Hardware

How do I... Turn off overtype with the Insert key in Word permanently?


This blog post is also available in PDF form in a TechRepublic download.

Life is full of little annoyances, many of which we can do little about but grin and bear it. But that doesn't mean we have to put up with these little annoyances from our computer applications. For example, Microsoft Word 2003 has this annoying little habit of flipping to the overtype mode while we are not looking. This is caused by an inadvertent touch of the Insert key on our keyboards. The functionality is a hold-over from the mainframe/terminal era of computing and is not really necessary for personal computers. This TechRepublic How do I... shows you two ways to turn off the Insert key overtype functionality in Word and goes on to suggest a compromise that will make the situation less annoying but allow you to toggle the overtype mode on and off if you wish.

Do you have an annoyance you would like to see a TechRepublic How do I... blog post remove from your already tense life? We'd be happy to do it; just let us know what it is in the discussion thread to this post. Be sure to let us know what you wish the application in question did instead of the annoying thing it does now and if it is possible, we will write up a solution for you. Better yet, if you have solved an annoyance, please share it with us and, assuming it solves a common annoyance, I'll make it worth your time and effort.

Turn it off

The first method for turning off the Insert key overtype function comes from the Web site annoyances.org. The method uses the Word macro language to circumvent the normal operation of the Insert key, which is a little heavy-handed, but it definitely works. Navigate the Word menus to start a macro recording by clicking Tools | Macros | Record New Macro. You should see the screen shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Record new macro
Change the name of the new macro to something like "DoesNothing" and then click the Keyboard button. Click the cursor in the Press New Shortcut Key box and press the Insert key (Figure B). Click the Assign button and then click the Stop Recording button to stop and save the macro.

Figure B

DoesNothing

Now when you press the Insert key, it does nothing.

Another way

You don't have to record a new macro to turn off the Insert key overtype functionality in Word; you can merely change the keyboard shortcut associated with the Insert key. Right-click on an empty part of a Word toolbar and then click the Customize menu item to reach the screen shown in Figure C.

Figure C

Customize
Click on the Commands tab and then click the Keyboard button to reach the screen shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Keyboard shortcuts

In the Categories list box, choose All Commands. Then, in the Commands list box, choose Overtype. Note that the current keyboard shortcut is the Insert key. Click Insert in the Current Keys box and then click the Remove button. There you go -- no more inadvertent toggle of the overtype mode is possible because there is no keyboard shortcut anymore.

A compromise

There is, of course, another option to consider. There may come a time when you want to toggle on overtype mode in Word. With the previous two methods, you will have to reverse the process to retrieve the functionality. A better idea might be to change the associated keyboard shortcut to something that is much less likely for you to inadvertently type. So instead of removing the keyboard shortcut, you change it to something like Ctrl+Shift+Insert, as shown in Figure E. Just click the Assign button and now you can avoid the inadvertent overtype but still have access to that feature when you want it. Thus, you are removing one annoyance without creating a new annoyance later.

Figure E

A new keyboard shortcut

You may be wondering about Word 2007. Apparently, Microsoft got the message that the Insert key toggle for overtype was annoying and changed the default in 2007. The Insert mode is off.

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

62 comments
james.leake
james.leake

The use of a small screwdriver usually does the trick - extremely satisfying...

sk128
sk128

You are an idiot!! If you are too poor at typing to click the insert key only when you need it then u should stop teaching about computers and practice with them. There are many times when I use the overtype feature and was very frustrated that I had to find how to control it myself. Oh yeah and I'm a computer programmer so I think I have some familiarity with the frustrations that computers can cause.

mizuno_sakimori
mizuno_sakimori

Thank you SO MUCH. Overtype in Windows is driving me nuts.. As if my assignments are not enough to do that. Thanks again!

psalm11937
psalm11937

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!!

rhych_04
rhych_04

kewl... share this with my techy friends... thanks!

brinkerj
brinkerj

I especially disliked the caps lock key so I POPPED IT OFF. If I do want to use it, I just turn it on and off with a pencil point. Could do the same with Insert key

markkino
markkino

I still use the overtype (insert) key to fill in all those annoying forms - the ones created by people who don't know how to create useful forms in MS Word. They use the underscore key and when you fill out the form the underscores move off to the right completely messing up the formating. The major problem with all these fixes is that when you move to another computer all you fixes don't move with you.

jjordan
jjordan

Overtyping is a minor annoyance to me compared to Outlook's "Opening a lot of items could take some time. Are you sure you want to open these n items?" popup every time I try to open more than 4 messages at once. It's like Microsoft saying "See, we hire mentally challenged programmers too!" How do I turn it off???

comgoddess
comgoddess

I would like to permanently disable the incredibly annoying "allow starting in reading layout" in Word 2003. I have disabled this selection under options/general tab so many times and it reenables itself. I understand that it is most likely document specific but I would love to find a registry hack that will permanently get rid of this annoying feature. I hate Microsoft.

jfrosen
jfrosen

How do I turn off the update style feature in Word? I have never really figured out the why and when of it, but I generally avoiding changing styles, or bullet formatting unless I have to, as Word often updates the style change throughout the document and I just get annoyed.

