Be Genius


Bo Jeanes

I am an software engineer who has lived and worked in New York, Brisbane, Chicago, San Francisco, and now Melbourne. I primarily work in Ruby though am a functional programmer at heart and a fan of programming languages in general. In particular, I love Rust and Clojure but keep my eye on many langauges all the time.

Option (⌥) keyboard shortcuts for Terminal and iTerm

Throughout Mac OS X, almost every input field and text area have consistent keyboard shortcuts to navigate and edit the text. However, in both Terminal and iTerm, some of these don’t work like you might be used to. Furthermore, both iTerm and Terminal respond differently to each other, as well as to hour the rest of the system does it.

Three shortcuts I’ve especially missed are: Option-Left to move left one word, Option-Right to move right one word, and Option-Backspace to delete one word to the left.

The ideal solution to get these working as I’d like would be to configure an inputrc file. However, after playing around for a few hours, I still couldn’t get this working reliably using the Option key. So, my fallback is to configure the terminal apps to do this themselves.

If you set up the terminal applications to use Option as the Meta key, some remote systems will already work with the keyboard shortcuts I want. However, locally only the Option-Backspace one works and even then it only works out of the box in Terminal.

So, here’s how to get all three working in both Terminal and iTerm, locally and on remote systems:


First, enable Option as meta key option by going to the *Preferences > Settings > Your Profile > Keyboard( and checking “Use option as meta key” check box. This will get Option-Backspace working.

Next, while still in the Keyboard settings from the last step, press the + button. In the popup, choose “cursor left” for the Key, “option” for the Modifier, and “send string to shell:” for the Action. In the text field, type Esc then lowercase B key and press OK. This will get the Option-Left shortcut working.

To enable the Option-Right shortcut, repeat the previous step, instead choosing “cursor right” for the Key, and typing Esc then lowercase F in the text field.

If you switch Terminal themes, you will have to repeat these steps for the new theme.


For the iTerm configuration, I will simply point you to this excellent article which help me get up and running. The sections that correspond to the shortcuts I set up are 2.1, 2.2, and 2.4.


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