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Why do apps appear in force quit but not the dock?

Text edit is not open on my dock or Cmd+Tab but I see it Text Edit open on Force Quit. Why would it be open in Force Quit but not Cmd+Tab or the dock?

I've also had this happen with Preview.

I am concerned something is awry. Has anyone else experienced this?

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This is a feature introduced with OS X Lion called Automatic Termination. It is not the same as Sudden Termination which you might see in Activity Monitor. See the Apple developer documentation for an introduction to both.

This TidBITS article also has more information on it:

As John Siracusa explains in his Ars Technica review of Lion, this is a Lion feature called Automatic Termination:

Lion will quit your running applications behind your back if it decides it needs the resources, and if you don’t appear to be using them. The heuristic for determining whether an application is “in use” is very conservative: it must not be the active application, it must have no visible, non-minimized windows — and, of course, it must explicitly support Automatic Termination.

As Siracusa goes on to point out, when Automatic Termination occurs, the terminated application may in fact not really be terminated. For example, right now on my machine, TextEdit is listed in Activity Monitor as one of my running processes. It’s using some memory; it has open files. Nevertheless, TextEdit doesn’t appear in the Command-Tab switcher or the Dock. […]

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