Randall_D_Roth@whirlpool.
Randall_D_Roth@whirlpool.

Instead of assigning Insert to a DoNothing macro, you could also assign it to a macro like the following (which will ask you whether you really meant to go into overtype or not). Sub OvertypeEnabler() YesNo = MsgBox("Do you want overtype enabled?", vbYesNo, "Overtype mode?") If YesNo = vbYes Then Application.Options.Overtype = True Else Application.Options.Overtype = False End If End Sub

johns
johns

Great tip, thanks. Just so you know, the tip for making the Ctrl,Alt,Insert combination to toggle between insert and overwrite also works great in Word 2000. You just have to go back into the customization panels and delete the second instance of the Insert key that Word keeps when you add the Ctrl,Alt,Insert function. Apparently it keeps the current keys hidden the first time you go into the customization area. So you need to go back to find the extra keys and remove them.

ken lillemo
ken lillemo

I never have the problem of an inadvertant Caps Lock or Insert key press any more. I simply keep the keycaps in my desk drawer. This solution works for every application. I have not missed these keys in six years of operation in this mode. Simply pry the key caps off your keyboard with a smallish screwdriver. Problem solved.

mc536
mc536

Awesome. Thanks.

Marty-7
Marty-7

Any way to do it in Outlook 2003?

Supremetwo
Supremetwo

http://webpages.charter.net/krumsick/ Keytweak is a free keyboard remapper for Windows NT/2000/XP. It makes use of Microsoft's Scancode Map registry key to remap your keyboard or disable any key. Quick and easy to use.

nickrusso
nickrusso

Yes, I've tried this technique as well. But no one uses fixed-width fonts any more (unless they create forms that look like they were done on an old-fashioned typewriter). So you still end up with a mess. So don't take responsibility for others' mistakes. What I do is pop the insertion point any old place in the underscores, type what I need to type, and let them see what a mess they hath wrought! Most of the time the people who made the forms have to use them when filled out. Let them fix the problems, or learn how to make forms. If looking at the page irritates you, use Normal View in Word. You don't see the page so clearly. All the forms in the company I used to work for were like this. I've come to enjoy sending in a mess like this. But that's my personality.

ken lillemo
ken lillemo

OK, I had not thought of how handy it would be to overtype when using the clueless user forms. That is a great use for the insert key. Fortunately, I wear a pocket protector with a small screw driver so I can still actuate the insert key even when the keycap is removed. THanks for the tip.

ProfTech
ProfTech

It appears to reeanbles itself because Office is profile dependent. To bad Office cannot store user profile on network. If that can happen, then my user specific profile for office would follow me around like my puppy! Life is Good

dhenderson
dhenderson

1. Click the "Tools" menu and choose "Options". 2. When the "Options" multi-tabbed dialog box appears, click "General". 3. Uncheck "Allow starting in Reading Layout". 4. Click "OK" to close the dialog box.

dhenderson
dhenderson

I too hate the 'start in reading layout' "feature" - what a pain!

Mikiel
Mikiel

That's my solution too! (popping off the Insert key) I'm a really clumsy typist. For the way I work and apps I use, I never need to go into insert mode. It's always a mistake. I fear I'd find mapping the insert key to a "do you really want to" dialogue box equally annoying to going into insert mode.

TheGooch1
TheGooch1

I'll be that you don't notice the dust and bagel crumbs that are now accumulating in the spaced left open by the missing keys, either.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I've been covering it up with a piece of black electrical tape. No, wait; that's my "Check Engine" light...

wendoozy
wendoozy

NO, NO, NO. Going the "Tool" menu route is not an option (Pun intended)! I too go through "tools", "options" etc. and I turn off the "Allow starting in Reading layout". And then it re-enables every single day. Especially if I open a word document that is attached to an Outlook email. That's why people are looking for a registry hack to make the madness stop. The tools DO NOT WORK!!! Help Please!!!

techrepublic.fred
techrepublic.fred

For example, my Fellowes kbd has a liquid-proof design where each keycap sits in a raised well. There is no real dust/crumb problem, as the dust floats freely around the keycap wells. Liquid or items could drop down the open well (roughly 1 cm diameter), but a pencil eraser head cures that problem.

ken lillemo
ken lillemo

Actually, the keyboard is so much easier to clean now that the keycaps are out of the way! Just a quick puff of breath on the empty spaces and the dust scatters under the other keycaps out of sight. I should admit that one particularly nasty application did once drive me to deploy a pencil to actuate the caps lock temporarily. Fortunately, the application went away and I went on with my normal safe typing environment without a care. I was hoping Mark, the author, would chime in on the hardware vs. software solution discussion. Let me ask the general question, what application do you use where either the caps lock or insert key is required or even useful?

