correcting gnome 3 focus issues

Gnome 3 has sloppy focus issues at default settings, at least in Linux Mint if it is installed first along with MATE/ Cinnamon. Sloppy as in true sense of the term, not one of the settings for focus of the same name. Most issues may arise especially if you are on a big screen, where it is common to have multiple open windows on all corners of the screen. In such situation, if you move your mouse from one window to another, then you lose the focus in that window. Now if you want to work in parallel (the very reason for using a large screen), then sure this is a problem.

A few tweaks may solve the issues, and they require Gnome dconf-editor that does not come with Gnome 3 installation by default. Also missing may be Gnome Tweak Tool. So after installing Gnome 3, the first thing to do should be to install these. The package name for dconf-editor is dconf-tools, so install via terminal with:

# sudo apt-get install dconf-tools gnome-tweak-tool

1. Enable Desktop in Shell
Open Gnome Tweak Tool (shows up in Applications as Tweak Tool, or from terminal as gnome-tweak-tool) and go to Desktop tab. Turn on “Have file manager handle desktop”. Also turn on at least one icon (Computer/ Home/ Network/ Trash) to be visible on desktop (just for checking).
Then go to Windows tab and select focus mode as “Mouse”.

2. Tweak Dconf-Editor registries
Gnome 3 stores registry settings in config files that can be modified using this dconf-editor. Open it (by the name of dconf Editor in Applications) and navigate to org.gnome.desktop.background. Enable “show-desktop-icons”.
Then go to org.gnome.desktop.wm.preferences and disable “auto-raise”.

3. Restart Gnome shell
Log off in log back in.

Now you should have much better focus throughout the desktop, and one window will be active depending on where your mouse is. But with good focus on inactive windows, you will be able to read stuff from them, thus making it possible to multitask.

As an alternative, the above settings can also be done through command prompt, using ‘gsettings’ to directly modify the registry entries.


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