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Is there an way of modding OSX so that it behaves a little more like Windows 7. Specifically I really want to be able to press BACKSPACE and for Finder to show the previous folder... just like Windows and Firefox both do.

I hope that's clear.

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

While the solution offered by barbaz is a decent one, there actually is a perfect one :), which removes the limitation that doesn't allow you to use Backspace in text fields in Finder (e.g. when renaming files, or typing in the search field).

  1. Install an awesome Karabiner app that allows you to remap almost anything you don't like to anything you like
  2. Find and edit private.xml file per instructions in the link (and read how to update Karabiner to include private.xml in the main list when you get to step 4)
  3. Insert the following code and save private.xml file:

    <item> <name>Backspace in Finder moves Up</name>⌥ <appendix> (except when editing text fields)</appendix> <identifier>private.Backspace_MoveUp</identifier> <only>FINDER</only> <uielementrole_not>AXTextArea, AXTextField</uielementrole_not> <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::DELETE, ModifierFlag::NONE, KeyCode::CURSOR_UP, VK_COMMAND</autogen> </item>

    This does the following:

    • Assigns ⌥ Opt + ↑ to Backspace key.
      • Note: in my OS X Yosemite it is the shortcut for 'Go Up' command in Finder (e.g. it always goes to the folder one level above the one you're in). If you don't like the 'Go Up' command and would like to go to the previous folder - define your own shortcut as per babraz' answer, then paste the respective key combination instead of CURSOR_UP, VK_COMMAND code above
    • Limits this command to Finder only
    • Limits this command to non-text fields only
  4. Open Karabiner and click on "ReloadXML" button (see link in 2. for details on how to add custom private.xml)
  5. Select "Backspace in Finder moves up" command
  6. Enjoy :)
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I've not tried this, but it looks great. Thanks for the answer, and thanks for letting me know about "Go Up", too. I didn't even know that was a possibility. – Django Reinhardt Nov 10 '14 at 22:09
Glad you liked it, but don't just look at it - do try it out ;) It's a great utility for any Windows user working on Mac as it allows you not to strain muscle memory too much or get the regular Windows functions on Mac (I've remapped Shift-Backspace to Delete this way, F2 to file rename, Enter to open file instead of rename, made Alt-Tab possible as in Windows, made Capslock a regular Shift key, etc.) By the way, re. the "Go Up" - in case you didn't know, it's possible to make Backspace "go up" instead of "go back" in Windows 7/8 as well - in case you prefer this old XP style. – Evgeny Nov 10 '14 at 22:56

You can press CMD-[ (as shown in the "Go" menu). Using the regular way from there (Keyboard Preferences -> Keyboard Shortcuts and assign a new shortcut for the "Back" entry) doesn't work since the "Keyboard Shortcut" field does not accept the backspace character. But you can:

  • Go to System Preferences, Keyboard, Keyboard shortcuts
  • Create a new keyboard shortcut for Finder with the Menu Title "Back" enter image description here
  • Use any arbitrary keyboard shortcut

Then edit the file $HOME/Library/Preferences/ and change the keyboard shortcut to "⌫" for example using XCode:

enter image description here

Now, if you restart Finder (using killall Finder or the Force Quit Applications dialog) you will be able to use the shortcut:

enter image description here

However, as pointed out in the comments, the backspace key is probably not usable in the keyboard dialog for a reason, since using it as a shortcut will trigger the action when you have the cursor in an edit box, where you'd want backspace to remove characters.

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This looks very helpful indeed, but I don't have the file $HOME/Library/Preferences/ :-/ ? – Django Reinhardt Jul 6 '11 at 15:06
Whats your OS X version? I only have a 10.6 at hand, and here the Finder preferences are definitely stored in that file. $HOME is your homefolder (/Users/<username>). – barbaz Jul 6 '11 at 15:24
Or defaults write NSUserKeyEquivalents -dict-add "Back" "\U232B"; killall Finder. This isn't a practical solution though, it overrides the function of ⌫ (deleteBackward:) in text fields. – user495470 Jul 6 '11 at 15:52
@Lri absolutely right. – barbaz Jul 6 '11 at 16:13
@Johnny skip all that with XCode and the plist editor, just use the command that Lri suggested. However, as already pointed out by him, using backspace for going back in Finder is not a good idea, since it will also be triggered when you actually want to use backspace (for example when you rename a file and want to hit backspace to erase a character). I guess the best solution is simply to get used to CMD-[ as this is the native keyboard shortcut. – barbaz Jul 6 '11 at 17:25

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