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Overtype Mode

This article is a quicktip.

What is Overtype Mode?

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

Normally when one types into a document or elsewhere any letters that follow the current cursor position get pushed forward when text is entered. An example would be to add the word 'new' to following the sentence:

My sister has bought a dress

to become

My sister has bought a new dress

To accomplish this one would simply position the text cursor between 'a' and 'dress' and add the word 'new'.

However when Word's overtype mode is enabled any text that you add will write over any existing text. 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. 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.


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.


Click Close to close the Options dialog box.



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