What is the Delete key in computer?

What is the Delete Key

The delete key is a button on computer keyboards that is commonly used to erase text. Its main function is to delete the character to the right of or underneath the cursor. Pressing the delete key removes text by backspacing over it, effectively erasing what was typed.

According to Wikipedia, the delete key is a “keyboard key used to delete either (in text mode) the character ahead of or beneath the cursor, or (in GUI mode) the currently-selected object or text region.”

The purpose of the delete key is to allow users to easily remove text that is typed incorrectly or no longer needed. Along with backspace, delete gives typists flexible editing capability to erase text and make corrections as they type. The delete key serves an essential function for quickly fixing mistakes and revising content.


The delete key was first introduced with the advent of electronic typewriters and computer keyboards in the late 1950s and early 1960s.[1] Earlier typewriter keyboards did not have a delete key, as the typing machines were mechanical and did not allow deleting text easily. Users had to use correction tape/fluid or backspace the carriage to delete text.

One of the earliest keyboards to feature a delete key was the Friden Flexowriter in the early 1960s, which had a key labeled “Del.”[1] The delete key became more common with early computer terminals and keyboards in the 1960s and 70s as it allowed users to easily delete and correct text when typing. Since then, it has become a standard key included on all computer keyboards and most electronic devices with text entry.

Location on Keyboard

On a standard QWERTY keyboard layout, the Delete key is most commonly found in the upper right section above the Backspace key. It is usually labeled as “Del” or has a delete symbol on it. The Delete key occupies the spot to the right of the backslash key (\) and left of the End key on a typical 104-key or 105-key keyboard. Its position allows easy access with the right pinky finger for right-handed users.

The exact location can vary slightly between manufacturers, but it almost always appears on the right side of the alphanumeric keys. For example, on a standard Lenovo laptop keyboard, the Delete key sits between Backspace and End in the upper right corner. On a Logitech keyboard, it may be positioned between Backspace and Page Down. But the general area remains the same.

Some keyboards may also have Delete mapped to a secondary function on another key using the Fn modifier. But having a dedicated and prominently placed Delete key is common across most keyboard models and layouts today.




The Delete key serves several functions related to removing or erasing text or data on a computer.

Pressing the Delete key will delete whatever is to the right of the cursor. This allows you to quickly delete individual characters or words as you are typing. Holding down the Delete key will continue deleting characters until you let go.

The Delete key will also allow you to delete entire lines of text by positioning the cursor at the beginning of the line you want to delete and pressing Delete. This will remove that entire line.

In many programs and applications, pressing Delete will delete selected files or data. For example, you can select a file in your File Explorer and press Delete to remove that file from your computer.

The Delete key is a very commonly used key for removing text, lines, files, or other data you no longer want on your computer. Along with the Backspace key which deletes to the left of the cursor, the Delete key provides a quick and easy way to erase things from your computer.

According to Wikimedia Incubator, in some special keyboard modes like fingerspelling mode, the Delete key can have alternate functions related to deleting signs or characters.

Related Keys

The Delete key is closely related to other common keys used for editing text, such as the Backspace, Cut, and Clear keys. Understanding the difference between these keys can help optimize text editing.

The main difference between the Delete and Backspace keys is in the direction each one deletes text. The Delete key erases text to the right of the cursor’s position, while the Backspace key erases text to the left of the cursor [1]. So pressing Delete will remove the character immediately after the cursor, while Backspace removes the character before it.

The Cut command, often activated with Ctrl+X or Command+X, will remove selected text and copy it to the clipboard. This differs from Delete which just removes text without saving it. However, both commands permanently erase text from the original location once executed.

The Clear or Del key will typically clear the entire current line of text at the cursor position. This removes more text at once compared to Delete which only removes one character at a time [2].

Understanding how these editing keys function allows for quicker and more precise text deletion and manipulation.

Delete Key on Mac

The physical Delete key is noticeably absent on standard Apple Mac keyboards. This is because the Mac operating system uses the Backspace key for deleting characters to the left of the cursor, while the Forward Delete key deletes characters to the right of the cursor.

On a Mac keyboard, the Forward Delete function is achieved by pressing Fn + Delete. This key combination triggers the same action as a dedicated Delete key on a Windows PC or non-Apple keyboard (cited from Binding Delete Key on Mac Keyboard). So while there is no actual Delete key, Mac users can still access the delete function through the Fn modifier key.

