How to Recover Lost Text Typed in Online Forms in Your Web Browser

Updated on October 31, 2014

Your family is ready for dinner as you race to finish a blog entry, typing like mad as thoughts flow to a witty conclusion after several hours of writing and research.

Suddenly, the wrong combination of keys sends your browser back to the "Write an Entry" page ... you click the "Stop" button but it's too late. The "Forward" button reveals nothing but a blank white text box.

You want to scream, but instead, you take it out on the roast beef and mashed potatoes. Burdened with the need to rewrite an entire article, and absolutely unmotivated to do so, you slink back to the computer, take a deep breath, and start again.

Writing for the web can give you a surprise at any turn. Hours of effort can be lost in an instant. However, with data recovery software, you can make your computer temporarily recall everything that you have typed in web forms. Although 99% of the time you won't need it, this software can make tomorrow's pre-dinner writing time completely stress-free.

Text Data Recovery Software Can Restore Lost Text

With a few moments of setup work, you can prevent the surprise of losing information you have typed into web forms, including blog entries, articles, and survey answers.

The data recovery software discussed in this article is Lazarus, a free extension for the popular Mozilla Firefox web browser.

Firefox is worth trying, for the chance to use Lazarus and for many other reasons; to try Firefox, get it here. If you already have Firefox, and want Lazarus, go to the Lazarus download page and then follow the instructions in the slideshow below to install it on your computer. Or if you want more information before deciding, please keep reading.

Lazarus is available for the Google Chrome browser as well. The Chrome version is less powerful, but can at least save and restore text typed into large fields like blog and forum posts.

Installing the Lazarus Text Recovery Software

Click thumbnail to view full-size
To get Lazarus, go to addons.mozilla.org and search Lazarus, or simply do a Google search for "lazarus form recovery." Click the "Add to Firefox” button to install Lazarus.You will be required to wait a few seconds before installing. Once the waiting period has passed, click Install Now.After the installation process, you will be asked to restart Firefox. Be sure that you have saved any work ... Lazarus is not protecting your form data yet.
To get Lazarus, go to addons.mozilla.org and search Lazarus, or simply do a Google search for "lazarus form recovery." Click the "Add to Firefox” button to install Lazarus.
To get Lazarus, go to addons.mozilla.org and search Lazarus, or simply do a Google search for "lazarus form recovery." Click the "Add to Firefox” button to install Lazarus.
You will be required to wait a few seconds before installing. Once the waiting period has passed, click Install Now.
You will be required to wait a few seconds before installing. Once the waiting period has passed, click Install Now.
After the installation process, you will be asked to restart Firefox. Be sure that you have saved any work ... Lazarus is not protecting your form data yet.
After the installation process, you will be asked to restart Firefox. Be sure that you have saved any work ... Lazarus is not protecting your form data yet.

How Does Lazarus Recover Lost Text That I Typed Online?

The Lazarus browser extension maintains a database of the text that you type in web forms, the options that you select from dropdown menus, and the choices you make for checkboxes and other web form elements. It then allows you to restore any field, or even the entire form, to a previous state.

The next time your web browser loses all the information you just typed into a form, you can simply go back to the empty form, right-click on it somewhere, and Lazarus will give you the option to restore everything! It even works with revisions, so if you submit a change to your article but accidentally delete part of it, you can restore the older version, copy the missing section, and add it to the new revision.

Lazarus allows you to recover web forms by right-clicking and selecting either Recover Text for a particular form field, or Recover Form to reload the user's selections for all fields in the form. The recovery list will include old revisions of text.
Lazarus allows you to recover web forms by right-clicking and selecting either Recover Text for a particular form field, or Recover Form to reload the user's selections for all fields in the form. The recovery list will include old revisions of text.

What About Confidential Information in Forms?

With the exception of passwords, Lazarus will store confidential information, and that information could be accessed by other people who use your computer. If this does not raise concerns for you, perhaps it should.

