I would like to enable click-through on all windows. Is this possible on Lion?

To be more specific, "click-through" as defined by Apple in the Mac OS X Human Interface Guidelines means "that the user can activate the item when the containing window is inactive."

An item that provides click-through is one that a user can activate with one click, even though the item is in an inactive window. (To activate an item that does not support click-through, the user must first make the containing window active and then click the item.) Although click-through can make some user tasks easier, it can also confuse users if they click items unintentionally.

  • 2
    Please define "click-through".
    – Old Pro
    May 7 '12 at 4:25
  • 4
    Click-through is when you click on something in a window and that click is handled like a normal click, despite the fact that the window that you clicked in doesn't have the focus (otherwise it will just focus the window, and you have to click again to get it to actually do anything) May 7 '12 at 11:06
  • Has this changed in recent osx versions? (eg: 10.13 High Sierra)
    – drevicko
    Feb 2 '18 at 8:18
  • For reference: I know this is not the answer, but click-through can be enabled control by control using this method: developer.apple.com/documentation/appkit/nsview/…
    – Alex Brown
    Feb 2 '20 at 6:18
  • The HIG document referred to in this question no longer contains information about click-through, although you can find it in older versions linked here: apple.stackexchange.com/questions/189327/…
    – Alex Brown
    Feb 2 '20 at 6:23

The short answer is "no", there is no general way to do this. To quote from The Mac OS X Human Interface Guidelines

Click-through is not a property of a class of controls; any control, including toolbar items, can support click-through. This also means that you can support click-through for any subset of items; you do not have to choose between supporting click-through for all items in a window or none.


Avoid providing click-through for an item or action whose result might be dangerous or undesirable. Specifically, avoid enabling click-through for an item that:

  • Performs a potentially harmful action that users can’t cancel (for example, the Delete button in Mail)
  • Performs an action that is difficult or impossible to cancel (such as the Send button in Mail)
  • Dismisses a dialog without telling the user what action was taken (for example, the Save button in a Save dialog that overwrites an existing file and automatically dismisses the dialog)
  • Removes the user from the current context (for example, selecting a new item in a Finder column that changes the target of the Finder window)
  • Clicking in any one of these situations should cause the window that contains the item to be brought forward, but no other action to be taken.

Note: Programmatically, supporting click-through is a matter of disabling click-through for items that should not provide it. This is because click-through is supported by default in all Cocoa controls.

In other words, click-through is enabled (or not) on a control-by-control basis with thoughtful consideration as to the consequences of allowing it. It is not a general property of a window or the window manager.

  • 1
    There are some notable exceptions to the "default behavior" on OSX that do allow click-through. The first thing to try is to hold the command key down before clicking through. This works automagically in many apps. Some apps like X11.app and Terminal.app have defaults to enable typing while the window is in the back in a similar manner to click-through using the command modifier key.
    – bmike
    May 8 '12 at 19:37
  • 1
    @bmike, focus-follows-mouse (FFM) is a standard X11 feature that is different than click-through. Perhaps the OP would like to use FFM, but that is not the question presented. Holding down the command key while clicking on a window is a standard Mac feature that allows you to select a window without giving it focus or bringing it to the front, which is altogether different.
    – Old Pro
    May 8 '12 at 20:24
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    I know - hence it's in the comment section. It's not the same, but allows you to get the same sort of things done without click raising the window. Even if the OP cares not - it's a good link for the site population in general.
    – bmike
    May 8 '12 at 20:28
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    Typical, Apple: "Our users are too dumb to click on things properly", framed as, "This is a better UX pattern".
    – Anthony
    Sep 3 '19 at 13:36
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    The HIG document linked here doesn't exist at the Apple site any more. However, documentation for this feature can be found in archives of the HIG document linked here: apple.stackexchange.com/questions/189327/…
    – Alex Brown
    Feb 2 '20 at 6:22

These Q&As may be helpful (although it's not exactly click-trough, rather auto-raise):

Focus-follows-mouse (plus auto-raise) on Mac OS X

And one recommendation was MondoMouse ($14.95, free trial)

Focus Follows Mouse

Let the mouse pointer hover over a window, and it comes to the front automatically.

Another question in that direction:

Focus Follows Mouse or Sloppy Focus on Mac OS X

With the recommendation of Zooom/2 ($19.95, free trial)

Raise Windows

Bring windows to the front by moving the mouse over the window.

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