The Unclutter Utility

by Larry Ayers <>
Copyright (c) 1996

Published in Issue #7 of the Linux Gazette

Have you ever noticed when editing text that as soon as you release the mouse and start typing, the cursor ends up obscuring a letter you'd like to see? I'd always classified this as one of those minor unavoidable annoyances of life, like TV commercials or hangnails, which shouldn't be dwelled upon.

So why I am I writing this? Because a programmer named Mark M. Martin evidently had had enough of mouse cursors outstaying their welcome. He wrote a tiny memory resident program, most conveniently started from the xinitrc file, which initially does nothing but wait. It patiently waits for your mouse cursor to stay still for a configurable number of seconds; when this occurs the program simply makes the cursor transparent until you move it again.

The down side of this is that once you become accustomed to this behavior, any time you might be working at a computer which doesn't have unclutter installed, or happen to be using DOS or OS/2, you really notice that cursor. Unclutter becomes sort of a positive reinforcement for using Linux!


Unclutter is probably on every Linux ftp site, but you have to watch out for an older version which may not work on current systems. This is version 1, dated 1992. Version 2, released in 1994, compiles cleanly, and I've never had any trouble with it. It's a small download; just grab anything called unclutter.tgz and unpack it to see if it's the right one.

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