Tips: How to “forward delete” on a MacBook - Macenstein

Tips: How to “forward delete” on a MacBook

OK, those of you who have had Mac portables forever can just shut up right now. In fact, I am considering disabling comments to keep you’re smug asses from typing “duh”, and “why not tell us where the ‘power’ key is?” – so be kind.

As someone who has been raised solely on desktop Macs, my move last November to the MacBook was a bold step I knew would be full of compromises. One of the first and most notable of which was the reduced function of the MacBook’s keyboard. Obviously due to size constraints, certain keys I was used to using in my full-sized keyboard days understandably did not make the transition to the MacBook, and the most annoying of which (to me at least) was the “forward delete” key. Well, at the great risk of admitting I did not know something fairly basic, and in the hopes that one day a new Mac user may Google the words “Forward Delete MacBook”, I am offering this tip, which I only just now discovered while reviewing the fairly excellent Mac Pilot.

Hold down the “function” key (fn) and while pressing the “backspace” key, and you will have regained the “missing” forward delete functionality that has been the bane of my journalistic existence for nearly 6 months now. I hope you find this tip useful enough to warrant the huge loss of Mac street cred I have magnanimously opened myself up to.

[Faithful Macenstein reader Anonymous points out you can also forward delete by pressing CTRL-d. So, now that’s TWO things I didn’t know…]

30 Responses to “Tips: How to “forward delete” on a MacBook”
  1. BrutusD says:

    wohoo! I did not know that! That is great! Thank you.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You can also use CTRL-d (which is the emacs-style key for forward-deleting, which works in all Cocoa apps). Also doesn’t require moving both hands.

  3. aNTwNHs says:

    I’m a new mac user and I didn’t know that. thanx

  4. lekid says:

    euh…. what’s forward deleting?

  5. zippi says:

    WOOOT how cool is that!!!!!


  6. Killer's Dad says:

    Methinks everybody should use the “Mac Help” under the Finder’s Help menu to familiarize yourselves with just how wonderful the Mac OS truly is.

    On a portable fn+ctrl+F2 to select the menu, right arrow to the Help menu (for you advanced people, left arrow) then down arrow to Mac Help.

    You’ll be amazed to find 3 different ways to execute any Finder command.

  7. Merry Prankster says:

    Whenever I take my laptop away from my desk (where it’s connected to a full size keyboard and external monitor) it drives me crazy to not have the forward delete key. Complained about it while taking notes during a meeting just today in fact.

    Now, I’ve been using Macs since the 512k and have had Mac laptops since the Powerbook 150 days. So I’ve been suffering from the “no forward delete key” for more than a decade. Having just read this post, I am both very happy and very disappointed.

    Makes me wonder in what other ways have I’ve been torturing myself just because I’m stupid.

  8. odin says:

    Forward delete is for sissies. Not really… but sort of.

  9. Dave-O says:

    Wow, I am stunned at the number of people that didn’t figure that out.

    While Anonymous (man, you must be so glad we don’t have a handle for you) offered up the ctrl-D shortcut, my favorite is ctrl-T. I’ll let you figure out waht it does.

  10. mangochutney says:

    I didn’t know how to do that, too. But it was one of the first things that I looked up on the net. It was plain annoying for me, as I’m a recent switcher. That keyboard-menu-access shortcut is sth I didn’t know and Im happy for this tip.
    What I would really like to have, though, is a picture thar shows the multiple levels of the MB/MBP keyboard.
    Which signs do I get if I press which key-kombimation.

  11. Dave-O says:

    @mangochutney, that keyboard-menu-access shortcut being the input menu? If you go back to the System Preferences->International->Input Menu and check Keyboard Viewer, I think you’ll get what you want (when you select “Keyboard Viewer” in the input menu).

  12. Chris Leither says:

    I even kinda WORK for apple and didn’t know that…
    but… to be honest I never used the forward delete key EVER… ^^

    But still… stupid me ^

  13. CJS says:

    Did you also know you can hit Option+Backspace to delete entire words at a time? Works similary using Option+Delete for forward delete whole words. Also, Option+Left Arrow/Right Arrow will skip the cursor forward or backward by entire words. Option+Up Arrow/Down Arrow takes you to the beginning or end of the text.

