Scott Hanselman

How to map an Insert Key on your Surface Pro 3 Keyboard

January 13, '15 Comments [30] Posted in Tools
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I'm very happy with my Surface Pro 3 and continue to use it happily. However, the Type Keyboard on the Surface Pro 3 lacks an Insert Key.

Surface Pro 3 Type Cover

For some this may feel like a real problem, but remember your computer (and the internet itself) is not a black box. You can remap the keys if you like. The Windows, via the registry, supports keymapping at its core. SharpKeys is a free little utility that lets you easily create the registry entries you want to remap the keys the way you'd like them.

Here's a screenshot of my registry where I've remapped Right Alt to be Insert. But who wants to edit the registry manually, right?

The Registry is scary

Here's SharpKeys, where I mapped Right Alt to Insert on my Surface Pro 3 Keyboard. Then SharpKeys writes the Scancode Map key for me. Just log in and log out to see your changes in action.

Disclaimer: You can do dumb stuff and mess yourself up if you disable a key you REALLY need. That's why I changed just Right Alt, since I still have Left Alt. HOWEVER, some apps (VMWare, etc) you use may need specific keys, and you'll want to be smart about what you map to other keys.

You can click Type Key and map left to right, or pick from the list yourself as I've done here.

Mapping Right Alt to Insert in SharpKeys for my Surface Pro 3

It works great! Hope this helps you.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Tuesday, 13 January 2015 19:17:56 UTC
Nicest post in a while. I'm also a fan of the SP3.
MichaelD!
Tuesday, 13 January 2015 20:54:27 UTC
But why would you want an insert key? To turn on Typeover mode in Word? I'm a vimmer and switch caps lock key to ctrl (so that it's even easier to hit the ctrl key when needed (two birds with one stone esc becomes capslock+[ much less invasive to typing flow than normal.
Michael Brown
Tuesday, 13 January 2015 21:15:26 UTC
I've been looking for a way to DISABLE overwrite mode on everything, but VS 2013 seems to want to turn it on all the time for no reason.

I'm not sure I actually hit Insert for anything anymore.
PRMan
Tuesday, 13 January 2015 21:19:56 UTC
Still, I did use SharpKeys for my Asus Netbook to remap Shift and up arrow, since Shift was just in the wrong place. Great tool.

But since I made my own keyboard driver (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=22339) where I can easily type characters like these with AltGr (right alt):

αβ©∂€ƒγ↑←↓→¼½¾¢àçéö«»†÷—±≈≠

this wouldn't work very well for me...
PRMan
Tuesday, 13 January 2015 21:30:44 UTC
I have literally no clue why anyone would want to use the insert key. I'm sure there are decent reasons - someone enlighten me!
However this looks super useful for getting a Print Screen button on my Surface Pro 2.
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 00:45:28 UTC
Can you get them to fix the "' key characters on a future printing? It should be either plain (non-smart) quotes or closing quotes. Not opening quotes. The symmetry with , and ; nearby is ruined!

[)amien
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 07:07:44 UTC
I was actually looking for something to disable my insert key on my work PC. Useless key.
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 07:38:25 UTC
I also found SharpKeys ideal for swapping the Option and Command keys when running Windows in Bootcamp on my Mac. Years of muscle memory means I always expect the Windows key to be between Ctrl + Alt, so I make Option = Windows Key and Command = Alt key within Windows.
Pete
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 10:13:38 UTC
I use Autohotkey to remap keys. Advantage is that you can disable within a few clicks if it turns out the remapping got in the way.
Ferry
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 10:19:06 UTC
AutoHotKey (http://www.autohotkey.com/) is a brilliant way to map all sorts of different keys and key combinations to other keys and functions. Its not just for simple key remapping, I use it to turn on a vim like edit mode whilst in any application. Example AHK file can be found here: https://gist.github.com/DamianStanger/661cb9df896c407ddc25
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 12:01:06 UTC
Regardless of which key needs to be remapped, it's really annoying to not have a key where your muscle memory is used to it being.

For this very reason, I had to ditch the very nice wireless keyboard/mouse/soundbar combo that I bought to use with a new PC build (a couple of years ag0), as it had the Insert/Home/PgUp/Delete/End/PgDn cluster in a different physical layout, and I just couldn't type on it.

I replace the keyboard with a really cheap HP keyboard, to match the one that I use at the office.

I can kind of understand the need to jiggle things slightly on a laptop, due to the limited space that is available (even though I still hate the change), but there is no excuse for messing with the layout on a desktop keyboard.
Bob Armour
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 14:44:45 UTC
I have an old Microsoft Bluetooth keyboard that has the Insert key in the PrtScr/SysRq key (I don't think they did it for subsequent keyboards) and I almost never use it. And I rarely use the Delete key either. Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V and Ctrl+X is good enough for me.

Well, until I got a Surface Pro 3 and I miss it. Probably only because it's not there.

But I've used this technique (and tool) on a laptop with a US keyboard to use it with a Portuguese layout. The US keyboard has 1 less key than the Portuguese keyboard and that key ends up being the </> key, which is chalanging if you are a developer. I ended up remaping Caps Lock into </> - we need both Alt keys.
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 16:48:00 UTC
Might have to use this to remap so I have the End key in a decent place...

How do you get on with the SP3 connected to projectors, and showing demos / virtual machines / RDP - it seems almost unusable and I haven't cracked how to fix it yet...

.. Ken
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 16:58:55 UTC
True story. I just told my coworkers about this post and about the curious anti-insert-key sub-culture we see in the comments. One of my coworkers asked me with a straight face what the Insert key does. It's the little things...
Vitoc
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 17:53:45 UTC
Maybe I'm just old school, but I use CTRL+Insert and Shift+Insert for copy/paste far more often than I use CTRL+C and CTRL+V. I've actually sat there confused for a minute thinking "How am I supposed to copy without an Insert key?" before remembering CTRL+C.