For those accustomed to using a Delete key, it can take some adjustment when switching to a Mac. Some users remap their Mac keyboard or use third-party software to add a Delete key (cited from Fixes for Delete Key Not Working). But with practice, most Mac users become proficient in using Fn+Delete for forward delete.

Delete Key on Mobile

On touchscreen mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, there is often no dedicated Delete key. This is because mobile devices do not have physical keyboards, so the on-screen keyboard layout is optimized for typing with fingers on a small screen.

Without a physical keyboard, most mobile devices rely on a software keyboard that appears on the screen when needed. To save space, these on-screen keyboards often omit certain keys like Delete, relying instead on gestures or alternate methods.

For example, on the iOS keyboard on iPhones and iPads, there is no Delete key. Instead, users can tap and hold on the keyboard to bring up a menu that includes a Delete key option. Users can also swipe left on the keyboard to delete the previous character.

On Android devices, the on-screen keyboard also often lacks a dedicated Delete key. However, Android users can long press on the backspace key to delete whole words or sentences. There are also alternative Android keyboards that include a Delete key.

The lack of a Delete key on mobile is primarily driven by the limited screen real estate. But mobile platforms provide gestural alternatives to make deleting text efficient on small touchscreen keyboards.

(Source: https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/why-no-delete-key.1360799/)


The Delete key can be customized and remapped to perform different functions on Windows and Mac computers. On Windows 10 and 11, the keyboard shortcut Win + I opens the Settings app. Navigate to Devices > Keyboard to access the keyboard settings. Here you can change the default function of the Delete key under “Keyboard Shortcuts.” For example, you could remap Delete to open the Start menu instead of deleting items.

On Windows, you can also use the PowerToys utility developed by Microsoft to remap keys. Launch PowerToys and go to the Keyboard Manager module. Click “Add a new shortcut,” select the Delete key, choose the action you want it to perform, such as opening an app or website, and save the changes (Source).

On Mac computers, open System Preferences > Keyboard. Go to the Keyboard tab and select “Modifier Keys.” Here you can change the Delete key to perform actions like Undo, Cut, Copy, Paste etc. instead of deleting items.

For mobile devices, most Android phones allow remapping hardware buttons in Settings. On iPhones, AssistiveTouch in Accessibility settings lets you customize gestures and create custom actions for touch gestures.

Common Uses of the Delete Key

The delete key is one of the most frequently used keys on a computer keyboard. Users rely on the delete key for some of the most basic and common computing tasks, including:

– Deleting text when typing. The delete key allows you to quickly erase text that has been typed incorrectly. Rather than having to manually backspace over each letter, the delete key lets you instantly remove text from the right side of the cursor.

– Removing files and folders. When deleting files or folders in Windows, Mac, or Linux, the delete key is used to confirm the action and send the selected items to the trash or recycle bin.

– Cutting text for pasting. When you want to cut text rather than copy it, using the delete key along with Ctrl/Cmd accomplishes this action of removing the text from its original location so it can be pasted elsewhere.

– Emptying the recycle bin or trash. On most operating systems, you can empty the trash or recycle bin entirely by selecting it and pressing the delete key.

– Stopping programs or processes. Pressing the delete key while a program or process is selected can stop or force quit that process in task manager.

– Canceling actions. The delete key serves as a quick “undo” or cancel command in many programs and interfaces.

Though advanced users may utilize the delete key for less common functions, these represent some of the basic everyday uses that make the delete key one of the core keys for efficient computer operation.


While the Delete key is the primary method for deleting text on a keyboard, there are other ways to remove text without using the Delete key itself:

On Windows, you can highlight text with the mouse or keyboard and press the Backspace key to delete it. Backspace deletes text to the left of the cursor, while Delete deletes text to the right.[1]

On a Mac, you can use the Forward Delete key to delete text to the right of the cursor. Forward Delete is activated by pressing Fn + Delete on many Mac keyboards.[2]

On mobile devices like smartphones, you can tap and hold on text to highlight it, then tap the delete key or backspace key to remove it.

You can also use keyboard shortcuts like Ctrl + X to cut text, or Ctrl + Backspace to delete entire words at a time.

If you want to avoid accidentally deleting text while typing, you can disable automatic deletion by pressing Insert or pressing Ctrl + Z to quickly undo deletions.