Marty-7
Marty-7

Thanx for the reply and the link.

comgoddess
comgoddess

Bottom line - rights don't make any difference. I am the systems administrator and have complete administrative rights to all systems. The setting still reverts to enabled.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm guessing you're on a network and your network account isn't a member of any of the administrative groups on the local machine. If this is the case, ask one of your tech support guys to add your network account to the local Power Users group. Then try the setting again. If tech support isn't comfortable giving you this level of access permanently, ask them if they will grant it long enough for you to turn the setting off. Of course, I could be completely out to lunch. It's been known to happen.

sk128
sk128

you are a good person.

sk128
sk128

You are probably one of those people who want the government to do things for them aswell. If you really hate those keys assign them new functions or buy one of the many keyboards out there that allow you to move the placement of keys. Those keys still have a purpose. The mouse takes longer then a skilled typer and when I explain to my customers the real use of print screen they usually jump for joy and those that don't never worry about that key again.

nickrusso
nickrusso

I use PrtScn all the time with the windows key to open computer properties dialog to get to Device Manager. Relabeling it would be great, but how would you fit it? I also use it constantly for screen captures to create training materials. As far as the F-keys--how could we really get rid of them? Some apps may not use them all, but different apps use different ones. And the MS office apps uses all of them, with multiple functions depending on combinations of modifier keys. I don't use them all, but I would be really ticked if I couldn't get the ones I use. I'm sure others use different ones. What drives me nuts is the newer keyboard with an F-lock key that is used to turn ON the keys. They are set to do some other stupid things by default, and are difficult to impossible to get to their intended state at boot up. Who thought of this idiot scheme? I have two sets of MS wireless keyboard/mice that I love but have this horrible flaw. The software driver lets you control just about every aspect of the keyboard apart from this. Ugh.

ppost02
ppost02

Obviously Palmetto doesn't work with numbers much on his PC. As an accountant, the keypad is a godsend for the input that I do. Maybe you should go with a laptop?

alaniane
alaniane

Capslock and some of the other keys are also a port from typewriters and they can be extremely useful to typists. As for using all 12 function keys, the debugger that I use makes use of all 12 keys and it it is on a PC not mainframe system.

angela_marie1964
angela_marie1964

Unfortunately for me, I use the CAPS LOCK a lot. I have to do a lot of documentation and a great deal of it requires CAPS LOCK or that I type one handed why I hold the Shift key down. I do like the INS key solution though. I hate hitting that one by accident. Thank goodness for Ctrl-Z.

hoghat
hoghat

I think the biggest problem is the keys on a keyboard are considered a standard. It's probably not worth it for manufacturers to create a stripped down, non-standard keyboard (that they'd have to sell really cheap), create proprietary drivers so it will work on all sorts of OS's, and package them with the product with an instruction manual on how to install. They'd probably rather just keep making the same standard version they can sell for just as cheap and still make a profit, probably sell more, and not have to worry about drivers since everybody in the world already has the necessary drivers. On the other hand, I would imagine they sell USB keyboards for handheld devices with just the basic keys you could rig up to work on your PC. Seems like I remember seeing a fold-up keyboard from Palm that just had the basics several years ago but I doubt it works in Windows. That's the rub with changing a standard, you can add stuff until you're blue in the face but God be with you if you try to remove even the most seemingly useless piece of functionality.

