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 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.