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Chrome OS is getting old-school cool with an upcoming productivity feature

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Chrome OS has been steadily growing up over the years, with Linux and Android app support helping it to stray from its “just a browser” roots. Thanks to powerful multitasking features like virtual desks and window snapping, Google’s operating system is a solid productivity choice for consumers and many professionals. To help you work even faster, Chrome OS will soon pick up a classic productivity feature that will give your Chromebook the old-school coolness you never thought you needed.

Chrome Story recently spotted Focus Follows Mouse (FFM) in the Chromium repository, a legacy feature commonly used by Unix boomers developers back in the day. Chrome OS one-ups its Windows and macOS competition by baking FFM natively into its window management system — no third party mods needed. If you’re on the Chrome OS Dev or Canary channel, you can try it out by copying and pasting the following URL in bold into Chrome’s address bar.

chrome://flags/#focus-follows-cursor

Enable window focusing by moving the cursor. — Chrome OS

Switch its drop-down box from Default to Enabled, then restart your Chromebook. FFM will be in effect immediately after your desktop comes back into view.

Focus Follows Mouse ups your copy-paste game.

The concept behind Focus Follows Mouse is simple: whenever the cursor moves above the window, the system will keep it focused. It uses the more-modern sloppy focus model — moving your mouse at the desktop or taskbar will keep the active window focused. This model won’t raise windows obscured by an active application, meaning you can copy and paste text from a webpage into a document without any extra clicks. We’re not sure if other options like auto-raise and stock Focus Follows Mouse (without sloppy) will arrive with this feature, though.

I would have never expected Google to add this old-school power-user feature into Chrome OS, especially with the company’s recurrent attempts to dumb its products down. As someone who’s accustomed to Focus Follows Mouse on my traditional Linux system, it’s been a major pain to switch between my Chromebook and desktop. FFM allows me to copy and paste text into Google Sheets without clicking, which is way more intuitive than without. I can also interact with two windows at once — scroll window #1 with a mouse, type with window #2. It opens up multiple avenues for powerful multitasking opportunities, helping you get work done even faster.

Focus Follows Mouse is a significant step in the right direction for many of us working in a multi-window environment. I’d like to see additional windowing options in Chrome OS, too, like auto-raise windows, stock Focus Follows Mouse (without the sloppy model), and Always on Top. I imagine once FFM arrives for the Stable channel, you’ll be able to customize it at the Personalization section in system preferences. With any luck it will come soon rather than later.

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