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foreground/backgroundA priority assigned to programs running in a multitasking environment. The foreground contains the applications the user is working on, and the background contains the applications that are behind the scenes, such as certain operating system functions, printing a document or accessing the network. Users may find all sorts of programs running in the background that they are not aware of (see spyware).
In sophisticated mainframe operating systems, foreground and background programs can be fine tuned. In desktop computers, there is less user control over processing priorities or there may be none.