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July 11, 2006

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One small step for Microsoft Office, one giant leap for usability [Read More]

Comments

Rhomboid

To be honest when I read this I thought that this was the standard behavior of all windows apps. I had to test it in a few, and to my surprise it's not. I remember this "Overtype" mode so fondly from the ancient MSDOS days that I assumed it still existed everywhere.

It does still exist in my text editor (UltraEdit) which is the only place I can ever conceive of needing it, so I suppose that this explains why I assumed it still existed in Windows. UltraEdit is nice enough to turn the cursor into a block-shape when you are in Overstrike mode, so that at least you visually have something more than just OVR in a status bar. And to be honest I do use this every now and then when programming, often in conjunction with the column mode.

However I certainly agree that it's an anachronism in Word and needs to die there, or at least be configured off by default.

Fontti-intoilija

That's great news. I wonder if they would do it to caps lock too. (actually I can't try if they have done it already as I've disabled my caps lock myself)

Karl G

I use replace mode/overtype regularly in vim, mostly for changing numbers, but I've never used it outside programming.

dumbfounder

that is funny. First thing I do with a new keyboard is just remove the insert key altogether! If I ever need to actually use it (which is pretty much never) I just jam a pen in there.

Stu

Whats wrong with caps lock!?
Is there a preferred way to enter more than a single character in caps?
Holding down shift becomes annoying if you want to type a word or two in caps, especially as it means you have to type one-handed.
And if you think that typing in caps is too rare to need a key, you obviously dont user IM or email very often.

Andrei Popov

I'll have to agree with Rhomboid -- overtype/overstrike mode is not *entirely* useless. Any programmer would confirm that very now and then it is extremly useful, especially if one needs to deal with console-based programs. Having an option to turn it off in Word is good, and I'll second the OP that it did not have to take this long. I'd only guess that it has traveled miles from old DOS-based MS Word...

Fontti-intoillija

Stu: Firstly, as insert key caps lock is usually located to such a place it is very easy to trigger it unintentionally. Secondly, there are actually very very few occasions one needs to write all caps.

Writing a word in all caps once a day (or so) using the shift is less of a burden than having unintentional caps words because of the key placement. If a user has a need for writing all caps (some kind of programming for example) the user should use an editor that eases or perhaps automatizes changing of the letter size, the right solution is not to put a caps lock (at least in that kind of place) on all users' keyboards.

To be fair, after announcing my war to the caps lock key I must remind that the print scrn, break, scroll lock and num lock keys should not feel like they've off the hook. I'm after them next!

Lyn

I really enjoyed your comments on the Overtype mode. It's a subject I've not thought about in such depth before. (Height?)Please check your email. Thanks.

John Man

I just overtype mode occasionally in Word when, for example, converting something pasted from upper case to lower case. It's quick to just type in the new word and with overtype mode on, quick to spot any mistakes.

Centaur

@John Man: converting case in Word is better done via the Format | Change Case command, and even better through the Shift+F3 shortcut (cycles lower/Title/UPPER case). To render originally lower case as capitals, it is better still to add the All Caps setting to the relevant paragraph or character style.

John Topley

John,

You can toggle the case of something in Word by selecting it then pressing Shift + F3. It goes from lowercase, to Sentence Case to UPPERCASE.

Michael Zuschlag

I just did a quick comparison, and I find I’m 20% faster and 40% more accurate if I replace a 4-character string by highlighting the text with a mouse and typing rather than using Overtype mode. Using the mouse means leaving the home keys once, while toggling in and out of Overtype mode means leaving them twice, contributing to the difference in my performance. Regular users of Overtype mode (I’m not) maybe can match their performance with a mouse, but when you include the time cost from *accidentally* hitting the Insert key, I suspect even those users are better off without it. Rah-hoo for Office 2007.

Caps Lock is more useful. For one thing, sometimes you JUST HAVE TO SHOUT and not all apps have Word’s Shift+F3. The solution for Caps Lock is to make this key a true toggling key, like they were on mechanical typewriters. It should feel different when you press it, and visually remain depressed until you hit it again. On today’ keyboards, the only indication of its mode character is an LED clear on the other side of the keyboard --not much better than Insert key’s lack of any indication.

Joe

Ummm... Overtype mode *is* good for filling out forms which are (foolishly) created with underline characters or spaces. Without overtype mode, the spaces get line-wrapped and the text alignment goes haywire.

Now, are there better ways to make forms in Word? Sure. But even with the new UI they aren't what a novice Word user will create, and therefore not what most of us will see.

Rhomboid

File me under the category of people that hates Caps-Lock too. I use one of those .reg files that remaps that key to be ALT so that I will never again have to bother with that useless feature.

If I want to type something in all-caps I just hold down shift with my pinky. It barely affects typing speed at all. You must not be a touch typist if you can't easily type holding shift at the same time. For more than a word or two I just use my editor's case-folding features that can convert any highlighted text.

BTW, I would go insane without the INS key. I use shift-INS as the Paste shortcut all the time. Sometimes it just feels quicker than ctrl-v, especially in those cases where my right hand is already leaving the home row to grab the mouse.

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Antoinette M.

I use overtype mode ALL the time, and I opted to turn it back on immediately. Having to remove my hands from the keyboard slows me down, period. With overtype mode, my hands never leave the keyboard. Besides, I am not such a great mouser on my laptop, so overtype is infinitely faster than having to select a passage and retype it.

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@Antoinette M

Try holding down control-left or control right to select stuff without having to use the mouse. control-shift-left/right to select whole words. Much better than overtype.

mj

When I started reading this I thought it was a joke. Just because it doesn't work for you doesn't mean it doesn't work for anyone else.

My job requires me to constantly be writing over old reports and nothing works better than the insert key/overtype feature.

I find it very hard to believe the person who said they timed themselves that it is faster to use the mouse over keeping your hands on the keyboard.

stella

I use overtype mode everyday (constantly taking old documents and updating them with new information) so it was frustrating when Microsoft made it inaccessible from just the keyboard INS key. It would have been helpful if you had explained where to manually turn it on, instead of just showing the screenshot, but I will go to Help and figure it out.

Thanks!

Gar

Overtype mode is incredibly useful. I use it daily.

Jim

At least Word 2003 and older indicate when you are in over-type mode, in the status bar, does Word 2007 have any equivalent?

linnea

Count me in as a frequent user of Overtype.

Stephen

Overtype (now I know it has a name) is one of the many many useful features which I used to like in previous Word versions and now being taken away by default.

I know MS wants to improve on UI, but when things that used to work one way is being altered to an unrecognizable one, all it ends up with is user frustrations. I don't recall how many times this is now that I try to google how to turn these features back on, and now landing on this article praising how well Word 2007 is designed.

I must admit that i'm a programmer and i really rely on Insert key for fast editing on some of the repetitive text when editing technical documentations.

Anyways, thanks for the info.

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