DirkByrd
DirkByrd

In the Macro version of the fix, you could pop up an input box that asks if you really want to go to Insert mode. A "Y" sets it on, anything else closes the box and drops you back into your document. tmpIB = InputBox("Overtype?","(Y)es, (N)o","N") tmpIB = Ucase(Left(tmpIB,1)) if tmpIB = "Y" then.....

ken lillemo
ken lillemo

Yep, I know that inventory systems just suck that way. I just got in the habit of holding down the shift key as it is not a main responsibility for me.

lfloyd
lfloyd

It depends on make and model, We have some that are Ctrl Ctrl, a couple of KVM's that are only for two machines that are Scroll lock. I used one KVM on a server rack that was scroll lock at a previous job. I think it just depends on how the product was designed. I actually like having it use the scroll lock because it allows me to use the Ctrl key for other things without having to worry if it goes to another machine.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

In a previous career I was an accountant. Some accounting software, the very old ones, actually worked better when the input was all caps. It had to do with the fonts and the monochrome screens I think. But in "modern" times the only time I use CapsLock is when I have a particularly long acronym to type in, but it is hardly necessary. The Insert key is about the same - not much use for it. Now, for gaming, I use those keys as some additional shortcuts and macros to ease my game play.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Is the ScrollLock specific to certain brands of KVM? My StarTech KVMs default to CTRL-CTRL, although the better model allows me to change the sequence. My older Black Box was CTRL+number.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm aware mainframes still exist, but how many PCs actually connect to one? In particular, how many home PCs? Offer a traditional keyboard as an option with the models aimed at the corporate environment and make a "Keyboard Lite" the default for the home environment. As regards a broken mouse, it doesn't take that long to replace. I'll have to take your word on games. Prying them off isn't the solution if I'm looking for a physically smaller keyboard. I'd love to find one without the keypad, but so far, no luck.

lfloyd
lfloyd

Now, if I was just using standard Microsoft products I would see why you would think alot of the keys are useless. But the majority of them are not if other programs. I run several programs where I use all 12 F-Keys, use the capslock, turn off the Num-lock and use keyboard short cuts for most functions of the programs. I can see renaming Print screen to Screen Capture or some like that, but that would be it. I use the pause key with MS-DOS, from time to time, so its a keeper. The Scroll lock key would be the only key I would have an issue with except for KVM switches its very usefull there because its a key you usually never hit in general use.

ProfTech
ProfTech

I agree HagHat. This is like disabling the annoying alarm my SUV makes that reminds me to buckle my seatbelt. If I disabled that alarm, I would not be notified that my turn signal has been active for more than 3 minutes.

hoghat
hoghat

Everybody has to dog the mainframe... we're still out there folks. Some of us still log into the mainframe via our PC and yes we use all 12 PF keys, scrollock, numlock, break and the works. Why use numlock and scroll lock? Aside from using them on the mainframe, you've obviously never had a broken mouse. Just because you never personally leave the windows environment doesn't mean the Mainframe no longer exists. Also a lot of popular games use the extra keys for game functionality. Granted you could remap but who would want to try to remember all the "SHIFT-CTRL-*" combinations when you could just press a single button. If you don't like them, pry the keys off your keyboard. Then you won't have any problems accidently hitting them and won't have to go through the hassle of setting up macros or disabling them through each app you encounter.

johns
johns

We're an electronics design and assembly company. Our Inventory, Accounting, BOM software uses the caps lock for part numbers. The Engineering Departments (of which I am the lead Engineer) use the caps lock on all their work. Purchasing uses the caps Lock for writing PO's to vendors.... Shall I go on?

drumbeat
drumbeat

I actually have a 2 port KVM that uses the scroll lock key and the directional arrow keys as the toggle between the 2 systems. I suppose if these keys were eliminated the manufacturer would create altenatives for toggling between systems.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I use CapsLock a few times a day. I've got several notes and "cheat sheets". When ever I make a major or temporary change I use uppercase to make it stand out. Why do manufacturers continue to include the ScrollLock, NumLock, or Break keys? With separate cursor movement keys, why turn NumLock off? For that matter, why keep the cursor movement keys? If you're working at a command line, do you need NumLock on? You're not going to be doing data entry. Ditch them all and reduce the keyboard width by 2.5 inches. And will somebody relabel the *$%&@## so-called "Print Screen" key, or include code in the OS so it actually prints the !@#$@!# screen? I'm so tired of trying to explain to users that it doesn't actually print the screen. "Well, that's what it says!" "Yes, but it doesn't. It copies the screen to the buffer, then you have to paste ... " It's a PC keyboard now, not the keyboard on a IBM terminal any more. Will the hardware manufacturers please get that through their heads? Ditch the three keys in the upper right. Move Insert, Home, etc. up and to the end of the row with the function keys. (Do we really need 12 F-keys? How many apps use more than six?) Shift the keypad to the left under the relocated six-pack.

Aled
Aled

I have some users who insist on using Caps lock in data entry into databases (or is that databasii?). While I can accept their needs, it's very annoying when on the rare occasion I need to VNC their machines, and I can't log on, and then realise that my keyboard is presenting as Caps Lock on, and I need to invert it by pressing the Caps Lock key. Ah well, I guess I just need to invest in a memory improvement program!