I have a frequent problem that occurs with window-based desktops like Cinnamon or XFCE, especially on multiple monitors.

I very often misread which Window has focus after Alt-Tab. So I will start typing, and it ends up in the wrong window.

Cinnamon has a number of options for the Alt-Tab:

  • "Icons only",
  • "Thumbnails only",
  • "Icons and thumbnails",
  • "Icons and window preview",
  • "Window preview (no icons)",
  • "Coverflow (3D)",
  • "Timeline (3D)".


  • Icons and/or thumbnails do not give enough feedback which is the new active window.
  • Window preview is getting close to what I need, but it takes too long to start, and is visually too heavy.
  • Coverflow and Timeline are far too heavy, and confuse more than they help.

I imagine a decent solution would be to somehow give the nono-active windows subtly different colors. And maybe show a "spotlight" jumping from one window to the next..

This might all better fit into a feature request. But someone knows an existing solution to the problem?

(Mint 17.1, 'Rebecca', Cinnamon 64-bit)

  • Or does this fit better into superuser.com?
    – donquixote
    Apr 4, 2016 at 23:11
  • No, I haven't tried this yet :) Maybe this is too subtle still.. but worth a try.
    – donquixote
    Apr 4, 2016 at 23:22
  • 1
    I think it won't really help. Half of these windows are maximized borderless browser windows (Chromium). The color behind the tabs is already changing on focus, but this is too subtle. I think I need a visual effect that is only visible while switching windows, technically light-weight so it can be fast, and neither too subtle nor too heavy. Any permanent effect would always be too subtle I'm afraid.
    – donquixote
    Apr 4, 2016 at 23:25
  • I notice that non-maximized windows (e.g. for terminal) get a subtle shadow to show they are focused. Maybe more could be done here with colors, but this still will be a weak visual signal.
    – donquixote
    Apr 4, 2016 at 23:27
  • Indeed e.g. "Spidey" gives me more color (green) on the border of focused windows. Interestingly, this does not apply while switching windows, only after I release ALT.
    – donquixote
    Apr 4, 2016 at 23:32

1 Answer 1


I also struggle with knowing which window has focus (irrespective of how it got i).

I have switched on the glow feature of oxygen theme in KDE's plasma. I now have a different glow around active and inactive windows. I also set a matching title bar colour. Green for active, and red glow / gray title bar and border for inactive (but the borders are very thin).

Several window the terminal has focus

It has made a big difference.

I also set meta+tab to lower window (and move focus to new top window). No animation, just simply the glow moves.

I then added an effect to move slide back windows: window move (temporarily out of the way) to let the other pass. This helps me keep track of where things have gone (a sub-conscious hint, linked to real world physics).

I chose KDE plasma for these features. (You can install it and probably start it (replacing cinnamon) without even logging out.)

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