The delete key on a Mac keyboard functions like a backspace key on a Windows/PC keyboard, deleting a character a time backwards from where the cursor is located. Pretty straightforward, but many newcomers to the Mac platform are confused as to why there isn’t a forward delete key… well it turns out there is forward delete and it’s actually the same button, flipped to remove characters forward by holding a modifier key. While super easy to use, we’ll also show you how to add a physical forward DEL button which won’t require the modifier key, and we’ll also cover a couple extra common Mac delete key functions too.
Forward Delete in Mac OS X, like the Windows “DEL” Key
- Hold down the “fn” (function) key then press the “delete” key
Relatively unknown to many OS X users, this ranks among the most commonly asked questions for Windows & PC converts that have come to the Mac platform.
If you’d rather not use a modifier shortcut and would prefer a dedicated forward delete key on the Mac, you can use a free tool to remap the seldom used Power button on Mac keyboards to function as a PC style DEL button.
Remap the Power Key to Become a Delete Key
Rather have a physical DEL key? A free third party utility called “PowerKey” lets you reassign the Power key on Macs to function as a forward delete button, just like how the DEL key works in the PC world. Technically PowerKey has other options and can remap the key to perform other functions too, but the Delete option is the most relevant to our needs here.
Uncompress the folder, open the “Release” directory as the other folders contain source code, then right-click on the Powerkey.app and choose “Open” to get around the Gatekeeper ‘unidentified developer’ limitation (assuming it’s enabled to be restrictive). Choose to run at login or in the background, and enjoy your new forward delete key. The power functions are still accessible either by holding down the power key to shut down the Mac without warning, or by hitting Function+Power to access the power options menu for sleep, restart, and shut down as would be normally summoned by just tapping the key itself.
While we’re on the topic of delete functions, let’s cover two other helpful tricks:
Delete Entire Words
- Press and hold the Option key while hitting the Delete key
Delete an Entire Line of Text
- Press and hold the Command while hitting the Delete key
These two functions will work in just about every Mac OS X app, whether it’s a word processor, text editor, browser, terminal, or whatever else you’re using. Take the time to memorize all these simple delete functions and your workflow is sure to improve.
Optionally: Use a Full-Sized Apple Keyboard for a Physical DEL Key
Though this won’t be applicable to all users, if you’d rather not remap a key or use a special function to forward DEL, you can always use a full sized Apple keyboard instead. The full sized keyboards feature the “DEL” button along with page up/page down, and many other buttons that are not present on the Apple Wireless Keyboard or the MacBook keyboards.