Forward Delete On Apple Notebooks


At my desktop workstation I use an external keyboard and mouse with my Mac notebooks, and one keyboard function I really miss when I use them in actual hands-on laptop mode is the freestanding keyboard’s dedicated Forward Delete key. It’s something I’m accustomed to having, use frequently, and find annoying when it’s not available.

Apple (s aapl) actually does build a forward delete function into its notebook keyboards, although it requires pressing a modifier key. If you have a G3 Series or newer PowerBook, iBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook or MacBook Air, you can delete the character to the right of your cursor by pressing fn-Delete (function-Delete). All Mac laptops since the PowerBook G3 Series have had an fn modifier key.

While this is not as convenient as having a real, dedicated Forward Delete key, it’s a lot better than no forward delete function at all.

One Touch Forward Delete

There is also a way to have one-touch forward delete on your laptop’s keyboard. DoubleCommand is open-source Preference Panel software for Mac OS X that lets you remap key functions. They’re often used to make PC keyboards more comfortable and convenient to use with a Mac, for instance swapping the Alt (Option) and Windows (Command or Apple) keys, since they’re in swapped positions on Mac and PC keyboards. DoubleCommand also allows you to reconfigure one of the more redundant keys on a notebook’s keyboard (say, the Backslash key) to work as a Forward Delete key.


You can configure DoubleCommand to use the right Option key as Forward Delete, Control or Enter, swap Delete and Forward Delete, and use Caps Lock as Forward Delete, to name a few examples.



It always cracks me up to see the people who are so tied up in Apple that they say things like, “now I realize I never needed that key at all!” To me, that just sounds like “thank you sir! May I have another?”

I just bought a MacBook Pro, and one of my major frustrations is that it’s got all this keyboard bezel space and this cute little keyboard, and yet it is missing a whole host of keys that I “don’t really need”, such as forward delete, page up, page down, home, end, and a trackpad button.

Of course I can do all of those things with key combos, but why should I have to? it wouldn’t have taken much to add another row or column of keys. Hell, I would have even settled for little combination home/page up and end/page down keys in the spaces to the left and right of the up key. And the clicky trackpad is ok, but I can’t rest my thumb on it reliably without triggering multi-touch accidentally from time to time.

I don’t want workaround, I want my buttons back. Apple’s minimalism leads to pretty UI’s and great industrial design, but sometimes it conflicts with actual usability.


There is software available called “KeyRemap4MacBook 6.4″ This software allows you to add a forward delete to any key on your keyboard. I have used the single back quote key that is below the esc key & above the tab key on my MacBook Pro. The software also helps stabilize and logitech devices that you maybe have trouble with if you are having trouble and can remap many other keys in different ways.

For me putting the Forward delete in that position is perfect. The forward delete is on the far left side and the backward delete is on the far right of the same row of the keyboard. It is on a key that I never use anyways allows be to use with just one keystroke. This is software I highly recommend. I love it.


There is another program called KeyRemap4MacBook. I am in the process of getting help to map the forward delete to a useless key I never use on my MBP. It’s just under the esc key and above the tab. For me the beauty of this is the place of the forward delete is on the far left of the keyboard and the backwards delete is on the far right at the same level. If you have double command, in order to use this, you will have to remove it first by going into the terminal. You can get there by clicking the object on the upper right of your screen.

So if you want it, it’s possible. While it maybe more natural to use a backwards delete, there are times when everyone can make use of a forward delete. I just can put that key on the other keys mentioned. I have found, having only a backward delete is something you can get use to. That said, if you do get use to it, using a fn + Delete for a forward delete isn’t so bad. For me, since there was a key I wasn’t using, that is the key I’m mapping to forward delete.


Lack of a simplistic one-key solution to forward delete was (and still is) my biggest complaint since switching to Apple. (Although, Jonestly, there are quite a few little Apple quirks that slow down those familiar with Window’s very logical placement of things). It is a REAL PAIN when it comes to editing, and does indeed slow one down even after becoming accustomed.


On my MBP, I made the “Enter” key to the left of the arrow keys my forward delete button.

(And why’s the screenshot above stretched vertically?)


Why not use (Key 1) + (Key 2)? Because those are two keys. With any interface, I prefer the path of least resistance for commonly used commands or keystrokes.*

Put another way, imagine there was no single Tab key, only a combination of keys. Sure, you could use that combo, but you’d much prefer there to be a single key solution.

*What may be commonly used for me, may not be so for you.


why not just use fn + backspace? works for me perfectly well
UK configured unibody macbook: 10.5.6


What you miss is that Cocoa apps come with many emacs key-bindings built in. Ctrl-D deletes forward, Ctrl-A goes to the beginning of the line, Ctrl-E to the end, Ctrl-K deletes from the cursor position to the end of the line, Crtl-F move one character forward, Ctrl-B and one character back, Ctrl-T swaps the two characters either side of the cursor and so forth… If you use Emacs as a text editor (either in Terminal or in one of the GUI apps) then they become second nature.


Sacrificing the backslash for forward delete is definitely not for power-users. Both the and the | that reside on that key provide critical functions on the command line. I get that the location is attractive, but those characters are available for a reason.


Was it not Microsoft that broke from the norm? I thought all per windows machines all had back delete as the main delete key then MS came and swapped it round, like the control & option buttons. Apple, predating windows, just kept with what was the convention.

There is an argument that it’s useful to have forward delete in word processors but you can get used to either quite easily. One of my friends who is an author and only ever used macs finds the idea of forward delete weird.


These kinds of workarounds have been in existence for a long time.

I found as a former Windows user, that it took me about a week to get used to the idea of not having a “forward delete” and then I never thought about it again, (possibly because it never really made any sense that the “forward delete” even exists.)

I much prefer the rationality of *not* having the key and I find that if you are a reasonably good typist you don’t miss it.



finally the last thing windows users complain about has a work-a-round, though, i think i would use the shift+delete for forward delete instead. don’t take my backslash key away!


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