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In Unix, my environment was set up so that keyboard input is sent to the window that has the mouse cursor on it. This allows you to type into a background window.

In Windows, text only goes to the foreground window. Can I send it to the background window?

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In case it helps, the common term for this is 'focus follows mouse' or 'focus under mouse' in the unix world. – Slartibartfast Jul 10 '10 at 1:26
Thanks. This will surely help me and others. Finding the right search term is half the battle. – Tim Partridge Jul 21 '10 at 17:55
up vote 1 down vote accepted

There's a variety of utilities available that provide this feature.

Here's an article for a configuration that activates a window when the mouse is over it:

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I use TXMouse, option #2 in the article, on Windows XP and have been very happy with it. – garyjohn Jul 9 '10 at 21:33
Thanks. Option 2 works like a charm for me. Just what I was looking for! I would mark this as the answer but I don't have enough reputation points yet. – Tim Partridge Jul 11 '10 at 23:07
You should be able to accept the answer by clicking on the checkbox below the Up/Down control to the left of the answer. Since it is your question, it should not require any points to do so. Thanks! – Avalanchis Jul 12 '10 at 15:01
The Up/Down control requires 15 points reputation. I clicked the checkmark and that was accepted. Update: True X-Mouse Gizmo for Windows (i.e. Option 2) had an undesirable side-effect that I just can't live with: right-click a program in the Taskbar and the context-window closes when I try to mouse over to "Close" (Win 7). I will be testing out Option 1 (reg hack) next. – Tim Partridge Jul 21 '10 at 17:53

Since you are using Windows 7, I would recommend you to take a look at X-Mouse Controls.

X-Mouse Controls: A tool to enable or disable active window tracking, raising and also the delay in milliseconds. This is known as x-mouse behavior.

You only need to run it once, it is small, open source and takes care of the details for you.

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Thanks Joel. This is a nice utility! Unfortunately, it suffers from the same usability problem. I often close programs by right-clicking a program on the task bar and selecting "close window" from the jump list. However, since there is space between the task bar and the jump list, it fades away before I can select "close window". I'll see if I can tweak the jump list fade out settings or something – Tim Partridge Feb 16 '12 at 16:15
Yes, I have the same issue with the task bar jump list, but I like x-mouse a lot, so it doesn't matter. Have you tried waiting until the jump list has faded in? It's what I do. Also, if you often use it to close windows, it's easier to hover on the task bar program icon, wait for the preview and then mid-click. – Joel Purra Feb 16 '12 at 17:43
Oh, and since X-Mouse Controls only enables the built-in "activate windows by hovering" features in Windows, it's not an issue with X-Mouse Controls itself - it's Windows' usability team that needs to take a look at the start menu and jump lists. – Joel Purra Feb 16 '12 at 17:44
I hear ya Joel. It's a definite short-coming of Windows that there is no facility to configure this or alter it programmatically. Waiting until the jump list fades in? If I understand you correctly, yes, I was. Cannot try again to confirm since I'm currently running on a linux box. – Tim Partridge Apr 28 '12 at 4:21
@TimPartridge: In case you still have problems the next time, try using a higher X-Mouse delay, like 100, 150, 200 or 250 milliseconds. If the jump lists fades out, it might be because the gap (or rather what's behind it) receives focus every time you move your mouse over it. – Joel Purra Apr 28 '12 at 12:20

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