Using Overtype and Insert Modes in Microsoft Word

What's the difference? We'll explain

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Microsoft Word has two text entry modes: Insert and Overtype. These modes each describe how text behaves as it's added to a document with pre-existing text. Here's how these two modes work and how to use them.

Instructions in this article apply to Word for Office 365, Word 2019, Word 2016, Word 2013, and Word 2010.

Insert Mode Definition

While in Insert mode, the new text that is added to a document moves the current text forward, to the right of the cursor, to accommodate the new text as it's typed or pasted into the document. It's the default mode for text entry in Microsoft Word.

Overtype Mode Definition

In Overtype mode, when text is added to a document where there is existing text, the existing text is replaced by the newly added text as it's entered, character by character. 

How to Change Type Modes

If you want to turn off the default Insert mode in Microsoft Word so you can type over the current text, there are two ways to do this. The simplest way is to press the Insert key, which toggles the mode on and off. Another way is to set the Insert key to toggle Overtype mode on and off.

To change the settings for Overtype mode:

  1. Go to File > Options.

    Word with the Options button highlighted
  2. In the Word Options dialog box, choose Advanced.

    Options box in Word with the Advanced section highlighted
  3. In the Editing options section, choose one of the following:

    • To use the Insert key to control Overtype mode, select the Use Insert key to control overtype check box.
    • To permanently enable Overtype mode, select the Use overtype mode check box.
    Overtype options in Word
  4. Select OK.