I do web development on my Mac and I tend to have lots of windows open. Even per application, I tend to have multiple windows opened (ie a Terminal window for tail -f error logs, one for ssh, and one for local commands).

When I switch applications with tab, the visual effect on focused window is subtle and I often get confused and perform commands on the wrong window. For example, I switch to Terminal and do w to close a tab on the tail -f command, but I accidentally closed the ssh tab!

Is there a Mac program that will highlight or do some more effects on a focused window when I switch applications?

7 Answers 7


If a paid app is ok, HazeOver darkens everything but the active window slightly. http://hazeover.com

Note that I haven't used it, so I can't speak to it. It has a 4 star review, but the only review for the latest version is negative.

  • It's been updated recently and has 5 stars for current version.
    – pointum
    Jun 4, 2015 at 23:04
  • 1
    I have used HazeOver for a long time, and it works perfectly. You can also adjust the intensity of the dimming background. Highly recommended.
    – sayzlim
    Aug 4, 2016 at 4:01
  • If I were you, I'd purchase it from the app store and not from the link to "payproglobal.com" built into the trial version; payproglobal is an absolutely bizarre payment processor that wanted to call me on the phone, and later wanted me to send them photo ID in order to purchase. The app's author said he's received a number of complaints and plans on switching.
    – offby1
    Jan 4, 2017 at 16:35
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    HazeOver is awesome, just bought it. Exactly what I need and extremely simple Mar 22, 2022 at 16:26

This is Mavericks specific, but Honer will draw a border around the active window. You might also want to combine it with this app that removes window shadows.

  • 1
    Also works on Yosemite, and is exactly what I wanted, thanks a lot.
    – chmac
    Mar 30, 2015 at 10:41
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    Alas, it's not terribly stable: see this bug
    – offby1
    Dec 30, 2016 at 19:14
  • lol I wrote this answer and filed that bug report.
    – wting
    Dec 30, 2016 at 23:20

If you're willing to invest some to set it up, Hammerspoon has the hs.window.highlight module that provides:

  • Darken the non-active app (like HazeOver)
  • Put a border around the active app (like Honer)
  • Toggle one window to be isolated (like Isolator)
  • Briefly flash a window when it is created

You can further configure this to activate only for some apps. The module is written in lua so I'm guessing you can extend or replace its functionality in the Hammerspoon config file (which is Lua code). For example this config implements a red border around the focused window. There's also a function to turn off window shadows but I haven't gotten it to work.

Having tried Hammerspoon, Honer, and HazeOver, I like Hammerspoon's configurability but I like HazeOver for being well polished, stable, and easy to use. I had tried Honer for a while and liked the way it looked but it wasn't stable on my system. Both Honer and Hammerspoon's border-drawing will lag behind window moves, and sometimes won't catch the window move at all. I haven't tried Isolator.


HazeOver works very well for me (in 10.10.5 as of this writing), and plays well with f.lux. HazeOver can be changed (quickly) to highlight the active window and dim everything else (even pretty much hide it entirely, for "focus" or "theater" mode), or to highlight all windows of the frontmost app, and dim the rest just a little, which I use a lot when writing or developing. Honer can be run at the same time, though I find its responsiveness too slow for my tastes, and it gets confused a lot, especially by float-on-top dialogs).


A free alternative is to keep an eye on the colorful corner buttons, they grey out when inactive.

animation showing window focused and unfocused and buttons changing colors

Otherwise... Haven't used it yet, but HazeOver seems the best option.


Another free alternative to Hazeover is DeskCover Pro.

After installing the app, you can press Ctrl+Opt+Cmd+H to enable it. There are options to control the background color, and transparency, or use your wallpaper to isolate the front-focused window. I have been using it for a few hours, and it is good for seeing what is focused on a big screen.

DeskCover Pro (FREE) Increase Productivity, Make your Desktop less distracting DeskCover is a simple Mac application that allows you to hide the mess on your desktop with a single mouse click or by pressing a global hotkey. DeskCover also allows you to focus on your current task by highlighting the window of the currently active applicationand automatically dimming those of inactive ones.

Beautiful alternative to Isolator, Hazeover and other

Screenshot of DeskCover Pro's Preferences window


Isolator is free and pretty good.

  • 1
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    – Tetsujin
    Jan 20, 2016 at 12:42

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