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What is an Active Window?

By Troy Holmes
Updated May 16, 2024
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Computer applications are typically made up of multiple individual screens, which are referred to as the windows of an application. These windows are in a state of activeness or inactiveness, based on the tasks of the computer user. An active window is the currently selected window, which has primary focus within a computer application.

All computer software runs on an operating system. The operating system is the controller or the manager of the entire computer while it is operational. This operating system manages the collaboration between software applications and the underlying hardware of the computer.

Modern computer operating systems enable the user of applications the ability to run multiple applications simultaneously. These applications typically have windows that require activation before focus and control is transferred to the new application from the operating system. An active window is acquired by selecting a screen of an application. Once this selection has occurred the operating systems transfer control of the environment to the active window, which will allow the user to perform tasks on the selected window.

There are multiple methods for selecting a window within an application. The primary method is by using the mouse controller and clicking on the window that is desired. In addition to this method, some operating systems allow a mouse over event to trigger window activation, as well, the keyboard can also be used to change focus to an active window.

It is easy to recognize an active window within a software application. Once a window is selected, the focus of the operating system changes to the new window. The newly selected window will then transform in appearance, as if to be highlighted, while the other windows of the applications will become gray in appearance.

The window screen of an application is made up of multiple dimensions including menus, toolbars, scroll bars, inner window area, and outer frame area. Before a window can allow input from the user it must first have control of the computer transferred from the operating system. The window becomes active after the user selects either the application or a window within the application.

In the design of a graphical users interfaces (GUI), it is important to make the application aesthetically pleasing for the users of the software. This screen layout of the GUI is inclusive of how the screen will react when activation is transferred to the active window. Typically the screen tool bar outer frame area will become bright in appearance, which will signify that focus has changed to the newly selected window.

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Discussion Comments
By holmes — On May 18, 2010

you can only have one active window with focus at a single instance but you can create processes that run in the background. This is much like how iTunes continues to play while you are on a separate window.

By anon80675 — On Apr 28, 2010

Is there any way to have two, or more active

applications windows, at same time?

I'm trying to start a recording audio, at the same time, on two separate DAW systems working on the same machine, for backup. Thanks! Toma

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