Marshall Adult Education




TECH TIP:  Keys on the Keyboard – Part 1

Insert - Numbers Lock - Scroll -  Do you know what all those keys on the keyboard are used for?  This Tech Tip will tell you about these three keys (albeit, not very useful ones) that you’ve been looking at for years and what they are used for. 


The Insert Key

In Microsoft Word (or Excel), when you press the Insert Key, it puts the keyboard in overstrike mode.  That means that as you type, it will overstrike (or type over) any characters to the right.  In Insert mode, it inserts any letters you type – it does not overstrike or replace letters to the right, but pushes them over as you type.


The Insert Key is a “toggle key” which means that each time you press the key, it switches between overstrike and insert mode.  Try this – open Microsoft Word.  Then press the Insert Key while looking at the bottom of the screen.  You will see the letters “OVR” become bold.  Press it again, and you will see the “OVR” become dim


Sometimes you might accidentally press the Insert Key and then you notice that you are typing over (overstriking) the text that you previously type.  Wow – what a pain.  Well, you can buy an “Insert Key Safety Cover” to help prevent that from happening.   (NO YOU CAN’T – I’m just kidding – there is no such thing).  The truth of the matter is, I don’t know who invented the Insert Key – but it is one of the dumbest keys on the keyboard.  Does anyone ever use it?  I certainly don’t!


The Numbers Lock Key (Num Lk)

This key does just what it says – it locks the numbers in the numeric keypad.  The numeric keypad is the set of keys on the right side of the keyboard.  It’s the keys that have all the numbers on them.  (I suppose you figured that out).  Laptops don’t have numeric keypads – what a shame!  Those number keys on the numeric keypad can also be used as “function keys” – like Arrow Keys, Page Up and Page Down Keys, Home and End keys, etc. 


The Num Lk key is also a toggle key.  When you press it once, the numbers are activated.  When you press it again, the function keys are activated.  On a full sized keyboard with a numeric keypad, there is not much use for the Num Lk key because all those function keys are duplicated on the keyboard in other locations.  And – no – there is no Num Lk Safety Cover.


But here is something you can do.  You can set your computer to make a sound (beep) when you press this key.  Go to Start, point to Settings, point to Control Panels, then Click on Accessibility Options.  Click on the Keyboard Tab.  In the Toggle Keys section, click on the little box next to Toggle Keys.  This will activate a sound each time you press the Num Lk Key – as well as the other toggle keys – the Caps Lock key and the Scroll Lock key.  So even though the Num Lk key is also a dumb idea, at least you can set your computer to beep when you accidentally press it – that’s nice.


The Scroll Lock Key (Scroll Lk)

The Scroll Lock key has been around since the flood - well maybe not that early.  But it was on the earliest IBM keyboards – and it had a good purpose.  It would scroll through a document.  Well, there is not much use for it anymore because we have arrow keys that do the same thing.  And we have a scroll wheel on the mouse that does the same thing.   


There are some programs that actually use the Scroll Lk key.  Well – actually there’s only one that I know of. Microsoft Excel makes use of this key.  With the Scroll Lk key activated, you can press the arrow keys and the spreadsheet document will immediately start to scroll – without moving the pointer from the active cell.  So the active cell remains active when you scroll with the arrow keys. 


The Scroll Lk key has an LED indicator – a little light that turns on when you press it.  What a great idea – a little visual reminder to tell you that you just pressed a useless key on the keyboard.  Well, this is another key that could easily be dropped from the keyboard, but it is nice to know what it is for even if you will never use it.


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