Map some other function to the insert key

Eric Dunbar eric.dunbar at
Tue Apr 19 22:31:56 CDT 2005

On 4/19/05, Carl Karsten <carl at> wrote:
> Eric Dunbar wrote:
> >>But why to change behaviour that is widely known?
> > It's NOT (since 1980)! That's the point of this discussion.
> Got suport for " over-write mode isn't widely known?"  (which I think is
> what your "It" refers to.)

Yes, I did mean "over write mode is not widely known [ANYMORE]".

Anymore is the key in this whole discussion. Thirty years ago (and I
mean 30, not 20!) this would've been a pointless discussion since the
over-write mode served a crucial function in pre-word processor days.
Twenty years ago Apple already proved beyond a reasonable doubt that
insert was a redundant key. Twenty years later Microsloth proves,
still also beyond a reasonable doubt that it is a soft [in the head]
sloth when it comes to adopting good UI design (DOS was old when MS
bought it and now Windows still hangs on to old ways of doing
things... though, they've "borrowed" enough from Apple (without
bothering to *improve*... that's the whole point of building on prior
work, to improve it... Apple took Xerox's ideas and made them work,
Microsoft took Apple's ideas and broke them (at least in everything
before 2000)) to make Windows half-decent).

> I will admit I havn't used the over-write mode we are discussing in
> quite a while, but I sure remember it being a part of what I know.  But
> just because a few 100 people here on this list might have somethig to
> say about it, I don't thin that is enough to really know how it will
> impact the "average Ubuntu user."  This list is not a random sampeling -
> we generally have something in common that I think would also skew our
> view of what the Insert key should do.

"a few 100 people ... might have something to say"

That's what strikes me about this conversation. Perhaps it's GUI
design (or wishful thinking) by committee (albeit an ad hoc one), but
it shows FLOSS in action, and, specifically Ubuntu's version of FLOSS
development. The user ACTUALLY HAS A SAY in things. There's no
guarantee that the powers that be will listen, but I think there is a
VERY strong argument to be made for either disabling Insert or
co-opting it to do something else like "paste" (IIRC that's what many
Mac OS apps use Insert for) -- now they've seen some thoughts (and, I
must say I've been very impressed by the quality of discourse... much
higher than the "high quality" postings I see at /.).

> Ever notice that a telephone keypad is an upside down 10-key?  (10-key =
> the number pad layout, and adding machines.)  Pretty sure that decision
> was made in a vacume - something like some guy in an office thought
> "People read top to bottem, so lets put the 1 at the top."  Because of
> that, I misdial numbers now and then because it touch type like I am a
> checker at the food store.

Keyboard layout came after the phone layout (or did it?). Fortunately
there's NO ambiguity in numbers. A 1 is a 1 is a 1 and it doesn't
matter WHERE you find it on a keypad. Even illiterates can often at
least recognise numbers (even if they can't count).

> Has anyone mentioned the Typewriter?  I wonder if over-write was moddeld
> that device?

Over-write was necessary in the early days because line lengths were
fixed and there was little/no provision to allow text to flow on to
the next line. Think about how you're writing this e-mail (to those of
you advocating the retention of Insert/Overwrite) -- did any of you
use overwrite to write this e-mail (other than to prove a point ;-).
It's an un-natural way of writing now that we have the "luxury" of
mice and arrow keys+shift to select and delete text. The "word
processor" (insert mode) has been a revolution in the way we write --
with pen and paper we *wished* we could insert /delete words rather
than use an eraser (rubber in England)/whiteout (tipex).

One last thing from a different e-mail:

On 4/19/05, George Farris <george at> wrote:
> Come on people you are proposing changing something that has been
> standard in the computer industry for decades.  Don't even go there.
> Every computer I've ever worked on since 1979 has has a caps lock key
> and it has always functioned the same way.  Insert is more or less the
> same thing.  Plus the fact that all manor of training manuals and
> School/College/University courses teach basics of these keys.  You can
> really be serious about changing that.

"Just because that's the way it's always been" is a bad reason for
anything. If we bought that argument we'd all be running DOS 2.0 on a
640 KB 8086 or Apple DOS on a 6802 and paying Billy Gates and Stevie
Jobs consultants fees every time we wanted to change printers. OR, if
it had been IBM's game, we'd only have five main-frames running the
world (that's all the world could ever need, eh?).

Seriously though, it's time that the Insert key go the way of the
do-do bird. Think of how annoying Clippy is when you're using an MS
Office app. Insert key may not be as intrusive, but it is just as
destructive to productivity or stress levels.

Anyway, I'm sure the developers have a sense of where the debate is at
(or they may have simply created a filter if header contains "Insert"
classify mail as label "trash" ;-).


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