Using Overtype and Insert Modes in Microsoft Word

Change Word settings to overtype mode

 James Marshall

Microsoft Word has two text entry modes: Insert and Overtype. These modes each describe how text behaves as it is added to a document with pre-existing text.

Insert Mode Definition

While in insert mode, new text to a document simply pushes any current text forward, to the right of the cursor, in order to accommodate the new text as it is typed or pasted in.

Insert mode is the default mode for text entry in Microsoft Word.

Overtype Mode Definition

In overtype mode, text behaves much as the name implies: As text is added to a document where there is existing text, that existing text is replaced by the newly added text as it is entered, character by character. 

Changing Type Modes

You may have reason to turn off the default insert mode in Microsoft Word so you can type over current text. There are a couple of ways to do this. 

One of the simplest ways is to set the Insert key to control insert and overtype modes. When this option is enabled, the Insert key toggles insert mode on and off.

Follow these steps to set the Insert key to control modes:

Word 2010 and 2016

  1. Click the File tab at the top of the Word menu.

  2. Click Options. This opens the Word Options window.

  3. Select Advanced from the left-hand menu.

  4. Under Editing options, check the box next to Use the Insert key to control overtype mode. (If you want to turn it off, uncheck the box).

  5. Click OK at the bottom of the Word Options window.

Word 2007

  1. Click the Microsoft Office button in the upper left corner.

  2. Click the Word Options button at the bottom of the menu.

  3. Select Advanced from the left-hand menu.

  4. Under Editing options, check the box next to Use the Insert key to control overtype mode. (If you want to turn it off, uncheck the box).


  5. Click OK at the bottom of the Word Options window.

Word 2003

In Word 2003, the Insert key is set to toggle modes by default. You may change the function of the Insert key so that it performs the paste command by following these steps:

  1. Click the Tools tab and select Options... from the menu.

  2. In the Options window, click the Edit tab.

  3. Check the box next to Use the INS key for paste (or uncheck it to return the Insert key to its default insert mode toggle function).

Adding an Overtype Button to the Toolbar

Another option is to add a button to the Word toolbar. Clicking this new button will toggle between insert and overtype mode.

Word 2007, 2010, and 2016

This will add a button to the Quick Access Toolbar, located at the very top of the Word window, where you will also find the save, undo and repeat buttons. 

  1. At the end of the Quick Access Toolbar, click the small down arrow to open the Customize Quick Access Toolbar menu.

  2. Select More Commands... from the menu. This opens the Word Options window with the Customize tab selected. If you're using Word 2010, this tab is labeled Quick Access Toolbar.

  3. In the drop-down list labeled Choose commands from:, select Commands Not in the Ribbon. A long list of commands will appear in the pane below it.

  4. Scroll down to select Overtype.

  5. Click Add >> to add the Overtype button to the Quick Access Toolbar. You may change the ordering of buttons in the toolbar by selecting an item and clicking the up or down arrow buttons to the right of the list.

  6. Click OK at the bottom of the Word Options window.

The new button will appear as the image of a circle or disc in the Quick Access Toolbar. Clicking the button toggles modes, but unfortunately, the button does not change to indicate which mode you are currently in.

Word 2003

  1. At the end of the standard toolbar, click the small down arrow to open the customization menu.

  2. Select Add or Remove Buttons. A secondary menu slides open to the right.

  3. Select Customize. This opens the Customize window.

  4. Click the Commands tab.

  5. In the Categories list, scroll down and select All Commands.

  6. In the Commands list, scroll down to Overtype.

  7. Click and drag Overtype from the list to the place in the toolbar you want to insert the new button and drop it.

  8. The new button will appear in the toolbar as Overtype.

  9. Click Close in the Customize window.

The new button will toggle between the two modes. When in overtype mode, the new button will be highlighted.