If you think hiding your cursor is something that should be really simple, you’re right. Truth be told, on Windows, it isn’t.
Poor Man’s Electronic Billboard
I’m setting up a computer to act as a kiosk of sorts. More an electronic billboard really, so there will be no need for human interaction. It’s been a bit of a mission, because my first day was spent trying to get Firefox to launch automatically and go straight into kiosk-mode, meaning no borders, no menus, just web page.
That one I eventually solved with an add-on that you can install for Firefox (works on Fx2.x, but not the Beta Fx3 I tried it on), called R-Kiosk or Real Kiosk. It can be set so that on start-up Firefox goes straight into kiosk-mode. Be warned though, it launches into kiosk-mode immediately removing all menus and you can’t right-click or access the menus with keyboard short cuts either, so you’ll be stuck, unless you use CTRL+ALT+DEL press ALT+F4 to force Firefox to quit.
You can change the setting somewhere, but I think you have to edit a few files. For me it’s easier to just start Firefox in Safe Mode when I’m testing (which disables the add-ons), and then launch the Kiosked Firefox for trail runs, C+A+D’ing Alt+F4 when I want to exit.
Anyway, my billboard system uses mySQL and PHP to display what meetings are being held in which rooms. Once you get onto the first page, it’s an automatic loop. I set that page as Firefox’s home and put Firefox in my Startup folder, so when the computer starts it launches Firefox, in Kiosk Mode, automatically loading the home page and *poof*, electronic billboard.
Update 18 June 2008: I just downloaded Firefox 3 and doing what I spoke about above is now so easy, I did it in less than 2 minutes. Download the new Firefox 3, go Tools->Add-ons and install “Full Full Screen”. Once you’ve installed it, restart Fx3, go back to the add-ons and change the settings for Full Full Screen to “Full Screen On Start Up”. Now it goes to full screen auto on start and Fx3 automatically hides tabs and the address bar anyway. Make the page you want to load your default home page, pop Firefox 3 into the Startup folder and poof, automatic kioask when your computer starts.
Big visible cursor
How to make your cursor disappear
The solution was actually quite obvious and I really should have thought of this yesterday. Simply change the default icon to a 1px gif.
Of course, nothing is that straight forward. It’s easy enough to go to the Control Panel and access the cursor properties under the Mouse utility, but you have to have a .cur or .ani file, because the mouse pointer can’t be just a graphic file.
Thankfully that solution was rather quick and I found this utility, IconArt, on lissaexplains.com, which allowed me to quickly create a 1px .cur file. Then you simply substitute your default cursor for this 1px file and *poof* your cursor is gone.
Another warning, a cursor is like your pinky – you don’t realise how much you use it until you’ve lost it. A good thing to do when you change your cursor to be essentially invisible, is to tick the box in the properties that says Press Control to Locate Cursor. What that does is attract attention to your cursor location with a fat circle and in that way you can still navigate.
So, mission complete: I switch on the computer. Firefox loads on Startup and loads the billboard page, which is set to be the homepage, by default. It automatically goes into kiosk mode and the invisible cursor is, well, invisible. Electronic Billboard running.