At any time, one frame in Emacs is the selected frame. The selected window (see Selecting Windows) always resides on the selected frame.
When Emacs displays its frames on several terminals (see Multiple Terminals), each terminal has its own selected frame. But only one of these is the selected frame: it’s the frame that belongs to the terminal from which the most recent input came. That is, when Emacs runs a command that came from a certain terminal, the selected frame is the one of that terminal. Since Emacs runs only a single command at any given time, it needs to consider only one selected frame at a time; this frame is what we call the selected frame in this manual. The display on which the selected frame is shown is the selected frame’s display.
This function returns the selected frame.
Some window systems and window managers direct keyboard input to the
window object that the mouse is in; others require explicit clicks or
commands to shift the focus to various window objects. Either
way, Emacs automatically keeps track of which frames have focus. To
explicitly switch to a different frame from a Lisp function, call
The plural “frames” in the previous paragraph is deliberate: while Emacs itself has only one selected frame, Emacs can have frames on many different terminals (recall that a connection to a window system counts as a terminal), and each terminal has its own idea of which frame has input focus. Under the X Window System, where user input is organized into individual “seats” of input, each seat in turn can have its own specific input focus. When you set the input focus to a frame, you set the focus for that frame’s terminal on the last seat which interacted with Emacs, but frames on other terminals and seats may still remain focused.
If the input focus is set before any user interaction has occurred on the specified terminal, then the X server picks a random seat (normally the one with the lowest number) and sets the input focus there.
Lisp programs can switch frames temporarily by calling the function
select-frame. This does not alter the window system’s concept
of focus; rather, it escapes from the window manager’s control until
that control is somehow reasserted.
When using a text terminal, only one frame can be displayed at a time
on the terminal, so after a call to
select-frame, the next
redisplay actually displays the newly selected frame. This frame
remains selected until a subsequent call to
frame on a text terminal has a number which appears in the mode line
before the buffer name (see Variables Used in the Mode Line).
This function selects frame, raises it (should it happen to be
obscured by other frames) and tries to give it the window system’s
focus. On a text terminal, the next redisplay displays the new frame
on the entire terminal screen. The optional argument norecord
has the same meaning as for
select-frame (see below).
The return value of this function is not significant.
Ideally, the function described next should focus a frame without also raising it above other frames. Unfortunately, many window-systems or window managers may refuse to comply.
This function gives frame the focus of the X server without
necessarily raising it. frame
nil means use the selected
frame. Under X, the optional argument noactivate, if
nil, means to avoid making frame’s window-system window
the “active” window which should insist a bit more on avoiding to
raise frame above other frames.
On MS-Windows the noactivate argument has no effect. However, if frame is a child frame (see Child Frames), this function usually focuses frame without raising it above other child frames.
If there is no window system support, this function does nothing.
This function selects frame frame, temporarily disregarding the focus of the X server if any. The selection of frame lasts until the next time the user does something to select a different frame, or until the next time this function is called. (If you are using a window system, the previously selected frame may be restored as the selected frame after return to the command loop, because it still may have the window system’s input focus.)
The specified frame becomes the selected frame, and its terminal
becomes the selected terminal. This function then calls
select-window as a subroutine, passing the window selected
within frame as its first argument and norecord as its
second argument (hence, if norecord is non-
avoids changing the order of recently selected windows and the buffer
list). See Selecting Windows.
This function returns frame, or
nil if frame has
In general, you should never use
select-frame in a way that
could switch to a different terminal without switching back when
Emacs cooperates with the window system by arranging to select frames
as the server and window manager request. When a window system
informs Emacs that one of its frames has been selected, Emacs
internally generates a focus-in event. When an Emacs frame is
displayed on a text-terminal emulator, such as
supports reporting of focus-change notification, the focus-in and
focus-out events are available even for text-mode frames. Focus
events are normally handled by
This function handles focus-in events from window systems and
terminals that support explicit focus notifications. It updates the
per-frame focus flags that
frame-focus-state queries and calls
after-focus-change-function. In addition, it generates a
switch-frame event in order to switch the Emacs notion of the
selected frame to the frame most recently focused in some terminal.
