Microsoft Word Overtype Mode

Microsoft Word has a feature called ‘overtype’ which annoys many of the users that I meet through my assistive technology assessments and training sessions.

Normally when you type into a document any letters that are in front of the current cursor position get pushed forward as you start typing. An example would be to add the word ‘new’ to this sentence:

My sister has bought a dress

to become

My sister has bought a new dress

To accomplish this you would simply position the text cursor between ‘a’ and ‘dress’ and add the word ‘new’.

However, when Microsoft Word’s overtype mode is enabled any text that you add will write over any existing text that sits in front of it. So the previous sentence would become:

My sister has bought a news

Why does it happen?

Overtype mode is particularly irksome as it is very easy to inadvertently turn it on and off. In Microsoft Word this is accomplished by pressing, often accidentally, the INS (Insert) key. This key is very close to the backspace key on a standard keyboard. The current status of the Overtype mode is indicated by the letters OVR on Word’s Status Bar.

Word Status Bar

Overtype mode is off. Typing will work as expected.

Word Status Bar

Overtype mode is on. Typing will overwrite existing text.

How can I stop it?

It’s easy enough to turn the Overtype Mode on and off using the OVR key but it can still be very frustrating for people, particularly when they often press the INS key accidentally. Here’s how to disable the INS keyboard shortcut for overtype, thus removing the problem:

Tools Menu Screenshot

In Microsoft Word, select Customize from the Tools menu. [ALT , T , C]

Customize Dialog Screenshot

Click on the Keyboard button. [ALT + K]

Customize Keyboard Dialog Screenshot

Scroll down the Categories list and select All Commands [ALT + C , A]

Customize Keyboard Dialog Screenshot

Now scroll down the Commands list and select Overtype. You can jump to this more quickly by clicking on any entry and pressing the ‘P’ key. [ALT + O, P , Up Arrow]

Customize Keyboard Screenshot

The default shortcut key for enabling Overtype mode is the INSERT key. You should be able to see this assignment. You should see this in the Current Keys list. To remove the shortcut simply click on it and press the Remove button. [ALT + U, Down Arrow, Alt + R]

 Click Close to close the Customize Keyboard dialog. [Esc]

Click Close to close the Options dialog box. [Esc]


This article is one of the Better Living Through Technology quicktips.

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