My problem is actually very annoying. I am very familiar with the mouse focus but right now it's not working.

Inside gnome-tweak-tool the last option "windows" has the "windows focus mode" switch. I've set it to "mouse" but it does not work. It acts just like the "sloppy" option. I hope another gnome user understands my issue.

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  • just a regular session... nothing else is wrong with it.
    – maniat1k
    Sep 29, 2012 at 23:08
  • Also, "org.gnome.desktop.wm.preferences raise-on-click true" is required.
    – user144722
    Nov 25, 2015 at 4:32

1 Answer 1


In a standard gnome-shell setup, mouse focus and sloppy focus behave identically. The reason is simple: there is no DESKTOP. The mouse focus method, particularly, needs a DESKTOP in order to work properly but there is no such thing in gnome-shell, in its standard incarnation. Unfortunately, this is only documented in mutter docs. dconf-editor still has the old key/values description from Gnome2 metacity times and gnome-tweak-tool doesn't even provide a description let alone toggle the DESKTOP on once you switch to mouse focus.
Here is an excerpt from mutter-3.**/doc/how-to-get-focus-right.txt:

Focus method  Behavior
    click     When a user clicks on a window, focus it
   sloppy     When an EnterNotify is received, focus the window
    mouse     Same as sloppy, but also defocus when mouse enters DESKTOP window

Note that these choices (along with the choice that clicking on a window raises it for the click focus method) introduces the following invariants for focus from mouse activity:

Focus method  Invariant
    click     The window on top is focused
   sloppy     If the mouse is in a window, then it is focused; if the mouse is not in a window, then the most recently used window is focused.
    mouse     If the mouse is in a non-DESKTOP window, then it is focused; otherwise, the designated "no_focus_window" is focused

However, there are a number of cases where the current focus window becomes invalid and another should be chosen.  Some examples are when a focused window is closed or minimized, or when the user changes workspaces.  In these cases, there needs to be a rule consistent with the above about the new window to choose.

Focus method  Behavior
    click     Focus the window on top
   sloppy     Focus the window containing the pointer if there is such a window, otherwise focus the most recently used window.
    mouse     Focus the non-DESKTOP window containing the pointer if there is one, otherwise focus the designated "no_focus_window".

Now, back to your problem. You have to "enable" the DESKTOP in order to have mouse focus working properly. This can be done:

  • using gnome-tweak-tool > Desktop > Have file manager handle the desktop > ON
  • using dconf-editor >> org.gnome.desktop.background >> show-desktop-icons > checked
  • in terminal, running: gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background show-desktop-icons true

Restart gnome-shell after applying all your settings.

  • I understood the explanation, but it did not work the solution that you are giving me. A friend of mine do have all this setted and options works as they should. We have the same verion of gnome and the same distro's version.
    – maniat1k
    Sep 30, 2012 at 20:15
  • after a little test found my problem -org.gnome.desktop.wm.preferences auto-raise true swithced to -org.gnome.desktop.wm.preferences auto-raise false thanks again @don_crissti
    – maniat1k
    Oct 1, 2012 at 18:46
  • That sounds like a bug in GNOME3. If in GNOME2 entering a desktop caused it to become invalid, the same should happen when over the area where the desktop would have been. It's probably not worth submitting a bug without a patch, as I have zero expectation of them fixing this. Nov 7, 2016 at 18:34

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