Fortunately, Lazarus offers a variety of security features that allow you to secure the data that you type online.

Saved data expires

Since the restore feature is meant to only be used immediately after you realize that form data has been lost, the information is automatically removed after 24 hours. In the instructions below, you will see an option to increase or decrease this time period. If many people use your computer it may be best to reduce the time period to one hour.

You can also manually delete the information stored by Lazarus, either by deleting the entire database, or by deleting select entries. For more information, go to the slideshow below, "Seeing Lazarus Data in More Detail."

Saved data is encrypted

The information that you type into forms is stored in a database on your computer, but not as-is, in plain text. It is modified first into an encrypted form that cannot be read by a human unless it is properly decrypted. This provides a level of security that will prevent the Lazarus database from showing up in text searches on your computer.

The data stored on your computer is encrypted to ensure that it is secure and not human readable.
The data stored on your computer is encrypted to ensure that it is secure and not human readable.

Saved data can be password-protected

The simplest way to ensure that other users of your computer do not restore forms that may be considered confidential is to require a password for retrieving data. No password is needed to save form information, so the holder of the password will be able to view form history from all computer users (unless the users have separate user accounts on the computer).

The following screenshots will guide you through the simple password protection process.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
To access the Lazarus program settings, open Firefox and go to the Tools menu, then select Add-Ons. Find the extension called Lazarus: Form Recovery, then click the Preferences button.The Lazarus data recovery security settings allow you to control which data is saved, how long it is saved, and who can access it. By adding a password you can ensure that other users of your computer do not read your saved forms.After clicking "Require a password to restore forms" Lazarus will prompt you for a password. This password will be required only once per browser session, so even with a password you should close your browser if privacy is a concern.You can change or restore the password at any time. Of course, someone who does not know the password cannot reset or change it.
To access the Lazarus program settings, open Firefox and go to the Tools menu, then select Add-Ons. Find the extension called Lazarus: Form Recovery, then click the Preferences button.
To access the Lazarus program settings, open Firefox and go to the Tools menu, then select Add-Ons. Find the extension called Lazarus: Form Recovery, then click the Preferences button.
The Lazarus data recovery security settings allow you to control which data is saved, how long it is saved, and who can access it. By adding a password you can ensure that other users of your computer do not read your saved forms.
The Lazarus data recovery security settings allow you to control which data is saved, how long it is saved, and who can access it. By adding a password you can ensure that other users of your computer do not read your saved forms.
After clicking "Require a password to restore forms" Lazarus will prompt you for a password. This password will be required only once per browser session, so even with a password you should close your browser if privacy is a concern.
After clicking "Require a password to restore forms" Lazarus will prompt you for a password. This password will be required only once per browser session, so even with a password you should close your browser if privacy is a concern.
You can change or restore the password at any time. Of course, someone who does not know the password cannot reset or change it.
You can change or restore the password at any time. Of course, someone who does not know the password cannot reset or change it.

saved data does not include passwords themselves (except by request)

Due to obvious security risks, Lazarus does not save data from any password fields by default. If you choose to allow Lazarus to save passwords, the passwords will be available in plain text for anyone who is able to view your Lazarus data.

A safer way to save passwords is by using the "Save Password" feature integrated into your web browser. Follow the instructions in the slideshow below to learn how to use the Firefox "Save Password" feature.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Lazarus form data recovery software includes an option to save passwords, but it is not recommended. There are better alternatives for saving passwords.In the Firefox Preferences window (Tools   Preferences), go to the Security tab. The Remember passwords for sites option will allow you to choose which passwords to save. The Use a master password option will keep your passwords safe.After logging into a web site when Firefox has been configured to remember passwords, you will be prompted in a bar at the top of the web site to either save the password or never save passwords for the site.
The Lazarus form data recovery software includes an option to save passwords, but it is not recommended. There are better alternatives for saving passwords.
The Lazarus form data recovery software includes an option to save passwords, but it is not recommended. There are better alternatives for saving passwords.
In the Firefox Preferences window (Tools   Preferences), go to the Security tab. The Remember passwords for sites option will allow you to choose which passwords to save. The Use a master password option will keep your passwords safe.
In the Firefox Preferences window (Tools Preferences), go to the Security tab. The Remember passwords for sites option will allow you to choose which passwords to save. The Use a master password option will keep your passwords safe.
After logging into a web site when Firefox has been configured to remember passwords, you will be prompted in a bar at the top of the web site to either save the password or never save passwords for the site.
After logging into a web site when Firefox has been configured to remember passwords, you will be prompted in a bar at the top of the web site to either save the password or never save passwords for the site.

