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How many times have you started filling in a form on a web page, then either closed the browser window or logged out, having never hit the “submit” button ? You might not notice until you realize that something didn't happen – you didn't update your journal, you didn't place an order. With tabbed browsers like those from Mozilla, and Safari, I would wager that simply forgetting about incompleted forms happens more often – out of sight, out of mind.

Back in the pre-web days, GUI application users didn't have to worry about this because the user interface guidelines made it a priority to prevent the loss of unsaved data, and programmers could rely on frameworks that enforced these guidelines. If they didn't follow the guidelines, the users howled. In contrast, anything goes – any look, any behavior – on web pages. And historically, trying to fix this behavior with Javascript has been bedeviled by competing standards for scripting web pages.

What you really want to do is have a simple of way of declaring a form, if changed (or not if not committed at all, even if unchanged), as important to save. When the form was going to go away without a “submit,” the browser could warn the user. This would be a lot easier than keeping track of all the parts of a form, remembering if their parts were touched by the user, then putting up a dialog in JavaScript (maybe on some event handler).

Now if I can only parlay this idea into a multi-million-dollar company.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(no subject) - all_askew - Apr. 6th, 2004 03:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
ex_snej373
Apr. 6th, 2004 03:40 pm (UTC)
Nice idea. I forwarded it to the relevant Safari engineer asking if they've thought of doing anything like that.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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