Hardware

Disable the Insert key to prevent accidental overtyping in Word

Have you ever been typing away in a document only to have your existing text get gobbled up by the new text you're entering? You've inadvertently toggled on overtype mode -- a common and vexing occurrence. Here's how to prevent it once and for all.

Life is full of little annoyances, and sometimes we just have to grin and bear it. But that doesn't mean we have to put up with these little annoyances from our computer applications. For example, Word 2003 has a pesky habit of flipping to overtype mode when we're not looking. This is caused by an inadvertent touch of the Insert key on our keyboards. The functionality is a holdover from the mainframe/terminal era of computing and is not really necessary for personal computers.

To put an end to this aggravation, we're going to look at two ways to turn off the Insert key functionality in Word.  (Don't worry: If you sometimes need to toggle overtype mode on and off, you'll still be able to double-click OVR in the status bar at the bottom the Word window.)

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

Turn it off

The first technique for turning off the Insert key overtype function comes from the Web site annoyances.org. This method uses a Word macro to circumvent the normal operation of the Insert key, which is a little heavy-handed, but it definitely works. Start by going to Tools | Macros | Record New Macro to open the dialog box shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Change the name of the new macro to something like DoesNothing and then click the Keyboard button. Click 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 recording the macro.

Figure B

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 any Word toolbar and choose Customize to open the dialog box shown in Figure C.

Figure C

Click on the Commands tab and then click the Keyboard button to open the Customize Keyboard dialog box (Figure D).

Figure D

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: An inadvertent toggle of the overtype mode is impossible because there is no keyboard shortcut anymore.

If you want to retain the keyboard functionality but make it less likely that you'll accidentally toggle it on, you can assign an alternate shortcut, such as Ctrl + Shift + Insert. Instead of clicking Remove, just enter the desired shortcut and click Assign.

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.

26 comments
ramracer
ramracer

something that I learned years ago.

pikaaaaaaaaaa
pikaaaaaaaaaa

What I did was swap the mappings for the Insert key and Print Screen in the registry so that whole locus of useless keys (Ins/SysRq/Scr Lk/Pause/Break) can just rot along with Backtick/Tilde, Caps Lock, Context Menu, and those other weird keys that are "fully customizable" and open junk like Outlook or something.

modemman11
modemman11

What a dumb article. I have NEVER accidentally hit that insert key and not noticed it. When I do press it I instantly notice it within 1 or 2 words and turn it off. Big freaking whoop, turn OVR off and type it back in. Takes all of what, 15 seconds to type 2 words? If you seriously accidentially press the insert key frequently, you must have a modified keyboard that puts the insert key next to the letter G or something and stare at the keyboard while typing.

budi143
budi143

something intresting. but until now there are no complaint by staff on my office about this matter. however it was good. thanks

smokiebear412
smokiebear412

I have setup my word and it works beautifully. Changed to Ctrl+Shift+Insert.

DKeith45
DKeith45

I'd love to be able to disable the insert key, and others for that matter. I hate keyboard shortcuts... they annoy the hell out of me. The problem with your guide, is you don't say where to find the "insert key" on a keyboard. Please help this dummy out and dummyproof your guild a bit further. Where is the insert key?

rainbowjet
rainbowjet

Yeah, it's very annoying even if there's OVR to click (and unclick) everytime. Very helpful tip.

LGFN
LGFN

I have 2007, but as far as I remember you can change this setting in 2003: In the Options dialog you can disable the Insert annoyance by checking to PASTE when hitting the Insert key.

rhuston
rhuston

Oh YEAH, baby! I like it.

Level
Level

I have been known to permanently pop troublesome keys off from the keyboard -- a hardware solution that applies to all applications, not just Word. What good are the Insert and Scroll Lock keys, anyway? Thanks for the shortcut idea, it is a worthwhile idea and a good article.

petremure
petremure

Changing the keyboard shortcut associated with the Insert key is the best solution (I changed mine to Shift+Ins and never looked back). Peter.

hulyalkar
hulyalkar

Word has built-in "Insert" text by default. If one want to disbale it for specific reason you can control it via Status Bar by clicking on INS button (pre O7K version) and clear Insert or Overtype button in O7K If one is bent to have it as default I think this should be possible by saving it as "Normal" template.

zaqaz111
zaqaz111

On the contrary, this is a very common and particularly annoying problem, especially on newer laptops. The severity of your cluelessness baffles me. Good luck if you ever need help across the street some day.

franharry2
franharry2

You're kidding right? Do you want to know where the delete button is on your keyboard as well?

Marshwiggle
Marshwiggle

... than accidentaly overtyping, especially if you've a lot of text, or some other item, remaining on your Clipboard that you've forgotten about. However, neither is anything that Ctrl+Z (Undo) can't easily fix.

PCF
PCF

I kind of like the universal hardware solution. :) I think my scroll lock key may go that route. :) I plan to set mine to Shift+Insert since I rarely purposefully need to toggle the mode so adding Shift is no big deal.

fonzaso
fonzaso

I've investigated this in the past because our students (K-8th) hit it by accident and befuddlement sets in; however I left it as is since I'm always teaching them keyboard shortcuts and general keyboard knowledge and they need to start learning some troubleshooting skills. I did disable sticky keys however ;-)

Marshwiggle
Marshwiggle

If this is working for you and you're happy w/ it that's great. But other readers should know that Shift+Ins is already used as a legacy DOS alternative to Ctrl+V to insert text and other items from the Clipboard, and will often work when Ctrl+V won't. I'm guessing that you lost that functionality in Word when you converted it to toggle the Insert key ... how about other apps?

Ohsolost
Ohsolost

My Insert key is nestled just above Backspace and next to Delete - so it does sometimes get hit in error If someone is talking to me I may be looking at neither the screen mor the keyboard and completely miss that I'm in overtype mode!

ejkolkman
ejkolkman

How do you accidentally hit the Insert key?

tlccomputers
tlccomputers

in the article. This will toggle the insert/overwrite function on and off, but will not disable the insert key.

tom
tom

I have 2 keyboards on my desk right now. One (Dell) has the Insert key above the Delete key. On the other keyboard (Microsoft) it shares the PrtScn/SysRq button. Who knows where other manufacturers may put it. Give him a break.

bmwer1
bmwer1

Thats thats SHIFT-0 on on the number pad on the right side!!

bradleypagliaro
bradleypagliaro

On a laptop, it might even be attached to a function key, as in SHIFT +Fn +Ins. I like the idea of changing the keyboard shortcut from Word's keyboard manager. It so happens that I need my insert key and scroll lock key to operate normally for other purposes outside of Microsoft Word. Thanks for this!

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