Disabling "click-through" in GNOME Shell

(copied and updated from https://askubuntu.com/questions/1257308/raise-a-window-in-20-04-by-clicking-without-clicking-any-of-the-buttons-inside-i)

I would like to configure Ubuntu 20.04 (with Gnome shell) so that if I click a window which does not have focus, that click raises the window and does nothing else; in particular, that click to raise the window does not actually have an effect on the window (so I can click where a button is without activating that button). In the old days on the Mac this, clicks triggering actions in background windows, was called “click-through”; it’s the default in GNOME Shell and I’d like to disable it.

The reason for this is that it is very hard to click on a window to raise it without also clicking on a button inside it!

Almost all the visible areas of that Nautilus window are “active” areas in some way; clicking in that window to focus and raise it will also change the folder that it is currently displaying.

Some clarifications:

  • This is not about the window focus mode (focus-follows-mouse or sloppy focus). Windows are focused by clicking on them; I do not want focus-follows-mouse, and it is not what this question is about.
  • This is about raising a window and giving it the focus by clicking on the window. I can switch to that window in other ways (alt-tab, for example, or by choosing it from the Dock) but I want to be able to click on a window to focus it and raise it, exactly as I currently can, but I don’t want to have to be careful to only click on an “inactive” area of that window to focus it.
  • Yes, this problem is exacerbated by how there are not very many “inactive” areas in a window now that the title bar contains buttons. That’s not what this question is about, and I am quite happy with the window containing many buttons, as long as I’m not forced to click one of them just in order to give the window focus.

It is possible to (sort of) work around this problem by Super+clicking on a window; what this is actually doing is moving the window around (the same way that alt+click used to), and as a (convenient) side effect it raises and focuses that window. However, having to use Super+click is inconvenient.

I do understand that there are reasons to enable click-through by default. I think everyone would acknowledge that it’s extremely inconvenient in the above situation where it’s really difficult to find an inactive area to click on to raise a window without activating a function (and this applies to web browsers quite a lot too). However, if click-through were not implemented, then it is rather strange when you have two widely separated non-overlapping windows and the first click on the non-focused window won’t seem to do anything other than raise and focus it. That may be disorienting for some users. So if someone from the design team says “yes, we deliberately designed GNOME Shell to allow click-through, and we accept that a problem with our design is that the above situation of not being able to find an inactive area to click will come up from time to time but we think the pain that causes is worth it on balance” then I’ll listen. (I might disagree, but hey, I’m not on the design team.) But I’m coming here exactly for expert opinion on this, or maybe pointers to recent discussions where this was considered by the design team so that I can see all the arguments that were made for and against.


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