Closed Bug 265233 Opened 19 years ago Closed 15 years ago

interface idea for form auto-complete and auto-restore


(Toolkit :: Form Manager, enhancement)

Not set





(Reporter: maffew, Unassigned)


(Keywords: dataloss)

User-Agent:       Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; rv:1.7.3) Gecko/20040913 Firefox/0.10.1
Build Identifier: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; rv:1.7.3) Gecko/20040913 Firefox/0.10.1


People write some lengthy and considered things into web forms. For example,
email messages, wiki entries, and bug reports. This data should almost never be

Currently data can be lost if the browser quits before the user presses submit
(e.g. user closes the wrong window, the battery goes flat, or they press
backspace with the wrong focus [bug 262905]). Data can also be lost after the
user presses submit depending on the web application. 

The workaround is to use notepad, and then paste into the browser. But why
cannot the browser make this easier and more reliable for users?

Form auto-complete helps with part of the problem. But it only seems to work on
individual fields. I believe it only registers data that has been submitted. And
I've never noticed it working on textarea fields. There are also problems with
unexpected behaviour when the user reloads a page, e.g. see bug 176287.

I suggest extending the interface to form auto-complete.

1. When ever a user types or changes more than 10 characters in a form, the form
data should be saved in the background to a persistent cache in the user's
profile. (Except https and / or forms marked autocomplete="off".)

2. When a user visits a form with the same name (*) in the future, auto-complete
should be more explicit about what it knows about the form.

* If the last time the user used the form, they never submitted the data, then a
sliding alert should appear, similar to the popup blocker notification in
firefox 1.0PR (which is excellent BTW). This alert could say:

"You have used this form before. Would you like to restore your previous entries?"

Or it might say:

"You started using this page but never submitted it. Would you like to restore a
previous entry?"

Users who click on the notifier would get the option to:

= pick from a list of previous form data, with extracts shown to give enough context

= bookmark a previous form entry (this saves the URL with the form data entered
so it can be used as a template in future: whether this works depends a bit on
the web app, so perhaps the bookmark is only visible when the relevant form is
being viewed or something)

= clear the previous form data (or a link to the privacy options)

The sliding alert could appear at the top of the page, or within a textarea that
a user had been typing away in before their cat leapt on the keyboard or a
family member used their browser window to check the weather.

The auto-complete could also be explicitly triggered using a new entry in the
context menu for expert users.


* no dialogs!

* alerts users to a potentially useful feature

* makes it easy for people to find that lost email essay they had almost sent

* with roaming profiles, it would even work after switching machines.... e.g.
you could save a draft using this feature and pick it up on another machine later


* maybe this sort of thing should be handled by web apps (although the web app
never sees the data until you press submit)

* privacy risks (but I think the notification and privacy management options
should cover it)

* security risks (up to form writers to label sensitive fields with

* I haven't studied how auto-complete works in firefox 1.0PR in detail

(*) Form writers might be encouraged to label their forms using meta-data to
help the browser identify the same form even after slight changes.

Thanks for your work on firefox, it's software the way it should be,

Reproducible: Always
Steps to Reproduce:
Cross linking with bug 219203, and adding dataloss keyword.
Keywords: dataloss
asa's blog has an interesting discussion of this topic:
I was going to submit a separate bug, but this one pretty much covers what I was
going to submit.

Here's a blog entry where I discussed the issue:
Assignee: bugs → nobody
Product: Firefox → Toolkit
WFM -- Session Restore will save and restore form data in these cases.
Closed: 15 years ago
Resolution: --- → WORKSFORME
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