Okay, I know of a few OS X folks who read my blog. Can someone tell me how to get point-to-focus rather than click-to-focus on OS X? I have it on Linux and Windows and find it rather annoying to work in a click-to-focus world. If I could get significantly higher resolution screen on the TiBook, it wouldn't be so bad. (My ThinkPad has a nice high-res screen that gives me a lot of room.)

I've tried various google searches (web and groups), but can't seem to come up with the right keyword combination to get the answer.

Posted by jzawodn at August 15, 2002 09:57 PM

Reader Comments
# kasia said:

Hm, you cannot install other windows managers on OSX?

My opinion of it just went way down! I assumed you could..

on August 15, 2002 10:05 PM
# john said:


I've been using OS X since it came out and up to version 10.1.5 OS X doesn't support point-to-focus, and I haven't seen anything that'll modify that (yet)

I'll be installing the new 10.1.2 Jaguar this weekend... so I'll let you know if it has any new options...

would you mind pointing me to a windows utility that enables this, so I can get it to work on my 2K box at work?


on August 16, 2002 05:46 AM
# john said:

ok, now that I more fully understand the question posted in the comment above... yes, you can install other windows managers, but not like you can with Linux... you can't 'not use' Aqua as the 'window manager' of OS X. It's there, always on... however you can install X11 at at least one more window manager over OS X. If you want your own window manager, you can install Darwin, which is the BSD underlayer of OS X, and install your own window manager on top of that... but you really don't need to, as Aqua generally does a lot more than just window management that Darwin doesn't have built into it....

that's not a real good answer, but it's more true than not...

for example, you can use Fink on Mac OS X to get a lot of Unix packages downloaded and installed, and some of them require a window manager like X11 or others... check sourceforge for more on the Fink program...

on August 16, 2002 05:19 PM
# Michael said:

Ok, I've been playing with OS X for the past two weeks, and not beign able to set up focus follows mouse rather than click to focus is the biggest annoyance.

Otherwise I'm as happy as a pig in muck in OS X's interpretation of BSD.

If you install XonX, then for the X windows apps you could set up follow focus. But for me that would be even more annoying since some stuff would be click to focus nad some would be follow focus.

I have not looked at release 10.2 but I suspect it will not have follow focus as an option since click to focus seems to be an Apple look and feel issue. Perhaps if I get a chance I will write an app which would add the option.

As for the person looking for follow focus under windows, you want to download "TweakUI". It is a control panel which allows you to tweak many useful things about Windows, including follow focus. Other things TweakUI lets you control is the clearing of various histories at logout, the contents of the right clicked "New" menu, ie New Notepad doc, New Zip file.

on August 20, 2002 08:28 PM
# Jason said:

The CodeTek VirtualDesktop has been working fairly well for me. It has a virtual desktop pager and focus-follows-mouse options. Drawbacks:

(a) It does not play nice with rootless XDarwin.
(b) When it gives a window focus it brings it to front (this may be an OS X limitation).

To get around (a) I started using mostly native Aqua implementations of my favorite applications (i.e., Emacs and Terminal instead of xemacs and xterm). To get around (b), I just use a lot of virtual desktops and mostly have my windows tiled.

You can try it for free, though if you want a license for more virtual desktops you have to pay like $20. It also seems like they are actively improving it.

I'd love to hear a better solution for making OS X behave more like X.

on October 31, 2002 10:25 AM
# Senjaz said:

> (b) When it gives a window focus it brings it to front (this may be an OS X limitation).

This is not a Mac OS X limitation but one of Virtual Desktop.

Mac OS X has two types of focused window: foreground window, and key window.

The key window is the one that accepts keyboard input.

They are normally set to the same window but need not be.

on December 15, 2002 07:16 AM
# Chris said:

Hi Jeremy,
Funny how I always find your pages, etc. on the net. I went to BGSU, and used to work with you there. Glad to see that you are still using Linux and Open Source. No if I can just find a good pager app for OSX, life woud be good!


on January 3, 2003 07:43 AM
# said:

From Apple's FAQ:

Q: Can I run another window manager instead of quartz-wm?
A: Yes, you can. Add a ~/.xinitrc which runs your favorite window manager instead of quartz-wm.