It’s important to note that this switching of the Emacs selected frame
to the most recently focused frame does not mean that other frames do
not continue to have the focus in their respective terminals. Do not
invoke this function yourself: instead, attach logic to
This function handles a switch-frame event, which Emacs generates for itself upon focus notification or under various other circumstances involving an input event arriving at a different frame from the last event. Do not invoke this function yourself.
This function redirects focus from frame to focus-frame.
This means that focus-frame will receive subsequent keystrokes and
events intended for frame. After such an event, the value of
last-event-frame will be focus-frame. Also, switch-frame
events specifying frame will instead select focus-frame.
If focus-frame is omitted or
nil, that cancels any existing
redirection for frame, which therefore once again receives its own
One use of focus redirection is for frames that don’t have minibuffers. These frames use minibuffers on other frames. Activating a minibuffer on another frame redirects focus to that frame. This puts the focus on the minibuffer’s frame, where it belongs, even though the mouse remains in the frame that activated the minibuffer.
Selecting a frame can also change focus redirections. Selecting frame
foo had been selected, changes any redirections
foo so that they point to
bar instead. This
allows focus redirection to work properly when the user switches from
one frame to another using
This means that a frame whose focus is redirected to itself is treated
differently from a frame whose focus is not redirected.
select-frame affects the former but not the latter.
The redirection lasts until
redirect-frame-focus is called to
This function retrieves the last known focus state of frame.
nil if the frame is known not to be focused,
t if the frame is known to be focused, or
Emacs does not know the focus state of the frame. (You may see this
last state in TTY frames running on terminals that do not support
explicit focus notifications.)
This function is called with no arguments when Emacs notices that a frame may have gotten or lost focus. Focus events are delivered asynchronously, and may not be delivered in the expected order, so code that wants to do something depending on the state of focused frames have go through all the frames and check.
For instance, here’s a simple example function that sets the background color based on whether the frame has focus or not:
(add-function :after after-focus-change-function #'my-change-background) (defun my-change-background () (dolist (frame (frame-list)) (pcase (frame-focus-state frame) (`t (set-face-background 'default "black" frame)) (`nil (set-face-background 'default "#404040" frame)))))
Multiple frames may appear to have input focus simultaneously due to focus event delivery differences, the presence of multiple Emacs terminals, and other factors, and code should be robust in the face of this situation.
Depending on window system, focus events may also be delivered repeatedly and with different focus states before settling to the expected values. Code relying on focus notifications should “debounce” any user-visible updates arising from focus changes, perhaps by deferring work until redisplay.
This function may be called in arbitrary contexts, including from
read-event, so take the same care as you might when
writing a process filter.
This option informs Emacs whether and how the window manager transfers focus when you move the mouse pointer into a frame. It can have three meaningful values:
The default value
nil should be used when your window manager
follows a “click-to-focus” policy where you have to click the mouse
inside of a frame in order for that frame to gain focus.
t should be used when your window manager has the focus
automatically follow the position of the mouse pointer but a frame that
gains focus is not raised automatically and may even remain occluded by
other window-system windows.
auto-raise should be used when your window manager has
the focus automatically follow the position of the mouse pointer and a
frame that gains focus is raised automatically.
If this option is non-
nil, Emacs moves the mouse pointer to the
frame selected by
select-frame-set-input-focus. That function is
used by a number of commands like, for example,
The distinction between the values
auto-raise is not
needed for “normal” frames because the window manager usually takes
care of raising them. It is useful to automatically raise child frames
mouse-autoselect-window (see Mouse Window Auto-selection).
Note that this option does not distinguish “sloppy” focus (where the frame that previously had focus retains focus as long as the mouse pointer does not move into another window-system window) from “strict” focus (where a frame immediately loses focus when it’s left by the mouse pointer). Neither does it recognize whether your window manager supports delayed focusing or auto-raising where you can explicitly specify the time until a new frame gets focus or is auto-raised.
You can supply a “focus follows mouse” policy for individual Emacs
windows by customizing the variable
(see Mouse Window Auto-selection).