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This was observed on Mac OS X 10.5, running Terminal.app. On a native Linux machine, from a bash command prompt, typing meta-backspace deletes up until the most recent whitespace. On a Mac, it sounds the system bell.

SSHing into a Linux machine with Terminal.app as the terminal causes the same problem.

This behavior is consistent with the third party application iTerm. However, the Windows program PuTTy handles meta-backspace (and other meta commands) as expected.

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I found an option in Terminal.app's preferences "use option as meta key" under settings icon, keyboard tab. By turning this on, I can get the functionality on the option key. Unfortunately, that's not the command key which is what I need. –  sludge Jun 7 '09 at 18:49
The command key is special, and efforts to use it inside a terminal aren't likely to work out. Why doesn't using option work? –  Bill Weiss Jun 7 '09 at 19:43
Because my desktop apps use command as meta key. The biggest example is Emacs. –  sludge Jun 7 '09 at 19:52
FWIW, Using option as the meta key - option-delete (backspace) works as suggested in the question. If you change the preference you have to make a new window in order for it to take effect - it doesn't apply to open windows. –  Chealion Jun 8 '09 at 0:17
Using the command key as meta is broken behaviour. You shouldn't try to break other apps so that they all match up. –  Dan Udey Jun 12 '09 at 7:49

2 Answers 2

The real solution to this problem is to use option as meta in the Terminal.app preferences and Emacs. In Emacs 23, I do:

(setq mac-option-modifier 'meta)

to use option as meta. Hope this helps.

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The Emacs setting only applies if you're using a native Emacs application, not Emacs via a terminal. This question is about using programs via Terminal, so it's only necessary/useful to change the Terminal preference. –  Chris Page Jun 27 '12 at 3:14

You might consider using iTerm (iterm.sf.net) instead of Terminal.app... I find it's much more feature-complete than Terminal.app.

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