We pick the top ten Top tools

Still Number 1: Top

Despite all the advantages of the programs we just looked at, the Linux Magazine jury's favorite is the legacy and legendary Unix tool Top by William LeFebvre and others.

Top is installed everywhere, it is comprehensively documented, and it gives you the more or less identical controls and behavior on any conceivable Unix and on BSD, Linux, many embedded systems, and Mac OS X. The tool, which has been an administrative evergreen since 1984, runs on mainframes, workstations, desktops, and clusters.

Version 3.7, or Beta 3.8 of unixtop, is available for download [15]. But who needs to download when your favorite distribution already includes the tool and even installs it as part of the minimal installation?

Administrators will be familiar with the various switches, options, and parameters. The man page fills several screens – again thanks to the number of operating systems Top supports.


Any Linux or Unix book that covers system administration provides at least a few pages on the essential Top utility. The original Top is still number one today, but the winner shouldn't get complacent: Talented newcomers – some of them specialists, others simply modern clones of the original – are getting closer to center stage. Htop, for instance, is shaping up nicely.

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