Can I customize Excel so that when the Excel window is not active, and I click on a cell, Excel will move to that cell?

Clicking on a cell activates the window, but Excel does not move to the cell. I must click a second time on the cell to cause Excel to move to the cell.

This seems to be a special case of a more general behavior of Excel. Excel ignores mouse clicks on inactive windows. For example, clicking a ribbon button does nothing (except the window becomes active).

Other Windows applications have the opposite behavior. They do not ignore clicks on inactive windows. The click activates the window but also does whatever a click normally would do. Clicking in an inactive Notepad window in the main text buffer activates the window but also moves the cursor to the clickpoint, clicking a menu button activates the menu, and so on.

I have looked through the choices available under File ... Options, and tried several Google searches for the answer. I did not find any relevant information.

  • To be clear, you're talking about multiple files open in the same instance of excel or several instances of excel? Within the same instance you can use the ctrl+f6 and ctrl shft f6 to cycle through books. And ctrl + pgup or pgdown to cycle through sheets. Different instances you could just alt+tab? Nov 10, 2015 at 18:24
  • @Raystafarian Thank you -- the question is not limited to any particular combination of applications or windows. I did want to offer an example of what goes wrong, but I do not mean answers to focus simply on "solving the example". In light of your question, I will reconsider the example.
    – MetaEd
    Nov 10, 2015 at 22:08
  • Would you consider third-party solutions? For instance, Autohotkey could watch for whenever you activate a previously inactive Excel window and send a second click at the cursor's current position. It's definitely a workaround but it's viable. Feb 5, 2016 at 17:13
  • You may want to try a portable (no install) freeware program called Winaero Tweaker. Among lots of other handy tweaks, it has a feature for activating background windows on mouse over.
    – PFitz
    Mar 14, 2016 at 15:44
  • 1
    Your question should get 10000000 upvotes - this behavior is absolutely maddening as it is non-standard: completely different from every other Windows application. I just wish there was a good solution! Jun 30, 2021 at 15:25

1 Answer 1


You probably can't change Excel, but you can change the behavior of window to move the focus always to the window the mouse is over (control panel, 'ease of use'). That way, when you move your mouse over an (previously inactive) Excel window, it becomes active by itself, and your click will then be recognized and acted upon.

Note that such a change affects all your windows in all programs. Some people find it very useful, but some hate it.

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