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Make Backspace Key Work Correctly in Firefox on Linux

If there’s one thing that drives me crazy about using multiple operating systems, it’s the inconsistency in keyboard shortcuts… when you hit the backspace key in Firefox on Windows it normally goes back to the previous page, but it doesn’t on Ubuntu Linux.

Luckily this is a very simple tweak, and you don’t even have to reboot Firefox.

Type about:config into the address bar, and then filter by the following key:

browser.backspace_action

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Double-click on the item in the list and change the value to 0.

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The change should be immediate – you can hit the backspace key to go right back to whatever you were doing (probably reading this)

This tip should work on any platform… I’m not sure if all versions of Linux have the same annoyance, but at least Ubuntu does.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/28/08

Comments (24)

  1. Russ

    Thanks for the BackSpace tip on Windows, I didn’t know that; I’ve been using Alt-Leftarrow but BackSpace is easier.

    Also a suggestion, allow us to use an OpenID instead of an email address when we leave comments.

  2. The Geek

    OpenID is a good idea…

    I’m actually migrating to an account vs anonymous model. I will think about including OpenID…

    [edit: Just to clarify, anonymous comments aren't going away]

  3. Karl Kranich

    Thanks a lot for this one! I’ve wanted this for a long time, and never even thought to look for it online.

  4. Dirk

    Great tip ! Please when you can leave more Linux How-to stuff :-)

  5. Legace

    Thanks! This problem has irritated me for a long time.

  6. Mr. Synner

    I’m using firefox 2.0.0.4 that came with my new install of Slack 12.0. I had to restart the browser for the new settings to take effect. Thanks for posting the tip!

  7. Mariano

    Thank you very much!! I was going crazy without the back key working properly.
    PS: I use Kubuntu 7.10

  8. Sarev

    Thanks, mate. Nice tip. Why on earth did the FF people decide that alt+left arrow is a good key combination for going back in the history? It doesn’t even work with right alt so you need to use two hands or have a big stretch!

  9. name

    Right alt then arrow keys work for me. Firefox 3 on Kubuntu Hardy.

  10. john

    Making backspace go back a page is the most retarded thing I’ve ever heard of. None of you have ever accidentally been typing a large form and hit backspace, and gone back a page then lost everything in the form?

  11. Justin Reiners

    Thank you so much for your input, the backspace key not working has been driving me crazy since I let MS in the dust! you rock!

  12. Jason

    john, I couldn’t agree with you more. While I like consistency across apps & across platforms, what a stupid key for a web browser. I just lost an email I had been typing for 20 minutes because my mouse cursor is set to automatically change focus; I accidentally moved the mouse so that the focus was changed from the form textbox to the browser, and then I pressed backspace to continue typing… BAM! Another one bites the dust.

    One possible work around that wouldn’t require changing the hotkey: all browsers ought detect the focus transistion from form entry to browser, & then pop-up a confirmation dialog box if the user presses backspace.

  13. Andragon

    Yes it is indeed a stupid idea to do this, but I guess for people just surfing this can be nice.

    So simply set this value to 1 instead of 0 and that backspace is disabled for going back ;-)

  14. Neil Stoker

    I know where John and Jason are coming from, as that has on occasion happened (but only where I’m not paying attention and have switched focus out from one of the form’s input fields, as it won’t happen when within an input field) but it’s definitely a risk worth taking for the convenience.

    Nowadays there are plenty of sites set up so that going forwards again in your browser history still retains the entered text (so you don’t end up pulling your hair out!)

    The fact it’s a one-handed / single-button shortcut is excellent. And frankly, using four different configurations of computers as I do fairly regularly, I need all the conformity of UI that I can get!

  15. Norman

    Again like Neil, I know where John and Jason are coming from. I was typing (like Jason) and my mouse was set to automatically change focus. After the tiniest of knocks the mouse changed focus to a command prompt window whilst I was typing ‘format d: *.* /y’ …… BAM just like that my whole life disappeared before my eyes. Thats why I’ve switched to Ubuntu, at least now I have to put in password before these accidents can happen!

  16. hanna

    Thank you so much! :D

  17. raamee

    good tweak, thanks..!

  18. mark

    Brilliant! As an avid ‘backspace’ user in FireFox under Windows this was something that has annoyed me for a long time with FireFox under Linux. :)

  19. smokin joe

    thanks soooo much for this little tidbit of info. i’ve been loving my kubuntu install but hated the fact that i couldn’t use the backspace key to go back a page in firefox.

    thanks again

    smokin joe

  20. klaus

    haha, using kubuntu for the first day, it already drove me crazy ! thanks man ;)

  21. Aurini

    Understandable concern, losing all your form data. You can fix it with this: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/6984/developers

    Thanks man, this lack of backspace has been driving me nuts.

  22. ron

    Like, bless you sir!

  23. Michael

    Awesome and easy as well. Thanks alot. I just switched to Linux (OpenSuse) from Windows (Vista) and always like this function. Thanks again.

  24. Harshit

    Thanx a lot…wondering how to do that since a long time..!!

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