What Does Backspace Mean?

The backspace key is a key found on most keyboards, typewriters and virtual keyboard interfaces. The backspace key originated on the typewriter. In modern computer systems, backspace deletes the character to the left of the cursor and shifts all text after that point by one position.


Techopedia Explains Backspace

Nearly all models of manual typewriters as well as modern keyboards have the backspace key. The backspace key is denoted on keyboards by an arrow that points to the left, and it is often located at the top-right portion of the keyboard. In typewriters, the backspace key reverses the platen carriage by one character space with each stroke.

On computer keyboards, both the delete key and backspace key are used to delete text. However there are two main differences between the two keys:

  • The delete key deletes the character to the right of the cursor, while backspace deletes the character to the left of the cursor or the insertion point.
  • The delete key is also capable of deleting files, folders or icons – a function that backspace cannot perform. In fact, backspace has only the specific function of deleting text. However, some internet browsers return to the previous page when the backspace key is pressed.

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Margaret Rouse

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.