Q: Is there an option for no-click-to-focus for X11 applications?
A: Yes there is a hidden option. From an xterm or terminal execute : defaults write com.apple.x11 wm_ffm true


Added support for Copy & Paste working with other window managers. Running "quartz-wm --only-proxy" will activate the selection proxying features, but none of the window management code.


on May 23, 2003 10:10 PM
# guyzmo said:


I know it's been 2 years since this thread began, and I don't know if you'll be noticed about that, but to add my 2 cents :

Mac OS X interface and ergonomy is (as said by apple) not 'compatible' with the focus-follow mouse mode. Why ? Because a single application interface is split into lots of different elements. For exemple, you use an application like photoshop or word, you'll have different panels floating around the main window. With sloppy focus mode enabled, with an application below, you would'nt be able to reach them. And how should they consider the desktop, which is, finally, just a 'root' window managed by the Finder...

I tried CodeTek's virtual desktop some months ago, and it didn't satisfied me, on the contrary (mostly because of the bring-to-front-on-focus mode...).

The best way around I found, was using mostly keyboard shortcuts. Anyway, there's a focus follow mouse mode into Terminal.app which you can enable with TinkerTool.app (search it on google ;).

Still, I use XDarwin, along with enlightenment on a rootless window, which makes me able to have an enlightenment desktop on one of my Desktop manager which is nice to use with the 'sliding' desktops. The only drawback is Destktop Manager not being able to focus XDarwin.app when switching to that particular desktop...

And with the really great display I have on my PBG4, I'm also interested getting more screen space by resizing the titlebars and the menubar... I think it should be easy to enable by making a smaller theme of the interface (see ShapeShifter.pkg, it's a shareware, still google-it ;). But I found not such theme already done.

For the menubar, I'm still searching... If you found any informations, let me know :)

on January 24, 2005 09:34 AM
# Lewis Thompson said:

I'm in pretty much the same position. OS X without sloppy focus or modifier click to move/resize windows is painful.

I've not managed to try CodeTek Virtual Desktop yet as the Intel support isn't working yet.

What I wondered though, is whether anybody knows if running an X11 window manager would work with apps such as Photoshop? If I could install GNOME 2.14 from Fink or Darwin Ports and "hide" the whole Aqua stuff that would be great, so long as I can still fire up Photoshop and other OS X apps up without quitting or hiding GNOME.

on June 11, 2006 12:15 PM
# Will said:

I've been using Codetek's for about a year. You can disable the bring-to-front, so it's been working pretty well for me. Most apps are fine. Carbon apps still bring to front, but luckily I don't have too many of those.

However, as mentioned, it's not working at all now with Intel machines.

I found one other product, MondoMouse, but it auto-raises. There's two comments on their forums asking about a non-raise option (one is mine).

on August 12, 2006 04:11 PM
# said:

From WindowDragon readme:

"WindowDragon allows a window's entire structure to be used as move or resize zone. In other words, WindowDragon makes it possible to move or resize a window by clicking anywhere within that window.

Additionally, WindowDragon allows you to resize a window from any corner, and it allows you to drag all of an application's windows in tandem."

Unfortunately, no sloppy (point-to) focus. Perhaps someone could send a feature request to the author. I'm also disappointed in not being even able to scroll without clicking to focus and bring to front first.

on October 7, 2006 11:48 PM
# John Clayton said:


Zooom version 1.2 will have point-to-focus, which works for *almost* all applications. It will be released within a week (I'm testing on Intel and PPC) now. As well, it contains the ability to disable zooom functionality for specific programs - for example WoW or Word.

Actually - upon reading this forum once more, I realize that my point-to-focus code is actually bring-to-front-when-pointed-at-focus, hmmmm... would it be better to split that functionality out? And simply provide two check boxes; (a) Point to Focus & (b) Bring to Front When Focused?


