To me, and I suspect to many Windows users, it would be intuitive for Windows to bring whatever window the mouse is currently hovering over into focus without the need to click on that window.
It turns out that Windows 7 now makes this possible. I stumbled upon this tip when writing my ‘How to Shut Off Windows 7 Aero Snap – Stop it from Auto Arranging Windows’ post.
There are two additional reasons why I want Windows 7 to activate (bring focus to an ‘out of focus’ window) by hovering the mouse over it:
1. Symbiotic With Single-Click Item Activation
For the better part of a year I have been using the ‘single-click to open’ option in Windows Vista and Windows 7 (The option has been around since Windows 95). The idea behind this one-click option is to make the Windows use experience similar to the web-browsing experience. Instead of double clicking icons and options to open/access/activate them in Windows, you need only click icons, items etc. once.
To set windows 7 up to open/activate items with just one click, do the following in Windows Explorer
- click on Tools
- click Folder Options
- on the General Tab, click the ‘single-click to open option shown in the picture below:
Up till now, a downside to using this single-click approach, is that I often accidently clicked/activated items within a window that I had no desire to activate simply because I clicked that item when I clicked on its window to bring it into focus.
Using the tip below to activate a window by merely hovering over it solves this accidental click problem.
[Side Note: For this 25 year DOS/Windows veteran, moving from the two-click model to the one-click model, was quite hard to do. It took some time but I’ve now adjusted to it and am happier for the effort.’]
2. Solves a Kat-Mouse Focus Problem
For several months I have been enjoying the free utility KatMouse (recommended by Steve Gibson). With KatMouse, spinning a mouse’s scroll wheel scrolls the window beneath the mouse cursor – whether or not that window is in focus. This is useful but doesn’t bring the scrolled window into focus.
My preference would be to move from window to window, scrolling away, without having to click the scrolled window to bring it into focus. KatMouse gets me half way to my desired end-game. The tip below gets me all the way there.
How to Activate a Window by Hovering a Mouse Over It
To set this up:
- Go to Control Panel
- Select ‘Ease of Access Center’
- Select ‘Make the mouse easier to use’
- Check ‘Activate a window by hovering over it with the mouse’ as shown in the picture below
- Click ‘Apply’
One Downside – Accidental Jumps
I noticed one downside to using this tip. Typically I’ll click a window (say, Microsoft Word) to activate it and then I’ll push the mouse out of the way when I start using the application (in the Word example, I push the mouse pointer away before I type text) so that the mouse pointer doesn’t get in the way. However, if I push my mouse away too far, so that it points to another window, I’m accidently jumped over to window where the mouse pointer randomly landed. This takes a bit of getting used to.