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January 12, 2015

Insert or Overtype?

Filed under: Main — Tags: — admin @ 12:01 am

The word processor wars are over. I’m not talking about the battles between WordStar, WordPerfect, and Microsoft Word. I’m talking before then, back in the days in a huge battle was fought over an issue that’s no longer an issue: the old insert/overstrike debate.

Whether to insert or overstrike, that was the question. It’s still a feature, in fact, although one few users know about. It deals with how new text appears in a document.

In insert mode, new text is inserted. Any existing text is pushed off to the right or down the page. This is how all word processors work today.

In overtype mode, new text replaces existing text. Old text is gobbled up, vacuumed into the ether.

Because people used both methods, all early word processors offered an Insert/Overstrike command. Some word processors started in Overstrike mode, others in Insert mode. You could issue a command (usually just press the Insert key) to switch between modes.

Over time, the Insert mode proved the favorite. I haven’t seen any word process or text editor start in Overtype mode in over 20 years. In fact, the command to switch modes is either buried or nonexistent in a modern word processor.

If you desire, you can activate Overtype mode in Microsoft Word:

  1. Click the File tab in Word 2010 or Word 2013.
  2. Choose Options to display the Word Options window.
  3. Click the Advanced item on the left side of the Word Options window.
  4. Place a checkmark by the setting Use the Insert Key to Control Overtype Mode.
  5. If you prefer overtype mode, also place a checkmark by the item Use Overtype Mode.
  6. Click the OK button.

To better determine whether you’re in Insert or Overtype mode, right-click the Status Bar (at the bottom of the window). Choose the Overtype command. Once active, you can click on the text INSERT or OVERTYPE on the Status Bar to switch modes.

Try it! My guess, however, is that you’ll detest Overtype mode.

Today’s crop of word processing typists aren’t used to new text replacing old text. In fact, I’m certain Microsoft retains the Overtype feature for compatibility with antique users who prefer it. I know that number is small because I banished the Insert/Overtype information to a teensy paragraph in the back of my Word For Dummies books years ago and no one has complained!

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