Insert key – why?

Or more specifically, do we really need the Insert key mapped to enabling overtype?

Most computer users (myself included) have just fallen into the practice of using backspace or delete to correct things, and indeed I could’ve used overtype to correct a few mistakes I made while typing this very sentence, but I haven’t.

The reason I ask is that the less computer-literate of our population don’t know what to do when they accidentally hit the Insert key then start typing over a document. They then go and waste the time of people like me in trying to fix it.

Also, surely there’s a good use for another spare key on the keyboard? I can think of one already – using Insert to bring up a ‘template text’ menu, or a modifier-type key, so ‘Insert + C’ or ‘Insert, C’ could insert ‘CONFIDENTIAL’. I would actually end up using something like that.


3 Responses to Insert key – why?

  1. TimC says:

    I just worked out why the horrible keyboard one of these control room computers have, is laid out the way it is. They’ve put the 6 keys vertically rather than horzontally, and remove the insert key and made the delete key twice its normal height.

    Which absolutely gaurantees I’ll hit “delete” when I don’t want to, and in an application where there is no “undo”. Fsckers.

    And now I can’t seem to buy new keyboards anymore that aren’t laid out by morons trying to imprint their own brand of moronity onto their keyboards. I had to buy my latest USB keyboard from the US, sight unseen, because I couldn’t find any regular IBM-style 104 key layouts anywhere else (and I had another order coming in from the US anyway). And it turns out that if you press ctrl-alt-shift in the “wrong” order, then X can’t recognise the combination.

    Anyway, I use “insert”. And page up and page down. And the cursor keys. And I expect them to be in the same location they have been in for the past 2 decades.

  2. Thomas K says:

    I complained about insert keys from the other side of the fence a little while ago .

    I think that a better solution than giving the key a new semantic meaning would be an X-level or Windows-level setting as to whether the insert key can function as an overwrite, perhaps by blocking insert presses to applications entirely. I’m not sure if the API is fine-grained enough that the OS can tell to what use the button press is being put.

  3. ajd says:

    TimC: while I don’t specifically agree with usage of Insert, in general, yes, keyboards that mess things around are very annoying. I’m currently typing on a laptop keyboard where Home, PgUp/Down and End are laid vertically, while Insert and Delete are placed right of the spacebar, with arrows under the shift key. Of course, that’s semi-excusable, being a notebook.

    Also, I haven’t really experienced the same sort of problems getting a 104-key, or at least one fairly close to a 104. The most common cheapo keyboards I see nowadays are 107s, with the PrtSc row moved down and the power keys in their place. I suppose even that though is a bit annoying if you’ve been used to the location of them for years.

    Thomas K: that’d be a better idea. Perhaps a few new keycodes could be added and the insert key mapped to overtype for traditionalists, and something else for another useful key.

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