John Clayton
CodeRage Developer

on October 30, 2006 12:11 AM
# BVA said:

John Clayton,

Yes, PLEASE provide both "Point to Focus" & "Bring to Front When Focused" in the next version of Zooom. The real benefit of Point to Focus is being able to activate and use a window WITHOUT bring it to the front. Ideally, "Bring to Front" should only be activated when the title bar is clicked.

on October 30, 2006 12:44 PM
# Will said:

Not to "me too" here, but - Yes, John, if you could provide an option in Zooom to allow mouse-focus *without* auto-raise, that would be most awesome. That's exactly what I'm looking for, and what I've been completely unable to find since Codetek no longer works on Intel machines.

I've been forced to use MondoMouse so far, and the auto-raise is annoying. For what it's worth, Zooom seems a little more intelligent about it than MondoMouse. In particular, with Mondo, it would activate the app (and bring up a window if one wasn't open) whenever I happened to brush across the application's icon in the Dock, which was even *more* annoying (than the usual auto-raise).

So .. with any luck maybe we'll see a non-autoraise option in Zooom sometime soon eh? :)

on November 30, 2006 10:30 PM
# John Clayton said:

Hi guys,

I've not yet found a way to make this possible - there isn't a public API that enables me to focus a window *without* bringing it to the front.

There's private API's, I'm sure - but then, I'd be in the same boat as CodeTek - when a new release, or security patch, or whatever from Apple comes out - they can break the private API - and boom, Zooom would not function properly any more.

I'm trying my best to avoid private API solutions.

So - sadly I can't provide this yet - but there are lots of other features in Zooom to make your life simpler (and they are more intelligent that the competition!).

I'll keep working on it!
John Clayton

on December 7, 2006 02:25 PM
# Kinesin said:

To enable sloppy focus do:

* for just Terminal windows:

% defaults write com.apple.Terminal FocusFollowsMouse -string YES

* for X11 windows:

% defaults write com.apple.x11 wm_ffm true

* for most other Mac apps:

use Codetek Virtual Desktop

on January 2, 2007 03:22 AM
# Usability on Mac OSX said:

I found similar problems with usability on the mac.

on June 6, 2007 10:19 AM
# TD said:

I've broken this down into a few different things while searching for a solution to what I want to do.

This is the use case scenario:
While working in Photoshop trying a new tutorial that is open in a web page, I want to be able to scroll the web page with my mouse wheel while the Photoshop picture remains the main focus, on top and may or may not cover small to large portions of the web browser.

I think the best name I have found to describe this is
1) Mouse focus follows mouse
As apposed to:
2) Sloppy focus: full window focus and raise follows mouse
3)Focus follows mouse: keyboard and mouse focus follows mouse but does not raise the window.
can also be considered
3b)Focus follows mouse, click to raise.

The part that annoys me the most is that popups from Entourage require two clicks to acknowledge them. One to focus, even though it is already on top, and one to click the button. If there was a mouse focus follows mouse, this would make this much more intuitive. The popup would appear, on top but not steal focus from your current application. You could then move the mouse to it and focus would automatically switch to it and it would be ready for mouse input.

on July 11, 2007 12:25 PM
# smn said:

I am absolutly happy with my MacBook Pro, but the feature I miss the most ( having worked with Windows so far) is the "focus follows mouse"... activate a window without clicking and without changing the window order. There's so many situations you just wanna type/scroll/whatever in a window thats below your actual window, and you don't want to raise it. In addition, it's much more comfortable to have a window activated by placing the cursor over it. I hate these additional clicks to activate Safari etc...

Is there no piece of Software out there that helps us? Noone at Apple who reads these wishes? I don't think it would be so hard to implement as an option (even Windows can do this :D ).

on July 16, 2007 04:58 AM
# jake said:

I'm from unix. I've just again embarrassed and incriminated myself by momentarily forgetting that focus doesn't follow mouse on the Mac and typing stuff that I thought was going to a shell into an IM client instead. I don't want to unlearn 15 years of doing things this way -- I just want an option. An option that even Windows people apparently have.

