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How to enable Focus follows cursor in Chrome OS

Chrome OS has a hidden feature, inspired by the Linux desktop, that can make your work on the Chromebook a bit more efficient.

Image: CC Photo Labs/Shutterstock

Being a Linux desktop user for decades, certain features from that environment are so obviously productive, it never ceases to amaze me that other desktops don’t employ them. One such feature is focus follows mouse. My guess is that a lot of people have no idea what this is.

For those who don’t know, let me explain.

On a typical desktop, if you want to switch from one window to the next, you move your mouse to that window and click it. That action of clicking the window gives it focus so you can start working with whatever tool the window houses. If you don’t click that other window, whatever you were previously working in still has focus. 

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Here’s a better way to explain:

  • You’re working in Window A, which is a word processor.
  • You need to research something so you click on Window B, which is a web browser.
  • You start typing and whatever you type appears in Window B.
  • Had you not clicked on Window B, even though you moved your cursor to Window B, Window A still has focus, so whatever you type will appear in Window A.

That’s focus follows click (or click to focus).

Focus follows mouse goes something like this:

  • You’re working in Window A.
  • You need to work in Window B.
  • You move your mouse to Window B and start typing.
  • Because your mouse moved to Window B, that window now has focus.

Focus follows mouse requires fewer steps. It’s also more efficient. Instead of having to click on a window, you simply move your cursor to the window you wanted to work with. Linux desktops took this one step further and offered an auto-raise functionality. So when you hovered your cursor over a window it not only gave it focus, it raised it above all other windows. Once you started using that feature, it became clear that all other desktops were not nearly as efficient.

So to all of you Chromebook users, looking to make your UI a bit more efficient, you can now enable an experimental take on focus follows mouse, called Focus follows cursor. The one caveat to this is that you must be using Chrome OS on either the developer or canary channel (as the stable channel does not include the feature). Find out how to switch your Chromebook channel in How to change channels on your Chromebook.

With that said, let me show you how to enable Focus Follows Mouse.

How to enable focus follows cursor on a Chromebook

Open Chrome on your Chromebook and type the following in the address bar:

chrome://flags/#focus-follows-cursor

In the resulting window, select Enabled from the drop-down associated with Focus follows cursor (Figure A).

Figure A

ffca.jpg

Enabling Focus follows cursor in Chrome 94.0.4601.0.

Once you’ve enabled the feature, you’ll need to restart your Chromebook for the change to take effect.

The one thing you’ll need to know about using Focus follows cursor is that it really only works when your windows aren’t maximized. If you work with multiple windows, you’ll want to either snap them to the edges or shrink them so you can fit them on your desktop, otherwise, you can’t hover your cursor over the window you want to have focus. 

Focus follows cursor is a great feature to use when efficiency is crucial to your work. You’ll click less and work faster. That’s not to say Focus follows cursor is for everyone. Some people find this feature a bit frustrating, especially if you’re a bit clumsy with the trackpad or mouse. But if you run either the Developer or Canary channel on your Chromebook, you should give this feature a try and see if it doesn’t help you become more efficient.

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