Return Safari 6 Delete Key Functionality to Go Back a Page

Aug 5, 2012 - 17 Comments

Return Safari 6 delete key behavior to go back a page

Safari 6 changed the longstanding behavior of the Delete key, which used to navigate back a page when pressed but now does nothing. Instead, navigating web pages forward and backward is done through Command [ and Command ].

If you’d like to return the back-a-page navigation behavior to the Delete key within Safari, you can do so with a defaults write command.

Change Backspace Key to a Back Button in Safari

  1. Quit out of Safari
  2. Launch Terminal from /Applications/Utilities/ and enter the following lengthy defaults command onto a single line:
  3. 1
    defaults write -bool YES
  4. Relaunch Safari for changes to take effect

Open any web page, click forward a page, then hit the Delete key to confirm the change worked. If for some reason it didn’t, it’s probably a result of the unusually long defaults write command being entered improperly.

If you want to revert to the default Safari 6 behavior and remove the Backspace key navigation support, change the -bool switch from YES to NO, and then relaunch Safari:

defaults write -bool NO

The latest version of Safari introduced some other controversial changes too, including the removal of the RSS feed button (you can add it back with an extension) and removal of RSS support in general, requiring the use of a third party reading app instead.

This works for Safari in both OS X Lion and Mountain Lion, Mavericks, etc. This great tip comes to us from MacRumors forums, it should apply going forward to all versions of Safari in OS X too. Let us know in the comments what works for you.


Related articles:

Posted by: William Pearson in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting


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  1. Robin Anderson says:

    Just tried this on MacOS High Sierra (10.13.6) running Safari Version 12.1.2 and although this worked a treat on a previous OS when I tried it, it doesn’t seem to work now :(


  2. Anne says:

    If I could reach through cyber space and hug whoever wrote this article, holy **** would I! Thank you so much. I’ve had my Macbook Pro and iMac for 6 months now with no time to research this. Finally decided tonight is the night. Sending so much love your way πŸ˜πŸ’œπŸ’šπŸ’™πŸ˜

  3. Jack says:

    Finally, thanks!

    I’ve started to get used to the Cmd [ motion, but don’t like it. I write enough to know to be careful with using it if I’ve typed large amounts.

    One thing:
    Why put ‘Quit out of Safari’ when you could just say ‘Quit Safari’? ;)

  4. Andrew says:

    Thank goodness this fix exists. Though, if it didn’t I would simply just stop using safari.

  5. Michal says:

    That’s not the only annoyance in the new Safari. The one that really baffles me is taking away the ability to not have to type .com at the end. Ever since the beginning of Safari we never had to type www or .com but now all of a sudden Apple decides that Google search takes precedence. I don’t get it and hope someone can come up with a hack for this or a way to reverse it. Please!

  6. Colt45 says:

    whoever you are….thank you. Sheer genius you are
    This linked worked great. I did it twice but works great

    defaults write -bool YES

  7. Lisa says:

    This fix isn’t working for me. Any suggestions? I copied and pasted the whole line into terminal and no changes to my safari’s escape button behaviour. Thoughts??

  8. Bliss says:

    Thanks. I don’t know who’s bright idea that was but it was definitely worth someone filling out a new ID.10-T form.
    The backspace/delete button has been a default for years on both PC and MAC, whoever decided to change it did it for the sack of change and change only… and wasn’t a needed update.

  9. Nevin says:

    On a similar note, having just gotten used to the new UI in Lion’s QT Player, I was dismayed to discover the full-screen/windowed button in the control bar has been removed in Mtn Lion.

    While I understand that changes happen, and for the most part, begrudgingly come to adapt, me and a much underrepresented group of OS X converts came from the ultra-conservative world of Unix professionals, many who I know get annoyed that installing Mtn Lion requires a reboot (and I suspect, some enough to hack a workaround so as not to spoil their year+ uptimes). The folks who’ve to Mac via that route do not suffer frivolity well, often nor long.

  10. Haruhiko says:

    The reason why Apple does this is to promote the use of two finger swipe back on the trackpad. For instance, they also disabled three finger swipe to go to the previous/next page starting fom Lion (although we can enable it in System Preferences.

  11. ChipH says:

    Why would they go from a single, double-width key, that was not only easy to hit, but had also been in place as a de-facto standard for years and years, to a double-key combination that no one knows is beyond me.

    Thanks for publishing the fix.

  12. Vandad NP says:

    Apple changes these things for a reason. People change them back just so they won’t have to develop a new habit and move on. I find this really dumb. The world evolves, stop trying to go back in time :-)

    • Martin says:

      So what is Apple’s reason?

      Apple should not make unilateral changes to software without the user being informed in advance. Also, Apple should make changes optional rather than compulsory.

      For a company who supposedly cater for the user experience, Apple get it completely wrong. I don’t like Apple dictating what functionality I can and cannot have when they release updates/upgrades.

    • David says:

      Sometimes I think the only reason they make a change like this is to remind us that they can. If it were truly necessary to be removed, they surely would have removed the way to put it back as well.

  13. Tim says:

    Thank all those who found this solution, and let me ask rhetorically, why in the &^$^% would someone decide to remove a functionality so built into user’s psyches that it’s almost genetic? It’s certainly reflex behavior on my part to reach for delete.

    • Robert M says:

      Because it should have never been burnt into their psyche in the first place.

      It’s already burned into the psyche for a different purpose: typing. I typed “pr” delete “urpose” just now. Automatic reflex. Been doing it since I learned to type. It’s what that key is FOR.

      As “apps within browsers” or user-contributed web content become things. we type a lot in browsers and need Delete.

      The browser determined right action by focus: is the cursor inside a form field? then delete=delete. Otherwise it’s navigate back.

      This oughta work but it didn’t. Problem is the cursor can be ripped out of the form field unbeknownst to the user. Several ways.
      1. AJAX/Javascript doing something
      2. An external app snatching focus for a few milliseconds and giving it back to Safari. (now fixed)
      3. Inadvertent touch with trackpad or touch screen
      4. Inadvertent “tab” key to non-text field

      So you’re typing away, delete a word and suddenly you’re flying backwards through your navigational history, your submission GONE.

      It was so bad I had to resort to composing long replies in MS-Word instead of in the browser.

      I’m sorry your fingers got used to Delete as browser back, but it was a design mistake from day one. You’d do us all a favor (including possibly yourself) to unlearn it.

      • Nick says:

        NO. Delete as “go back a page” function never was an issue until, like you said, touch screens, swipe functions, EXTERNAL APPS!! (underdeveloped garbage 99% of the time) and, you guessed it, the BUTTERFLY keyboard that makes it so easy to accidentally hit the tab key… all these changes are recent compared to the delete key functioning as back.

        The solution? A simple prompt asking to press return if you meant to actually go back… so now, instead of awkwardly reaching for a poorly spaced key combination with your damn pinky finger, you can press delete and then return really fast if you actually mean to go back… DELETE + RETURN… Bam…

        I get it. That must have been frustrating and ive had it happen too… but the delete key isnt to blame, it’s all that other new crap that apple should have worked out protection against with better tech

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