Other considerations are things like default key bindings in productivity apps. I'm a strong fan of using default hotkeys whenever possible. ALT+Insert is useful in Resharper, for example. Then there's games that map a necessary function to Insert but don't have a way to remap keys. Even with having the ability to change key bindings, having different key bindings from default, or different key bindings per machine, is annoying. I remember seeing a video where some pair programming was being done via screen sharing, and the 2nd guy had completely remapped all of the shortcuts to the point where the 1st guy couldn't drive. He spent as much time asking what the key binding was for X as actually coding.

Heck, the Surface covers have physical Home, End, PgUp, PgDn keys on the keyboard, but also mapped them to FN+Left/Right/Up/Down. Why do those keys get two slots each on the keymap but Insert doesn't get one?

(Don't get me started about those keyboards where the only change is that Delete is double height and Insert is gone.)
Neyah
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 21:18:40 UTC
Ctrl+Insert: how to copy from putty without the mouse or echoing the selection to the terminal.
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 22:35:12 UTC
Thanks for the advice, Scott.
Can anyone help in mapping the "right click" button (context menu key) - can't find the key code in the references.

Thanks,
Bill
BillI
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 22:36:39 UTC
NM all, found it. It's 0x75. :)
BillI
Thursday, 15 January 2015 15:49:19 UTC
I'm so glad I heard about this. I really like my Logitech keyboard and mouse and their unified receiver, except that most (maybe all) of Logitech's wireless keyboards are missing the context menu key to the right of the r. alt key. I use this a lot to keep off the mouse but retain the right-click context support. I'm going to be remapping my right alt to the context menu immediately. Thanks for a great tip Scott!
Friday, 16 January 2015 11:53:12 UTC
Quite sad that this software most probably won't work on my Surface 2 with Windows RT and I'll stick with registry editor..
Hope to hear that I'm wrong )
Andrey
Friday, 16 January 2015 21:57:59 UTC
I've been wondering if there was a good solution for this on my Yoga 3. Really missed that key with Resharper. Thanks!
Tuesday, 20 January 2015 06:06:49 UTC
Glad I wasn't the only one that wanted to come on here and say "why in the world would you want to ADD an insert key?" I want to literally rip that key off of every keyboard I own.
Thursday, 22 January 2015 19:19:55 UTC
It is a useful tip. Additionally, SharpKeys can also work on all other devices that use Windows and support .NET framework 4.0, not only on Surface Pro 3 with Windows 8.1. I think who would like this tool very much is PC gamers.
Tuesday, 27 January 2015 17:58:42 UTC
I can't believe the short shortsightedness of some people. I guess the same shortsightedness by Microsoft when they designed they type/touch covers.

The insert key is key (pun intended) when you are a developer AND use putty/kitty all day long and have to paste into the terminal and/or vim.
Dev
Saturday, 31 January 2015 13:09:29 UTC
To the commenters, not everyone is typing or programming. Here are two examples I know of using insert as a hotkey.

Renoise (music software) uses insert to enter different recording modes.
Maya (3d software) uses insert to modify the pivot point of geometry. (You can also use 'd' though.)

But in general this is a very useful blog post, thanks! I've never used the right alt key, so I definitely going to remap this to something.
Saturday, 31 January 2015 14:44:33 UTC
I have a surface 3 as well, but haven't bought the type cover - instead I went with Microsoft Sculpt Mobile Keyboard http://uk.pcmag.com/microsoft-sculpt-mobile-keyboard/1187/review/microsoft-sculpt-mobile-keyboard For the most part I prefer the mechanical feedback of it: it's mobile & bluetooth and feels more like a desktop keyboard.

However, the crazy designers of that keyboard decided that all the function keys would default to the stupid windows 8 volume, search, share, charms, etc shortcuts and to get at an actual F key, you have to hold Fn. With no firmware way to invert this behaviour... This is a nightmare if you live in Visual Studio. They've ruined a perfectly viable mobile dev keyboard..

I had tried autohotkeys to invert, and had to uninstall because that acts more like a macro recorder (feels like an old DOS TSR programme) and didn't always work. I was really hopeful that SharpKeys would sort this out, but it appears that it doesn't understand those windows 8 keys :-(

I'm still keeping an active eye out for a mobile, bluetooth, mechanical keyboard that would be suitable for use with Visual Studio, but I think we must be a niche market...
Wednesday, 25 February 2015 00:22:49 UTC
Insert key is essential in Microsoft Project, and other productivity tools such as mind mappers (like FreePlane, except it has the unique and incredibly useful function of being able to remap keyboard functions in an intuitive way)

Thank you for the post. Saved my bacon.
Daragh
Sunday, 15 March 2015 01:37:18 UTC
Another option instead of changing the reg is to type OSK from the command line. The On Screen Keyboard has an Insert key.
Matt
Saturday, 21 March 2015 00:29:47 UTC
Why the need for the insert key a few have mentioned?

Secure CRT uses Ctrl + insert & shift + insert as copy paste shortcuts. Also used extensively in Microsoft project for various functions.

If you'e just a basic every day user insert key probably isn't that useful but for some it's like cutting off your right arm. Just can't function without it in certain cases.
sam
Saturday, 21 March 2015 00:34:23 UTC
Actually... now that i think of it. Microsoft project a d micrisoft project have one thing in common. It's the same damn company, pretty bizar that Microsoft hasn't included an insert key on the surface keyboard given one of their own products relies on it extensively.

Another case of one part of the company not consulting with the rest of the organisation


sam
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.