  14. imajoebob says:

    It’s not a duh, except that people live without it for so long. After about a month of cursoring right, then backspacing (and just making the delete key sat backspace would be smart) I decided one day to see what random key combinations did. Basic common sense to actually try things out. Once I found it I told two friends who’d been using Macs for more than 10 years. I had expected it – and tried long ago – to be either shift-delete (the most obvious) cmd-delete or opt-delete. Perhaps the least intuitive element of anything Apple.

  15. airfang says:

    maybe indicating “backspace” can better illustrate the functionality you are describing 😀

  16. bc says:

    No one should be feeling stupid about this, unless they’ve been idolizing the sadistic Mr. Jobs.
    Apple should have printed something indicating the alternate action for the delete (er, backspace) key, if they expected users to know to use the fn key for it. Otherwise, they should have used the space, control or alt keys for it.

    Actually for (backward) delete, I like ctrl-h. Love the alt-delete stuff – forgot about those!

  17. bc says:

    (oops, I meant, of course, printed something on the key itself,)

  18. liz says:

    You saved me. Thanks. It was driving me insane!!!!

  19. jennifer says:

    thank you!!! — I wish I would have googled this earlier.

  20. It’s all smooth and nice graphics and whooh and stuff with macs. But you know, as somebody who bought one a couple of days ago, some basic documentation like what the F the buttons do would have been nice, but nope… I’ve spend an hour trying to figure out how to make things like delete and going to the start of the line (still doesn’t work in the terminal). Thanks.

  21. Emmitt says:

    The lack of a forward delete key is not a trivial matter. I recently bought an iMac (desktop with the full keyboard) and am happy with it. But I refuse to consider buying any of the laptops made by Apple because they don’t have a forward delete key. Yes I know I can do “shift-backspace” but the point is, I shouldn’t have to! I am a writer and this function is very important to me. I need a forward delete key more than I need the letter ‘z’. Nothing in Apple’s operating system or customer service or corporate computing philosophy or any of that other stuff that appeals to computer techies will make me switch until this basic design deficiency is remedied. Guess my laptop will continue to be a PC!

  22. Anne Onimos says:

    It is good that these keyboard functions are in there, but it does not excuse Apple for making them so obscure. There is the Common User Access (CUA) standard, which Apple ignores or alters, mostly because it wants to.

  23. Anthony Warburton says:

    I go with Emmitt on this, I too am an avid writer, the laptop have loads of room for the del key, just got one but it will be the last, what a pain. Type and delete at the same time is what we need for the work we do, it’s fast. Mac the best system in the world? it may be but are it’s hardware designers?

  24. Bill Baeck says:

    Download DoubleCommand at It’s a small app that becomes listed among your system preferences and lets you map key functions, including forward delete. It lets you map the forward delete function to the backslash (\) key that sits right below the Delete key on the PowerBook. No more messy two-handed key combinations for me!

    I never write the backslash in text. But if I needed it, I could still just press the fn key in combination with the backslash to turn off the forward delete function and write a “\” instead.

  25. Samantha says:

    Thank you SO much! My mom was teasing me for not knowing how to forward delete on my lovely, sleek MacBook, telling me to, “Just email it and I’ll fix it on my REAL computer since your little toy can’t do it.” Now I can re-claim the technological upper hand!

  26. Hubert Temba says:

    Wow, thank you very much. For years and months and days I toiled trying to figure this out. I almost said to myself, despite Apple commercial success, the missing functionality to delete forward was a hole in their computer wizardry.

    Now I learn again, be slow to despair and call names, be fast to learn and learn and learn. Thank you again!

  27. Will says:

    this is great, I have been a mac user for over a year (finally switched form PC) and about the only feature I ever missed was the simple forward delete key

  28. Larry Chomsky says:

    OK, this has been driving me crazy too! Thanks for the solution. I frankly can’t stand Apple keyboards. While most of their designs are “beautiful”, they do tend to sacrifice functionality. I learned as a touch typist. As such, you rely not just on key position, but with key profile. A traditional “scupted” keyboard provides tactile feedback as to finger location that a flat keyboard cannot. I have a new iMac and I expect that I will soon update my keyboard to a MacAlly board. I have one on my old iMac, and it not only provides the feedback that I need, but also a numeric keypad, plus a full complement of keys, including our sacred “forward delete” key.
    Thanks again.

  29. Great tip and saved endless keystrokes. Many thanks!

  30. Christina Vigil says:

    Thank you so much! I’m going on year 2 with my wonderful new MacBook and this was driving me insane. Never too old to learn a new thing! Thank you again.

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