That Damn Delete Key in Excel for Mac

Where is the delete button on Mac - ExcelI have no earthy idea why it took me so long to figure out how to delete the contents of a cell or range in Excel for Mac. Ever since I bought my MacBook Pro I’ve known the Delete key on a Mac isn’t really a Delete key.

I mean, since my background is with Windows, I have ingrained knowledge on how the Delete Key works on a computer. Ingrained, I tell you.

But all of that knowledge was shattered upon getting a Mac.

Where Is the Excel Delete Button on Mac

After some consternation, I learned where is the delete button on a Mac. To press the delete button on Mac computers you have to hold down the fn key and the Delete key at the same time when you want to delete something on a Mac. (Skip to video)

After a while, you get used to the idea that the Delete key on a Mac is really a backspace key and using fn+Delete gives you the real Delete key action. 🙂

Of course if you’re a long time Mac user you probably think I’m cuckoo. But hey, this is my blog, think what you like. I’m not the only one who’s decided to start using a Mac after a lifetime of Windows abuse use.

Excel for Mac

Anyway, when using Excel on a Mac — I’ve got versions 2008 and 2011 — you run into a learning curve with all the unusual shortcut keys, function keys (1, 2), and menu and ribbon things that are different from the Windows version of Excel. So there’s a tendency to forget about how the Delete key works on a Mac.

I mean, this is Excel we’re talking about here. Hitting the Delete key is supposed to delete the contents of the active cell, for cryin’ out loud.

In Excel for Mac it does that, but the cursor also gets stuck inside the cell in edit mode. You have to hit the enter key to finish deleting the contents, but this act also moves the active cell to the next cell down.

And if you’ve selected a range and hit the Delete key, the active cell contents are deleted and the cursor is stuck inside the cell in edit mode. You have to hit the Enter key, which does nothing but take you to the next cell. The range contents are still there, with the exception of the active cell.

Not the kind of behavior that occurs in Excel for Windows.

How to Delete Cell and Range Contents in Excel for Mac

The trick is to remember that fn+Delete is really a keyboard shortcut to the Delete key on a Mac. Then the world rights itself and the planets align. Frustration abates. You’ve finally found the magic. Your mojo is back!

Watch this 54 second video to see what I’ve been babbling about for the past 454 words.


YouTube link

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90 thoughts on “That Damn Delete Key in Excel for Mac

  1. greg

    I understand you

    thanks a lot, it helped me from right clicking and checking “clear contents” from the menu

  2. Yemzee

    After years of working in Windows Excel making the move to Mac Excel is not as smooth as I though it might be…Thanks for the transition tips !!
    There is also a one handed way to delete both single and multiple cells in MAC Excel – CTRL + B

    1. Gregory

      The Control+B keyboard shortcut removes all cell content and formatting. Or at least that’s what the Customize Keyboard dialog box says, but that’s not correct.

      It just deletes the cell contents like you mentioned. Thanks for the tip!

  3. Stan

    Man, you are great. I’m having the same problem – just got a used mac for programming… It’s so…… I don’t know how to say… Definitely some things are pretty good, but so many Windows easy functions are missing in Mac and it’s so frustrating… I adjusted as I could the mouse, the screen, etc.
    Thanks for your article – it helped me a lot! At least I finally found Delete key!!! I was so upset with delete key that I wanted to sell my mac and get macCloud for windows…
    Thanks again

  4. Tess

    THANK YOU!! I have been vexed by this as well! After being a 30-year PC user, moving to Mac was extremely painful – it’s not as superior to Windows as Mac ravers claim! There is a lot I miss – a real delete key is one of them! You are a life saver!

  5. Peter

    Really appreciate the advice. I’ve had my Mac for 4 years and still hadn’t figured out the cell-range delete for Excel!

  6. Mary Ann

    Thank you! It’s been driving me crazy. The transition from Windows to Mac can be painful. Not that one is better, but when something is so ingrained it’s hard to think a different way.

  7. Tracye

    I love you! No, not in that kind of way, I’m married, you probably are too. I love you in that crawling-through-the-dessert-and-you-have-brought-me-to-an-oasis kind of love.
    What an incredibly little, and yet absolutely phenomenal discovery you have made. I have been frustrated by this for years (YEARS!) until now.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  8. amour

    thanks a lot. I am having hard time in understanding Mr. MAC…its either me who is a slow learner or Mr. MAC who is really trying to make my life harder…

  9. Madey

    Thank you, from the bottom of my very appreciative heart, for taking the time to post this magical secret. You’re my new hero — right up there with the first guy to put wheels on a suitcase. xoxoxox

  10. Angela

    Thank you! After years and years and years of using a PC and swearing I would never get a mac I just got my first and this was one of the things driving me nuts about Excel!!!!

  11. Andrew

    Hey, if you had not posted it I wouldnt have been able to find it via google. I couldnt figure that shit either, it should be the command key in my opinion.

  12. Rie Aleksandra

    I am not surprised that your blog post keeps on living 1,5 years after. I just got a Mac after years of using a PC and always with as many shortcuts and hot keys as possible. I have worked extensively in Excel before, and I am sort of dreading taking it up again. I feel like a kid trying to ride a bike without support wheels for the first time, or someone trying to fish with only their hands. Or like someone who has only two fingers on each hand and is being told to go bowl.

    This post has definitely made my life easier, thank you Sir. All the way from the Middle East. 🙂

  13. Kris

    oh man…. that’s a year and a half of frustration just gone..
    why didn’t I think of checking this earlier.. thank you.

  14. Dan

    OMG! It’s like you were reading my mind. I was laughing so hard when I read your post!! Thanks for the info and humor.

  15. Leslie

    Wow, thanks. I’ve been a professional on windows for 20+ yrs and my husband convinced me to take his MacBook Pro. I’ve been having such a hard time. All my quick and easy shortcuts are missing. I’m glad I took a few moments to look this one up. Thanks so much.

  16. Faisal Khan

    Thanks…this information really helps…you have not only gone through the pain of learning new stuff but you have also done a favor to others by setting up this blog !

  17. Jim

    Gregory

    I moved to iMac from Windows last year – love my Mac, but it does have its shortcomings.

    Many thanks for your clear advice on multiple data deletion in Excel, it has been driving me potty for a long time!

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