I'm trying to find a way to have Mac Mail allow me to press and hold either the "delete" key or the "backspace" key. I'm on Snow Leopard with a non-Apple keyboard.

Goal: delete a lot of emails, easily. (Yes, I could highlight them all and then press delete, but that takes LONGER than pressing/holding the delete key would.)

I'd swear it used to work, but it hasn't for the past few months. I press delete (or backspace) and the current email message is deleted. I continue holding the key down, and … nothing.

Yes, the these two keys repeat in other apps (e.g., Safari URL entry line, or Terminal, or TextEdit), so it's clearly Mail being too clever for its own good.

I've checked the Mail Preferences, and don't see anything pertinent.

  • 4
    I am not sure that highlighting would take longer than holding down delete, and that might depend on exactly how you are highlighting all messages. At the risk of asking the obvious, have you tried selecting just one message, holding down the 'shift' key and selecting the final message of a block of emails that you'd like to delete? It really almost couldn't be faster, especially if you're talking about watching emails delete one at a time as you hold down the delete key. Again, I might be asking the obvious, but I gotta make sure.
    – soxman
    Mar 10, 2012 at 1:09

1 Answer 1


You might be able to find a high end keyboard that has hardware key repeat, but it'd probably be a high end mechanical switch keyboard and set you back a lot of money.

Instead you should just learn to hold down shift-arrow key and then press the delete key at the end.

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