One of these days, something very very bad is going to happen because of this. It would be sad and funny to get fired and/or compromise the security of an enterprise due to using a Mac and its stubborn, broken focus policy.

I'm now on the verge of deciding that I can't take it (the risk and the annoyance and the constantly climbing tally of wasted time) anymore and am ready to switch back to my Sun desktop that has correct non-raising focus-follows-mouse functionality.

Apple, pleeease! I'm groveling. Do I need to send money or something? Help!

on September 27, 2007 12:09 PM
# Brandon Payne said:

I used to use virtual desktops. Now I have a two monitor setup and I want to use virtual desktops as well as the two monitors and focus follows mouse. I get the point about Photoshop palettes and tools windows. So what's better the defaults write com.apple.x11 wm_ffm true
codetek virtual desktop ???

on October 5, 2007 06:16 AM
# Hastily Thought-Up Screen Name said:

I do see that this thread is old, but... Dear god I want focus-follows-mouse (without auto-raise) on the Mac. Like a previous poster, I am also from the unix world and this click-to-focus business is driving me completely mental. I understand about having to get "over" other windows in order to get to things like the menu bar, etc., but there are ways to make focus-follows-mouse work - like having to have the mouse stationary in a window for some configurable period of time before it focuses. I've had the IM thing another poster mentioned happen to me... and you should see the mess I've made with vim when I forgot to click in another window before I started typing (if you don't use it, you'd be surpassed how many random strings of characters are valid commands in vim, and how many of them do things that you really, really don't want)...

As for Photoshop, as mentioned above, trying to use online tutorials is painful at best, and what's even worse (for me at least - and I know this is a somewhat separate - but related issue) is that I simply don't know how to use Photoshop's help since once the help browser is focused, all the Photoshop menus/pallets disappear. I have had to write down what to do from the help browser on a piece of paper in order to actually do it in Photoshop. Why? What year is this again? I feel like I'm back in grad school in 1985 jotting down notes from a man page on a VT100. This is nuts. Trying to find a solution to this help issue, I actually came across one expert who had suggested that the way to do it was to take a screenshot of the Photoshop help browser and then open the screenshot in Photoshop. Maybe I'm just not ready for a Mac.

on November 25, 2007 08:51 PM
# Maria said:

I too am distraught about not being able to find a "focus follows mouse" option. 15 years of using unix and linux that way and the mac which seemed to be working out well becomes a disaster. As Jake said, "what do we need to do to get apple to take notice of us!" I feel like taking the computer back!

on December 13, 2007 04:15 AM
# Christopher J. Bottaro said:

Add another to the list. 9 years of using Linux/KDE and I find not having focus follows mouse in OSX infuriating.

on January 17, 2008 12:51 PM
# Yves said:

Same here, I recently moved to a macbook, and not having focus follow mouse, and the ability of typing on a window behind another one (so no auto raise) is very frustrating and counterproductive in my everyday work. I'll probably solve this by installing linux in Parallels, but it shouldn't be the only solution!

on January 31, 2008 01:58 AM
# Adam said:

One more on the list. Spaces is broken enough that sometimes clicking to focus doesn't even work (clicking on a window activates the window behind it), so I'm desperate for a focus-follows-mouse solution. I hope it's posted here first when it happens.

on February 3, 2008 04:16 PM
# Mike said:

What really bugs me is the claim that "focus follows mouse" somehow wouldn't work with Mac's interface. It doesn't need to raise a window; it doesn't need to change the menu bar; it just needs to send my keyboard input to the window I want (the one my mouse is over).

