Keyboard Shortcut of the Month: ⌘-Delete

Updated March 18th, 2021.

Here’s something that happens a lot: you make a new document and then change your mind about it, and when you go to close it you get a message, like this:

Do you want to keep this new document?
Do you want to keep this document?

Or, you get an email, and the email has an attachment, and you double-click the attachment and make some sort of change to it. Then you close the attachment, and you get a message about saving the attachment, something like this:

Save a Copy box, with Delete Copy button
Save a Copy box

(In some cases, an opened attachment will consider itself “changed” just because you opened it. In those cases, the dialog box about saving “the new copy” is just a nuisance.)

In these case, what you’re trying to do, if you don’t care about saving the “changes” is to click the Delete, or Delete Copy button. Which is easy to do with the mouse. But not from the keyboard– unless you know The Secret. Which is… ⌘-Delete.

Turns out that every button in those boxes is clickable from the keyboard:

  • Delete Copy: ⌘-Delete
  • Cancel: esc
  • Save: Return or Enter

Used to be, a button could be clicked with either just the first letter of the button (“D” for Delete) or ⌘ and the first letter (“⌘-D”), in just about any program. If you’ve tried ⌘-D in a dialog box you know it doesn’t click the Delete (or Delete Copy) button– instead, it changes the current directory to the Desktop folder, a good thing to be able to do, but not what we wanted. Fortunately, ⌘-Delete does the job.

It’s worth trying ⌘-Delete in any dialog boxes that have a “Don’t” button, like this one from Word:

Dialog box in Microsoft Word, with a "Don't" button
Dialog box in Microsoft Word, with a “Don’t” button

⌘-Delete will indeed click that “Don’t Save” button for you (so will ⌘-D but let’s get out of that habit since we want to use ⌘-D for going to the desktop);

Thank you to Digital Trends for listing ⌘-Delete in their massive keyboard-shortcut listings. I didn’t know about ⌘-Delete until I read about it on their site. I guess I don’t know everything after all!

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