The ATLAS experiment is one of the two general-purpose experiments due to start operation soon at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The LHC will collide protons at a centre of mass energy of 14 TeV, with a bunch-crossing rate of 40 MHz. The ATLAS three-level trigger will reduce this input rate to match the foreseen offline storage capability of 100-200 Hz. This paper gives an overview of the ATLAS High Level Trigger focusing on the system design and its innovative features. We then present the ATLAS trigger strategy for the initial phase of LHC exploitation. Finally, we report on the valuable experience acquired through in-situ commissioning of the system where simulated events were used to exercise the trigger chain. In particular we show critical quantities such as event processing times, measured in a large-scale HLT farm using a complex trigger menu.
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