernel link map (‘’), this field will show the name or the address of the kernel function in which the task is currently sleeping. Running tasks will display a dash (‘-‘) in this column.

Note: By displaying this field, top’s own working set will be increased by over 700Kb. Your only means of reducing that overhead will be to stop and restart top.

z: Flags — Task Flags

This column represents the task’s current scheduling flags which are expressed in hexadecimal notation and with zeros suppressed. These flags are officially documented in <linux/sched.h>. Less formal documentation can also be found on the ‘Fields select’ and ‘Order fields’ screens.


After pressing the interactive commands ‘f’ (Fields select) or ‘o’ (Order fields) you will be shown a screen containing the current fields string followed by names and descriptions for all fields.

Here is a sample fields string from one of top’s four windows/field groups and an explanation of the conventions used:

– Sample fields string:


– The order of displayed fields corresponds to the order of the letters in that string.

– If the letter is upper case the corresponding field itself will then be shown as part of the task display (screen width permitting). This will also be indicated by a leading asterisk (‘*’), as in this excerpt:

* K: %CPU = CPU usage

l: TIME = CPU Time

m: TIME+ = CPU Time, hundredths

* N: %MEM = Memory usage (RES)

* O: VIRT = Virtual Image (kb)

Fields select screen — the ‘f’ interactive command

You toggle the display of a field by simply pressing the corresponding letter.

Order fields screen — the ‘o’ interactive command

You move a field to the left by pressing the corresponding upper case letter and to the right with the lower case letter.

2c. CPU States

The CPU states are shown in the Summary Area. They are always shown as a percentage and are for the time between now and the last refresh.

us — User CPU time

The time the CPU has spent running users’ processes that are not niced.

sy — System CPU time

The time the CPU has spent running the kernel and its processes.

ni — Nice CPU time

The time the CPU has spent running users’ proccess that have been niced.

wa — iowait

Amount of time the CPU has been waiting for I/O to complete.

hi — Hardware IRQ

The amount of time the CPU has been servicing hardware interrupts.

si — Software Interrupts

The amount of time the CPU has been servicing software interrupts.


Listed below is a brief index of commands within categories. Some commands appear more than once — their meaning or scope may vary depending on the context in which they are issued.

3a. GLOBAL_Commands

<Ret/Sp> ?, =, A, B, d, G, h, I, k, q, r, s, W, Z

3b. SUMMARY_Area_Commands

l, m, t, 1

3c. TASK_Area_Commands

Appearance: b, x, y, z

Content: c, f, H, o, S, u

Size: #, i, n

Sorting: <, >, F, O, R

3d. COLOR_Mapping

<Ret>, a, B, b, H, M, q, S, T, w, z, 0 – 7

4b. COMMANDS_for_Windows

-, _, =, +, A, a, G, g, w

3a. GLOBAL Commands

The global interactive commands are always available in both full-screen mode and alternate-display mode. However, some of these interactive commands are not available when running in ‘Secure mode’.

If you wish to know in advance whether or not your top has been secured, simply ask for help and view the system summary on the second line.

<Enter> or <Space> :Refresh_Display

These commands do nothing, they are simply ignored. However, they will awaken top and following receipt of any input the entire display will be repainted.

Use either of these keys if you have a large delay interval and wish to see current status,

<?> or <h> :Help

There are two help levels available. The first will provide a reminder of all the basic interactive commands. If top is secured, that screen will be abbreviated.

Typing ‘h’ or ‘?’ on that help screen will take you to help for those interactive commands applicable to alternate-display mode.

<=> :Exit_Task_Limits
Removes restrictions on which tasks are shown.  This command will reverse any ‘i’ (idle tasks) and ‘n’ (max tasks) commands that might be active.  It also provides for an ‘exit’ from PID monitoring.  See the ‘-p’ command-line option  for a discussion of PID monitoring.
When operating in alternate-display mode this command has a slightly broader meaning.

<A> :Alternate_Display_Mode_toggle
This  command will switch between full-screen mode and alternate-display mode.  See topic
4 ALTERNATE-DISPLAY Mode and the ‘G’ interactive command for insight into ‘current’ windows and field groups.

<B> :Bold_Disable/Enable_toggle
This command will influence use of the ‘bold’ terminfo capability and alters both the summary area and  task  area  for the current’ window.  While it is intended primarily for use with dumb terminals, it can be applied anytime.
Note:  When  this  toggle is On and top is operating in monochrome mode, the entire display will appear as normal text.
Thus, unless the ‘x’ and/or ‘y’ toggles are using reverse for emphasis, there will be no visual confirmation that  they are even on.

