I will often click on a button expecting it to be clicked but instead all that happens is the application it is in becomes active, and I have to click again to actually click the button. It would be nice if this second click wasn't needed, which leads me to my question:

How can I make it so that when I move the mouse cursor over an inactive window, it becomes active?

  • This applies only to web and document views as far as I know. If you click any other control in an window, it triggers regardless of wether it's active or inactive. Just a clarification. Commented Aug 17, 2010 at 20:22
  • I'm not exactly sure what you mean by 'web and document views' but it seems to happen basically everywhere for me. For example, if I have a Finder window open but inactive, and click on a file in it, all that happens is Finder becomes active -- I have to click the file again to get a preview of it. Same for the X-Windows application I currently have open, although Studer appears to have a fix for that below. Commented Aug 17, 2010 at 20:46
  • I'm unable to use any of the tools in the answers because they are either discontinued or are incompatible with El Capitan (10.11). I wonder if there is a setting for this that can be activated via the Terminal.
    – EJ Mak
    Commented Dec 20, 2020 at 20:07

4 Answers 4


This is freely possible for the Terminal and X11 :

defaults write com.apple.Terminal FocusFollowsMouse -string YES

defaults write com.apple.x11 wm_ffm true

Or, OS-wise, with a utility that seems to fit your needs, called MondoMouse.


I originally wanted to do this with my first Mac a couple years ago as well, since that's how my Linux and Windows environments behave. But I think the driving force preventing this from becoming a reality is in how OS X handles application menus.

What if you want to go to the menu at the top of the screen for an application you're using, but in the process briefly hover over another application? That would become infuriating quickly.

In short, I don't think its doable for that and potentially other reasons.

  • 1
    I see what you mean, but I've had Linux systems set up so that if the mouse stayed on a window for a certain time period (greater than zero), then that window became active. That would be one solution. Another would be to simply let clicks pass to whatever control they are over, whether it is in the currently active window or not. Is that doable? Commented Aug 17, 2010 at 19:38
  • Honestly, I don't know. It's definitely interesting though. I'm currently scouring Google, since it would save on input clicks. I'm just concerned that any solution might get a little "hack-y" and not behave consistently in all UI elements or applications. The last thing I'd want is to not know if I'm focusing a window or pressing a button :(
    – David
    Commented Aug 17, 2010 at 19:50
  • @MichaelUnderwood I realize this is from four years ago - but OS X is designed specifically so that clicks do not "pass to whatever control they are over" in most cases. The reason being, would you want an errant click on a delete button, or some other destructive button, to work if you accidentally clicked on it in a background window?
    – tubedogg
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 21:55
  • 3
    @tubedogg It is indeed rather old -- to the point that I don't even own a Mac anymore! But the point is, yes, I would want that behaviour, which is why I asked the question. Obviously I don't want to accidentally click destructive buttons. That's why it would be an accident, just as if I accidentally clicked a destructive button in the foreground window, which OS X is happy to allow... Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 19:23
  • I never understood these arguments about the menu bar - if focus (active and keyboard responder) followed the mouse, without bringing to front, the menu could still be for the front-most app. Nobody has gotten FFM right (not even all the highly configurable linux WMs) since 4D Window Manager in IRIX. I've been waiting 20 years for anyone else to match how that worked.
    – jhabbott
    Commented Oct 14, 2018 at 17:18

Best little utility I stumbled upon is Zooom/2. Strange name, hence hard to find. You can choose delay (Rather cumbersome, OS X and global menu is not designed to allow that). I set it to focus window under cursor instantly when Option key is pressed. Great value, no dock or tray icons, it just works.

  • I can heartily recommend Zooom/2 as well, absolutely indispensable little app in my opinion. Commented Feb 14, 2011 at 13:22
  • 2
    This utility no longer seems to exist, and that link is dead.
    – pre-kidney
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 21:44
  • Yes, dead. Zed's dead.
    – mjs
    Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 8:27

Amethyst (https://github.com/ianyh/Amethyst) is excellent.

Follow the README.md instructions to download, and then enable "Focus Follows Mouse" in the Misc. section of the Settings view.

  • 3
    Amethyst works nicely but doesn't seem to have support for Focus Follows Mouse without Autoraise. Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 17:41

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