Is there a way to hide all other windows except the one in the foreground (besides manually hiding them)?
Yep. Here is the easy way I do it.
Download and install: http://ubuntu-tweak.com/
Then start ubuntu-tweak from the menu:
applications->system tools->ubuntu tweak
then go to Compiz Settings:
Click the install simple settings and apply. Then you see that image of your desktop with the 4 drop down menus. There you can choose different type of options to happen to the windows when you move your mouse to that corner of the screen.