The lack of a delete key makes the Chromebook a disappointment


Chromebook Pixel Keyboard

For all of their technological genius and massive resources, Google sure doesn’t know how to make hardware. It’s a problem that has plagued them for years but it seems to be best highlighted with the Chromebook Pixel.

Over at CNET, they were focused on one of the major bugs with the laptop – the challenge the device has with connecting to cameras. There’s good and bad that comes with having an operating system that is designed to be light and shareable. One of the bad parts is that you often miss some of the common accepted notions that other operating systems (and their users) take for granted.

Because it runs on what is essentially a souped-up browser, Chrome OS faces the kinds of difficulties that don’t plague other operating systems. The regular updates can be a two-headed coin. Changes are made regularly and the browser OS gets better more often than not and on-schedule. But it also means that if the browser’s performance is off during an update cycle, you’re stuck with that hit.

There are sacrifices that people are willing to make in order to get the proper size and portability they want out of mobile devices, but this is one that crosses the line. There’s no delete key. There’s no way to hack your way into having a delete key. There’s no caps lock key either (replaced by a persistent search button), but at least that can be fixed in settings.

It isn’t that the delete key is all that important. It only takes a few days of steady use for someone to get used to it and start using the backspace key for all of their error-correcting needs. That’s not the point. It’s about changing a paradigm by replacing it with greatness rather than reducing it with poor decisions. Google is one of the few companies that can and should change the way we operate technologically in this world. The Chromebook family should be an absolute gamechanger the way that many of the Apple devices have been in the last decade. Instead, they have a dud. The lack of a delete key isn’t the end of the world for its users, but it’s enough to point to a fundamental flaw in the way that Google handles hardware in general.

  1. Did you try ALT-Backspace? It functions as Delete. There are other examples of keyboards without a Delete key (most on screen keyboards don’t). I’m happy that the Chrome keyboard has adapted and for the better… your mileage may vary.

  2. I can’t believe you are a “tech” writer and you wrote this. Alt-Backspace replaces the delete key. Saves space on the keyboard and the function is preserved. Whole article is about a problem that isn’t a problem.

  3. “There’s no way to hack your way into having a delete key. ”

    Seriously, is ALT-backspace THAT much of an inconvenience?

  4. Hey genius: Try Alt+Backspace for delete. While you’re at it, try Ctrl+Alt+/ for an onscreen keyboard display that illustrates shortcuts as you press Ctrl, Alt, and Shift.

    I think your thinking is fundamentally flawed. Do some research before making sweeping declarations. Sheesh

  5. @Connor: As a paying owner and daily user of a WiFi Chrome Pixel, lack of caps lock and delete keys have not caused one ounce of trouble for me. Peddle your troll bait elsewhere.

    Additionally, far from being a disappointment, the Pixel does exactly the opposite of what you claim; it proves to me that Google can make world-class hardware that rivals or bests Apple’s! I have owned both a Macbook Air and a Macbook Pro Retina, and my Pixel is the nicest combination of hardware I have seen in any laptop, bar none.

    Google’s challenge is not in proving they can do hardware, but in selling the overall concept that Chrome OS represents to consumers. Having just attended two sessions at Google I/O on packaged apps, I am convinced that they have a strong shot. It is a battle which will be won or lost in software and overall user experience, not in the pruning of two vestigial keys.

  6. Alt-backspace is like Fn-Delete on MacBook to do forward delete.

    Btw, MacBook delete key is “backspace.”

  7. Are you serious? No Delete key is your only valid argument to say that Google fails at hardware? That’s being very short sighted isn’t it? (I guess having the highest resolution display in the market doesn’t count as “hardware”…did you even notice that it’s a touchscreen?)

    Just so you know, if you use ALT+Backspace this functions the same way as the Delete key. These are two big buttons instead of one small key as seen on devices of companies that, in your opinion, do get hardware.

    For me it actually makes it easier, because I don’t have to look down to my keyboard to see where the exact location of the small Delete key is.

    Finally, try pressing CTRL-ALT-?, this will bring up beautiful overlay of all the shortcuts that exist on a Chromebook.

  8. Have you even used a chromebook for more than fifteen seconds? You get used to the fact there is not delete key very very fast with such a nicely trimmed and good working OS.

    And labeling something a “disappointment” based on the lack of ONE key? That’s pretty rash and harsh don’t you think? It’s like saying no to a really nice car just because it doesn’t come with an automatic gearbox, only stickshift: lame and shortsighted.

  9. “The chromebook actually does have delete functionality, just like on a mac, press ctrl+backspace”

  10. MacBooks don’t have delete keys, either, and it doesn’t seem to be hurting sales.

    On a MacBook, you just use fn+Backspace. On a Chromebook, Alt+Backspace does the trick.

    The lack of a delete key (and Home and End keys) was always a complaint for me on low-end Windows laptops, MacBooks, and Chromebooks, too, but once I get used to mashing the key combos, I find I don’t even notice.

  11. Apple keyboards haven’t had delete keys for a long time, if they ever had them at all. Seems a strange complaint in that light.

  12. It is my understanding that this terrible design flaw is commonplace on all Apple product keyboards?

  13. Your entire argument is about an obsolete key that really isn’t needed anymore? You got backspace, and backspace+Ctrl if you really want to mimic the delete key. But I know, this article is probably just click bait.

    Kindly stop publishing posts, Mr. Livingston.

  14. Really. Alt-Backspace works as DELETE on all chromebooks. Easy.
    Contrl-Alt-? shows key mappings in case you forget.

  15. Google did this right. It even got the name correct. The sole error-correct key on my Macbook Pro (my beloved Macbook Pro) is called delete, but it is what PC users would conventionally call a backspace key. “Del” functionality comes from Fn-delete.
    So Google has copied Apple’s efficiency in saving keys and provided an equal approach to adding the functionality of the omitted physical button. But Google have given this one key the conventionally correct name.

  16. The alt-backspace is a great find. Does anyone know where there is a complete list of key combinations?

  17. I have to agree with this column. I’m a writer, and I do a lot of back and forth type-delete-type with blocks of text. Formatting is vital, too. When I’m deleting, I have my left index finger on the touch pad and my left thumb on the left mouse to pinpoint the exact location of the text I’m erasing. Then I use either delete or backspace depending on how the formatting will change (or not) compared to the block before/after. Hitting the alt key and backspace at the same time isn’t going to work for me. I suppose I could learn how to use backspace all the time, but it looks like at best a loss of efficiency in a game where I need my speed.

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