Saturday, February 05, 2011

Making Windows Usable

If you ever have to use Windows, and are accustomed to "focus follows mouse" as I am, you might find this description useful.

I'm citing the important part here, to let me find it more easily:
Believe it or not, Windows does support focus-follows-mouse, though there is no GUI configuration exposing it. Instead you must edit a registry key and then log out and back in for the change to become effective. You can use regedit to edit the key.
you need to change a binary-valued registry key:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\UserPreferencesMask
This is a little-endian bitmask. For focus-follows-mouse, add the flag 0x1.
For example, my XP SP2 laptop originally had a value of 9E 3E 05 80, which is 0x80053E9E. To activate focus-follows-mouse I changed to 0x80053E9F, or 9F 3E 05 80 in regedit.

Helped me a lot on a Vista machine yesterday. Don't forget to log out and back in again after the change.


  1. ...or install the powertoys to get a gui for this and many other useful little options!

  2. On machines where I have to use Windows, I'm usually not free to install random stuff, so it's useful to do it with the (very limited) set of tools that is shipped with the OS ;)