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How to Use the Insert Key

Sunday, July 24th, 2011 by | Filed Under: MS Office Help, MS Word, Uncategorized

Barbara from Florida asks:

Okay, you told me where to find the Insert key, but what is it used for?

Ah, the Insert key. Some people hate it, others just dislike it. So, all things considered, maybe you are better off living in blissful ignorance!

Essentially, it only has a couple of functions, neither of which are all that important in the grand scheme of things, but if you are a die-hard word processing enthusiast, you may want to know, so here’s what it can do:

In text applications like Microsoft Word, the Insert key toggles the overtype mode on and off. When it is on, you can type over the top of text you have already typed. When the overtype mode is off, typing in front of words simply pushes them further to the right of your screen. Some people like overtype for filling in forms with lines where answers are required.

Sounds sensible, right? Well it was until people started pressing it by accident and staring incredulously at the ruinous effect it had on their Word documents. It was annoying. In fact, it was so annoying that in 2007 Microsoft disabled it by default in Microsoft Word.

If you want to activate it in Word 2010, open Word then click File > Options > Advanced, and find the Editing Options. Here you can choose to check or uncheck the boxes that enable the use of the Insert key to activate the overtype mode in Word.

Editing Options for Insert Key

Alternatively, you can right-click on the status bar at the bottom of the screen and select Overtype. Now you can press the Insert key to toggle it on and off.

However, there is another use for the Insert key in later versions of Word. It can be used to paste copied text and objects. Let’s say the ‘V’ key on your keyboard has met an untimely death and you can no longer use the Ctrl+V keyboard shortcut to paste text and objects in a Word document. Well, Shift+Insert will do the job too.

You can even take this a step further, because if there is one thing I hate about keyboard shortcuts, it’s that there are just too many keys to press. I mean, Shift and Insert? That’s two whole keys! Thankfully, Microsoft has my back.

Go back to the same advanced options screen in Word by clicking File > Options > Advanced and scroll down to the Cut, Copy and Paste menu. Here you will find an option to use the Insert key by itself to paste text and objects!

Paste with Insert Key

So, love it or hate it, the Insert key is here to stay for a while yet and it does serve some purpose, even if it is not a very exciting one.

~Jonathan Wylie


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3 Responses to “How to Use the Insert Key”

  1. Joanne McDonald says:

    I for one appreciate the insert key. It is so handy especially when you have to go back over something and retype it. So many people are so acustomed to holding down the backspace key to remove text first and THEN type what they want to replace it with. They could simply put the mouse at the beginning of what needs to be replaced, hit insert and away you go – your text is replaced. Of course they could use shortcut keys to block the text to be replaced and delete it which is quicker than holding the backspace key – but that requires too may dexterity. Also, when you need to go back and just replace one letter or capitalize it, its so easy just to hit insert and type-over the character you want to replace. Maybe they should rename the key typeover (actually I think that’s what used to be shown on the screen when you hit insert so you knew you were in ‘type-over’ mode).

    Thanks for the tip on inserting copied text or images – I didn’t know that one.

  2. Reb says:

    My puter has a nasty habit of reverting to Typeover all by itself all too frequently. I have to hit Insert in order to change back. I would be totally lost without it.


  3. Hope Marcellin says:

    Though I am not a stranger to its use, but utilizing it to paste/insert copied texts or objects is new to me. Thank you for the enlightenment. I now know better, especially as it relates to later versions of Word such as in Office 2013 that I now use.

    You must be a good teacher/instructor.

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