* <d> or <s> :Change_Delay_Time_interval
You will be prompted to enter the delay time, in seconds, between display updates.
Fractional  seconds  are honored, but a negative number is not allowed.  Entering 0 causes (nearly) continuous updates, with an unsatisfactory display as the system and tty driver try to keep up with top’s  demands.   The  delay  value  is inversely proportional to system loading, so set it with care.
If  at  any time you wish to know the current delay time, simply ask for help and view the system summary on the second line.

<G> :Choose_Another_Window/Field_Group
You will be prompted to enter a number between 1 and 4 designating the window/field group  which  should  be  made  the current’  window.   You  will  soon  grow comfortable with these 4 windows, especially after experimenting with alternate-display mode.

<I> :Irix/Solaris_Mode_toggle
When operating in ‘Solaris mode’ (‘I’ toggled Off), a task’s cpu usage will be divided by the  total  number  of  CPUs. After issuing this command, you’ll be informed of the new state of this toggle.

<u> :select a user
You  will  be  prompted  for  a  UID or username. Only processes belonging to the selected user will be displayed. This option matches on the effective UID.

<U> :select a user
You will be prompted for a UID or username. Only processes belonging to the  selected  user  will  be  displayed.  This option matches on the real, effective, saved, and filesystem UID.

* <k> :Kill_a_task
You  will  be  prompted  for  a  PID  and  then the signal to send.  The default signal, as reflected in the prompt, is SIGTERM.  However, you can send any signal, via number or name.
If you wish to abort the kill process, do one of the following depending on your progress:
1) at the pid prompt, just press <Enter>
2) at the signal prompt, type 0

<q> :Quit

* <r> :Renice_a_Task
You will be prompted for a PID and then the value to nice it to.  Entering a positive value will  cause  a  process  to lose priority.  Conversely, a negative value will cause a process to be viewed more favorably by the kernel.

<W> :Write_the_Configuration_File
This  will  save all of your options and toggles plus the current display mode and delay time.  By issuing this command just before quitting top, you will be able restart later in exactly that same state.

<Z> :Change_Color_Mapping
This key will take you to a separate screen where you can change the colors for the ‘current’ window, or for  all  windows.  For details regarding this interactive command see topic 3d. COLOR Mapping.
*  The  commands  shown  with an asterisk (‘*’) are not available in ‘Secure mode’, nor will they be shown on the level-1 help screen.

3b. SUMMARY Area Commands
The summary area interactive commands are always available in both full-screen mode and alternate-display mode.   They  affect the beginning lines of your display and will determine the position of messages and prompts.

These  commands always impact just the ‘current’ window/field group.  See topic 4. ALTERNATE-DISPLAY Mode and the ‘G’ interactive command for insight into ‘current’ windows and field groups.
<l> :Toggle_Load_Average/Uptime  —  On/Off
This is also the line containing the program name (possibly an alias) when operating in full-screen mode or  the   current’ window name when operating in alternate-display mode.

<m> :Toggle_Memory/Swap_Usage  —  On/Off
This command affects two summary area lines.

<t> :Toggle_Task/Cpu_States  —  On/Off
This command affects from 2 to many summary area lines, depending on the state of the ‘1’ toggle and whether or not top is running under true SMP.

<1> :Toggle_Single/Separate_Cpu_States  —  On/Off
This command affects how the ‘t’ command’s Cpu States portion is shown.  Although this toggle exists primarily to serve massively-parallel SMP machines, it is not restricted to solely SMP environments.

When  you see ‘Cpu(s):’ in the summary area, the ‘1’ toggle is On and all cpu information is gathered in a single line. Otherwise, each cpu is displayed separately as: ‘Cpu0, Cpu1, …’

Note: If the entire summary area has been toggled Off for any window, you would be left with just the message line.   In  that way,  you  will  have  maximized  available task rows but (temporarily) sacrificed the program name in full-screen mode or the current’ window name when in alternate-display mode.

3c. TASK Area Commands
The task area interactive commands are always available in full-screen mode.

The task area interactive commands are never available in alternate-display mode if the ‘current’ window’s  task  display  has been toggled Off (see topic 4. ALTERNATE-DISPLAY Mode).

