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Here is a example use case:

  1. Open Firefox
  2. Put the cursor somewhere where you can type
  3. Open something else (eclipse is my current example..)
  4. Start typing in Firefox until eclipse steals focus and interrupts what you were typing

How do I prevent applications from stealing focus and interrupting my typing?

Update:

The answers I'm getting seem to suggest that this cannot be done, however it can be done on windows, so I find it hard to imagine it can't be done on osx, that would be a huge usability fail if it were so.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I think you can't :D You can always execute Eclipse in a different desktop though ;)

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switching desktops on my macbook is too much work imo (two keys far apart, no back lit keyboard..), I perfer the 4 finger drop a lot. –  erikvold Jul 23 '10 at 2:39
    
windows can do this btw, and I find it hard to believe that osx can't do this, because that would be a huge usability fail. –  erikvold Jul 24 '10 at 21:53
    
"I don't like it" ≠ "usability fail". –  Lawrence Velázquez Jul 30 '10 at 7:06
    
true.. but that's not what I've said. My point is that allowing applicaitons to steal focus without providing the user with the ability to disable that is a usability fail. –  erikvold Aug 1 '10 at 20:23
    
especially when windows-xp offers a solution for the same problem.. –  erikvold Aug 1 '10 at 20:26
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In case anyone's still looking for an answer to this, I have recently found this article that should shed some light on the possible solutions:

http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13727_7-20085680-263/keep-applications-from-stealing-focus-when-opening-in-os-x/

Granted, it's from just over a year after the original question was asked, but folks are still looking for the answers to life's tough questions, it would seem.

TL;DR: You can potentially modify the application itself, and add a parameter set to the app's "info.plist", or you can write a script that will launch the app behind other windows. There's a third "option" that basically says that you can have an app stay above others, even while they're launching, but it doesn't necessarily prevent the newly launched app from stealing focus.

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These qualities are defined in both the application you're launching, and the application currently with focus. See, the Finder from which you launch Eclipse is an application too—if Eclipse didn't steal focus from the Finder, it wouldn't look like the application launch did anything. The default, thus, is to steal focus on the application launch. Maybe there's a Firefox plugin that makes it "autocratic?" You could always add a LSUIElement key to the launched application's Info.plist (inside the app bundle) that takes away that entire application's UI elements, but that might diminish its usefulness to you somewhat.

Executing a new app in a different Space and then switching back has not worked for me; the launched app will only bring you back to that Space once it's done loading.

Really, the foolproof method to keep from getting your focus stolen is just to hold your horses and wait for an app to load once you launch it. Most power users will keep all of the apps they use on a regular basis open in the background and only open something new when they need to divert their full attention to it.

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I open eclipse from the dock, but if that's the same as the Finder case in your answer, then here's what's wrong with your answer: it doesn't matter that eclipse steals focus from Finder or the dock, because after it steals focus from that is when I switch to Firefox and start typing. –  erikvold Jul 24 '10 at 5:55
    
to summarize, what I want to do can't be done afayk? –  erikvold Jul 24 '10 at 5:58
    
Right--any application is allowed to steal focus at any time unless your current application forbids it. Some apps may do this multiple times in their launch cycle before they settle down--I've certainly experienced that. Really, it's a function of the application, and the only way to circumvent it is to edit the applications as I've described above or use different ones. –  NReilingh Jul 24 '10 at 19:34
    
so windows will allow you to prevent applications from stealing focus, but osx does not.. I find that hard to believe. –  erikvold Jul 24 '10 at 21:54
    
That's strange--there are quite a few posted questions here about preventing Windows apps from stealing focus, and the workaround seems to be 3rd party software. –  NReilingh Jul 25 '10 at 19:09
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