INSERT key usage in Windows on a Mac

This article collects together and updates advice I have encountered on and off the web to access or map the INSERT key in Windows on a Mac (either in a Virtual Machine or via Boot Camp), which is useful when you are using assistive technologies such as screen readers.

The problem

You may want to use keystrokes in screen readers such as INSERT+F7 (in NVDA or JAWS) to bring up a list of links on the page, or INSERT+CTRL+; (in JAWS) to bring up a list of ARIA landmark regions. However:

  • Mac laptops do not have the INSERT key.
  • CAPS LOCK cannot be easily used as a replacement, due to the different (to Windows) way that Mac keyboards handle it.

If you have an Apple keyboard with numeric keypad

Then the “0” key on the numeric keypad is INSERT in Windows. Thanks to Hans Hillen for pointing this out. If you wish, you can also map other keys (such as the relatively unused F16) to INSERT, too (more details below).

If you have a Mac laptop, or non-numeric keyboard

In this case, you have three options, detailed below.

Use your Virtual Machine to map a key (or combination) to INSERT

If you are running Windows in a Virtual Machine on OS X, the VM application will most likely offer a key-mapping facility.

  • Instructions for VMWare Fusion 5
  • Instructions for Parallels Desktop 7
  • VirtualBox passes all keys except the Host Key directly to the Virtual Machine, so you would need to use a key remapping program within Windows.

Use a key remapping program within Windows

There are a number of utilities that can be used to achieve this, including the following.

Use the numpad on the Mac laptop keyboard

Mac laptops have a ‘hidden’ numeric keypad, as discussed in the WebAIM article mentioned above, though due to the extra keystrokes required to access it, this approach is not recommended.

Categories: Development

About Matthew Atkinson

Matthew is a senior accessibility engineer at TPGi, and enjoys exploring accessibility through clients and colleagues. He maintains open-source projects in the areas of web and game accessibility. Through TPGi, he's an active member of the W3C's Accessible Platform Architectures working group and its Personalization Task Force, a group that's helping the web adapt to users' needs. Matthew's background is in academia, having worked on accessibility research projects as well as teaching and presenting at conferences. When not tapping on a keyboard, he loves swimming, sci-fi, music and singing.