APPEARANCE of task window
The following commands will also be influenced by the state of the global ‘B’ (bold disable) toggle.

<b> :Bold/Reverse_toggle
This  command  will impact how the ‘x’ and ‘y’ toggles are displayed.  Further, it will only be available when at least one of those toggles is On.

<x> :Column_Highlight_toggle
Changes highlighting for the current sort field.  You probably don’t need a constant visual reminder of the sort  field and top hopes that you always run with ‘column highlight’ Off, due to the cost in path-length.
If you forget which field is being sorted this command can serve as a quick visual reminder.

<y> :Row_Highlight_toggle
Changes  highlighting  for “running” tasks.  For additional insight into this task state, see topic 2a DESCRIPTIONS of Fields, Process Status.

Use of this provision provides important insight into your system’s health.  The only costs will be  a  few  additional tty escape sequences.

<z> :Color/Monochrome_toggle
Switches  the  ‘current’  window  between your last used color scheme and the older form of black-on-white or white-on-black.  This command will alter both the summary area and task area but does not affect the state of the  ‘x’,  ‘y’  or ‘b’ toggles.

CONTENT of task window
<c> :Command_Line/Program_Name_toggle
This  command  will be honored whether or not the ‘Command’ column is currently visible.  Later, should that field come into view, the change you applied will be seen.

<f> and <o> :Fields_select or Order_fields
These keys display separate screens where you can change which fields are displayed and their  order.   For  additional information on these interactive commands see topic 2b. SELECTING and ORDERING Columns.

<S> :Cumulative_Time_Mode_toggle
When  this  toggle is On, all individual threads will be displayed.  Otherwise, top displays a summation of all threads in a process.

‘S’ :Cumulative_Time_Mode_toggle
When ‘Cumulative mode’ is On, each process is listed with the cpu time that it and its dead children have used.

When Off, programs that fork into many separate tasks will appear less demanding.  For programs like ‘init’ or a  shell this  is  appropriate  but  for others, like compilers, perhaps not.  Experiment with two task windows sharing the same sort field but with different ‘S’ states and see which representation you prefer.

After issuing this command, you’ll be informed of the new state of this toggle.  If you wish to know in advance whether or not ‘Cumulative mode’ is in effect, simply ask for help and view the window summary on the second line.

<u> :Show_Specific_User_Only
You will be prompted to enter the name of the user to display.  Thereafter, in that task window only matching User ID’s will be shown, or possibly no tasks will be shown. Later, if you wish to monitor all tasks again, re-issue this command but just press <Enter> at the prompt, without providing a name.

SIZE of task window
<i> :Idle_Processes_toggle
Displays all tasks or just active tasks.  When this toggle is Off, idled or zombied processes will not be displayed.

If  this  command  is applied to the last task display when in alternate-display mode, then it will not affect the window’s size, as all prior task displays will have already been painted.

<n> or <#> :Set_Maximum_Tasks
You will be prompted to enter the number of tasks to display.  The lessor of your number and available screen rows will be used.

When used in alternate-display mode, this is the command that gives you precise control over the size of each currently visible task display, except for the very last.  It will not affect the last  window’s size, as all prior task  displays will have already been painted.

Note: If you wish to increase the size of the last visible task display when in alternate-display mode, simply decrease the size of the task display(s) above it.

SORTING of task window
For compatibility, this top supports most of the former top sort keys.  Since this is primarily  a  service  to  former  top users, these commands do not appear on any help screen.
command   sorted field                  supported
A         start time (non-display)      No
M         %MEM                             Yes
N         PID                                    Yes
P         %CPU                                Yes
T         TIME+                               Yes

Before  using  any of the following sort provisions, top suggests that you temporarily turn on column highlighting using the ‘x’ interactive command.  That will help ensure that the actual sort environment matches your intent.

The following interactive commands will only be honored when the current sort field is visible.  The sort field might not be visible because:
1) there is insufficient Screen Width
2) the ‘f’ interactive command turned it Off

<<> :Move_Sort_Field_Left
Moves the sort column to the left unless the current sort field is the first field being displayed.

<>> :Move_Sort_Field_Right
Moves the sort column to the right unless the current sort field is the last field being displayed.

The following interactive commands will always be honored whether or not the current sort field is visible.

<F> or <O> :Select_Sort_Field
These keys display a separate screen where you can change which field is used as the sort column.