I'm hoping that some clever hacker finds a way with Leopard. They've introduced "scroll-focus follows mouse" -- there must be some trickery you could pull. I'm particularly hopeful because the clever hackers are the ones most likely to want this feature. I've gone so far as to try to use other window managers in x11 just for ffm.

on February 20, 2008 09:07 AM
# I said:

I totally agree on the lack of 'focus follows mouse' being a major hole. I came this >< close to not buying my mac because of this omission. Comeon Apple...give us a damn check box to fix this!

on February 22, 2008 10:32 AM
# Christopher Warner said:

I'm adding onto this thread as I just came into the possession of a Powerbook. I'm from Unix world.. having no focus follow is completely barbaric in my opinion. OSX as a desktop system seems to be nice thus far. However, clicking on every single window that I plan to use instead of just moving the mouse is completely insane to me; this leads me to believe that unless one is working inside of a program with contextual menus or panels provided for operation nothing can be done without excessive clicking. It totally interrupts the user to do so as well as being severely limiting to people who use a large number of programs where data needs to be shared or cycled through visually. How are people programming in this environment?!

on March 9, 2008 09:09 PM
# Jason said:

Yet another new OSX user wanting focus follows pointer!

I just typed a chat into a terminal window. Luckily it didn't map to a command!

on April 1, 2008 12:37 AM
# Mange said:

Has moved from Linux on both home (macbook) and work (macbook pro), and I just installed Zooom 2 and it almost feels like 'home' again.

Now just to find an app that fixes 'focus-follows-pointer' without raising window. I've experienced lots and lots of 'typing into the wrong window' like so many others here and I hope in the end that Apple will add this and the functionality in Zooom into Leopard.

It should be standard functionality accessible through system-settings, how hard could it be?

on April 4, 2008 10:13 AM
# Alycia Weinberger said:

Here's how to make focus follow mouse on the Mac (works in Tiger and Leopard, in my experience):

Issue the following command in an xterm (X11) window and then restart X11:

defaults write com.apple.x11 wm_ffm -bool true

Repeat with "true" replaced by "false" to turn it off. The file modified
by defaults in this case is ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.x11.plist.

(thanks to http://spider.ipac.caltech.edu/staff/hoard/pages/MacOSX_configuration_tips.html )

Now, does someone know how to program a function key to bring a window to the front?

on April 14, 2008 01:03 PM
# petermao said:

I had focus-follows-mouse, and I believe even no-raise-on-focus for cocoa apps by using CodeTek Virtual Desktop, but I haven't gotten a new version of it since getting a Retard, uh, I mean Leopard, mac. CTVD would cause me other headaches, of course, since I like to use fvwm.

on April 23, 2008 10:49 AM
# rfhan said:

Focus follows mouse (without autoraise) definitely required here ....

on January 27, 2009 11:59 PM
# jbakker said:

Another *nix adept who does not want to unlearn focus-follows-mouse without auto-raise ...

on May 14, 2009 04:53 PM
# Ed said:

Argh.. yet another person wanting this feature, without it I'm less productive on my new MacBook pro than I was on my old Toshiba Satellite.

Listen up, apple, having this feature nearly doubles your screen real-estate. You can get it as a simple addon for windows via:


And no, the for-sale addon that provides a cheap focus + raise isn't a solution. The true productivity comes from being able to switch mouse focus *without* the window being raised.

So - get it together and just provide this feature. I'm really surprised that apple, the king of the form-factor, hasn't hit on this one. Is it a simple ideological blind-spot?

on October 28, 2009 04:25 PM
# John said:

What worked for me is Kinesin's
defaults write com.apple.Terminal FocusFollowsMouse -string YES
and starting the X11 app in the Applications->Utilities folder. (restart X as Alycia indicates if you already have X11 running).

on January 26, 2010 12:00 AM
# Michael Gregg said:

It is amazing how worked up people get over the 'focus-follows-mouse' and 'no-auto-raise' questions in Mac OS X. I know because I am one of them. I think long term apple users just think differently about using windows than those of us used to linux/unix/X platforms. And yes, I think that apple itself (S. Jobs in particular) has yet to hear or take notice of this ex-pat linux community.

I think the changes we want will never happen because to implement them in a sane way would involved putting the menubar back on the top of each main window in an application, instead of across the top of the desktop screen. This was a choice made by apple back in year zero and I think it is at this point impossible to change, both in software and in philosophy. While it might be possible to put some app bandaids on things (especially in X11, as most of us already do) to make focus-follows-mouse and no-auto-raise work-sort-of-some-of-the-time, the only route to true implementation involves moving the menubar.

on June 30, 2010 02:10 PM
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