If  a  field is selected which was not previously being displayed, it will be forced On when you return to the top display.  However, depending upon your screen width and the order of your fields, this sort field may not be  displayable.

This  interactive command can be a convenient way to simply verify the current sort field, when running top with column highlighting turned Off.

<R> :Reverse/Normal_Sort_Field_toggle
Using this interactive command you can alternate between high-to-low and low-to-high sorts.

Note: Field sorting uses internal values, not those in column display.  Thus, the TTY and WCHAN fields will  violate  strict ASCII collating sequence.

3d. COLOR Mapping
When  you  issue the ‘Z’ interactive command, you will be presented with a separate screen.  That screen can be used to change the colors in just the current’ window or in all four windows before returning to the top display.

Available interactive commands
4 upper case letters to select a target
8 numbers to select a color
normal toggles available
‘B’       :bold disable/enable
‘b’       :running tasks “bold”/reverse
‘z’       :color/mono
other commands available
‘a’/’w’   :apply, then go to next/prior
<Enter>   :apply and exit
‘q’       :abandon current changes and exit

If your use ‘a’ or ‘w’ to cycle the targeted window, you will have applied the color scheme that was displayed when  you  left that  window.  You can, of course, easily return to any window and reapply different colors or turn colors Off completely with the ‘z’ toggle.

The Color Mapping screen can also be used to change the ‘current’ window/field group in  either  full-screen  mode  or  alternate-display  mode.   Whatever was targeted when ‘q’ or <Enter> was pressed will be made current as you return to the top display.

4a. WINDOWS Overview
Field Groups/Windows:
In full-screen mode there is a single window represented by the entire screen.  That single window can still be changed to display 1 of 4 different field groups (see the ‘G’ interactive command, repeated below).  Each of the 4 field groups has a unique separately configurable summary area and its own configurable task area.

In alternate-display mode, those 4 underlying field groups can now be made visible simultaneously, or can be turned Off individually at your command.

The summary area will always exist, even if it’s only the message line.  At any given time only one summary area can be displayed.  However, depending on your commands, there could be from zero to  four  separate  task  displays  currently showing on the screen.

Current Window:
The  current’  window is the window associated with the summary area and the window to which task related commands are always directed.  Since in alternate-display mode you  can  toggle  the  task  display  Off,  some  commands  might  be restricted for the current’ window.

A  further complication arises when you have toggled the first summary area line Off.  With the loss of the window name (the ‘l’ toggled line), you’ll not easily know what window is the ‘current’ window.

4b. COMMANDS for Windows
<-> and <_> :Show/Hide_Window(s)_toggles
The ‘-‘ key turns the ‘current’ window’s task display On and Off.  When On, that task area will show a minimum  of  the columns  header  you’ve  established  with  the  ‘f’  and  ‘o’  commands.   It  will  also  reflect any other task area options/toggles you’ve applied yielding zero or more tasks.

The ‘_’ key does the same for all task displays.  In other words, it switches between the currently visible  task  display(s)  and  any  task display(s) you had toggled Off.  If all 4 task displays are currently visible, this interactive       command will leave the summary area as the only display element.

* <=> and <+> :Equalize_(re-balance)_Window(s)
The ‘=’ key forces the ‘current’ window’s task display to be visible.  It also reverses any ‘i’ (idle  tasks)  and  ‘n’ (max tasks) commands that might be active.

The ‘+’ key does the same for all windows.  The four task displays will reappear, evenly balanced.  They will also have retained any customizations you had previously applied, except for the ‘i’ (idle tasks) and ‘n’ (max tasks) commands.

* <A> :Alternate_Display_Mode_toggle
This command will switch between full-screen mode and alternate-display mode.

The first time you issue this command, all four task displays will be shown.  Thereafter when  you  switch  modes,  you will see only the task display(s) you’ve chosen to make visible.

* <a> and <w> :Next_Window_Forward/Backward
This will change the ‘current’ window, which in turn changes the window to which commands are directed.  These keys act in a circular fashion so you can reach any desired ‘current’ window using either key.

Assuming the window name is visible (you have not toggled ‘l’ Off), whenever the ‘current’ window name loses its emphasis/color, that’s a reminder the task display is Off and many commands will be restricted.

* <G> :Choose_Another_Window/Field_Group
You  will  be  prompted  to  enter a number between 1 and 4 designating the window/field group which should be made the current’ window.

In full-screen mode, this command is necessary to alter the ‘current’ window.  In alternate-display mode, it is  simply a less convenient alternative to the ‘a’ and ‘w’ commands.

<g> :Change_Window/Field_Group_Name
You will be prompted for a new name to be applied to the ‘current’ window.  It does not require that the window name be visible (the ‘l’ toggle to be On).

*  The interactive commands shown with an asterisk (‘*’) have use beyond alternate-display mode.
‘=’, ‘A’, ‘G’  are always available
‘a’, ‘w’       act the same when color mapping

5a. SYSTEM Configuration File
The presence of this file will influence which version of the ‘help’ screen is shown to an ordinary user.   More  importantly, it  will  limit  what ordinary users are allowed to do when top is running.  They will not be able to issue the following commands.
k         Kill a task
r         Renice a task
d or s    Change delay/sleep interval

The system configuration file is not created by top.  Rather, you create this file manually and place it in  the  /etc  directory.  Its name must be ‘toprc’ and must have no leading ‘.’ (period).  It must have only two lines.

Here is an example of the contents of /etc/toprc:
s         # line 1: ‘secure’ mode switch
5.0       # line 2: ‘delay’  interval in seconds

5b. PERSONAL Configuration File
This file is written as ‘$HOME/.your-name-4-top’ + ‘rc’.  Use the ‘W’ interactive command to create it or update it.

Here is the general layout:
global    # line 1: the program name/alias notation
”       # line 2: id,altscr,irixps,delay,curwin
per ea    # line a: winname,fieldscur
window    # line b: winflags,sortindx,maxtasks
”       # line c: summclr,msgsclr,headclr,taskclr

If  the $HOME variable is not present, top will try to write the personal configuration file to the current directory, subject to permissions.

Many of these ‘tricks’ work best when you give top a scheduling boost.  So plan on starting him with  a  nice  value  of  -10, assuming you’ve got the authority.

6a. Kernel Magic
For these stupid tricks, top needs full-screen mode.

-*-  The  user  interface,  through  prompts and help, intentionally implies that the delay interval is limited to tenths of a second.  However, you’re free to set any desired delay.  If you want to see Linux at his scheduling best, try a delay  of  .09 seconds or less.

For this experiment, under x-windows open an xterm and maximize it.  Then do the following:
. provide a scheduling boost and tiny delay via:
nice -n -10 top -d.09
. keep sorted column highlighting Off to minimize path length
. turn On reverse row highlighting for emphasis
. try various sort columns (TIME/MEM work well), and normal or reverse sorts to bring the
most active processes into view

What  you’ll  see  is a very busy Linux doing what he’s always done for you, but there was no program available to illustrate this.

-*-  Under an xterm using ‘white-on-black’ colors, try setting top’s task color to black and be sure that task highlighting is set to bold, not reverse.  Then set the delay interval to around .3 seconds.

After  bringing the most active processes into view, what you’ll see are the ghostly images of just the currently running tasks.

-*-  Delete the existing rcfile, or create a new symlink.  Start this new version then type ‘T’ (a secret key, see  topic  3c.
TASK Area Commands, Sorting) followed by ‘W’ and ‘q’.  Finally, restart the program with -d0 (zero delay).

Your display will be refreshed at three times the rate of the former top, a 300% speed advantage.  As top climbs the TIME ladder, be as patient as you can while speculating on whether or not top will ever reach the top.

6b. Bouncing Windows
For these stupid tricks, top needs alternate-display mode.

-*-  With 3 or 4 task displays visible, pick any window other than the last and turn idle processes Off.  Depending  on  where you applied ‘i’, sometimes several task displays are bouncing and sometimes it’s like an accordion, as top tries his best allocate space.

-*-  Set each window’s summary lines differently: one with no memory; another with no states; maybe one with nothing  at  all, just the message line.  Then hold down ‘a’ or ‘w’ and watch a variation on bouncing windows  —  hopping windows.

-*-  Display all 4 windows and for each, in turn, set idle processes to Off.  You’ve just entered the “extreme bounce” zone.

6c. The Big Bird Window
This stupid trick also requires alternate-display mode.

-*-  Display  all 4 windows and make sure that 1:Def is the ‘current’ window.  Then, keep increasing window size until the all the other task displays are “pushed out of the nest”.

When they’ve all been displaced, toggle between all visible/invisible windows.  Then ponder this:
is top fibbing or telling honestly your imposed truth?



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