Limitations of Form Recovery Software

If you decide to use Lazarus, be aware of the following limitations which might affect you or others who use your computer.

  • Lazarus supports only one password per user account; if there are multiple users, all of their information will be visible to the password holder (unless they have set up separate user accounts on the computer).
  • Lazarus runs unobtrusively, which makes it easy to forget about the stored data, and cumbersome to clear it.
  • Lazarus, unfortunately, will not restore data that you lost before installing it. If you are reading this article because you just lost a blog entry, Lazarus will not help you today, though it may save you tomorrow!
  • Lazarus will only store data submitted in forms within Firefox, and will not restore some heavily customized forms, such as those on Adobe Flash-based web sites.

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Will you use Lazarus to recover lost form data?

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Seeing Lazarus Data in More Detail

Occasionally, Lazarus is unable to restore text for particular forms. If this happens to you, just follow a few simple steps to see all of the stored Lazarus data, then copy and paste the text back into the form.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
To access the Lazarus program settings, open Firefox and go to the Tools menu, then select ‘Add-ons.”  Find the extension called “Lazarus: Form Recovery,” then click the Preferences button.Click the Database tab, then find the text that you were typing. You can use the web addresses in blue to find the web site that you were using.The text for the item that you selected will appear in a popup window. Just click “Copy to Clipboard” and paste the text into the form.You can also use this database view to delete specific items from Lazarus. If, for instance, you provided your social security number in a web form, you may want to delete that information if someone else is using the computer after you.
To access the Lazarus program settings, open Firefox and go to the Tools menu, then select ‘Add-ons.”  Find the extension called “Lazarus: Form Recovery,” then click the Preferences button.
To access the Lazarus program settings, open Firefox and go to the Tools menu, then select ‘Add-ons.” Find the extension called “Lazarus: Form Recovery,” then click the Preferences button.
Click the Database tab, then find the text that you were typing. You can use the web addresses in blue to find the web site that you were using.
Click the Database tab, then find the text that you were typing. You can use the web addresses in blue to find the web site that you were using.
The text for the item that you selected will appear in a popup window. Just click “Copy to Clipboard” and paste the text into the form.
The text for the item that you selected will appear in a popup window. Just click “Copy to Clipboard” and paste the text into the form.
You can also use this database view to delete specific items from Lazarus. If, for instance, you provided your social security number in a web form, you may want to delete that information if someone else is using the computer after you.
You can also use this database view to delete specific items from Lazarus. If, for instance, you provided your social security number in a web form, you may want to delete that information if someone else is using the computer after you.

Alternative Methods to Avoid Losing Data

The most common technique to avoid losing a blog entry, forum post, or other online text is to write the text in word processing software, such as Microsoft Word. Microsoft Word is a good choice because it will also automatically save your document in case the computer shuts down unexpectedly.

However, Microsoft Word will apply subtle edits to your text, such as converting straight quote marks to "curly quotes." Because special characters often require special handling by web forms, pasting from Word may cause curly quotes or other special characters in your article to appear as garbage characters (for example, "You Won’t Believe It!"). This can greatly affect the readability of your article and should be considered before pasting text from a word processor.

Some people choose to use a plain text editor instead, since it will not change what you type, but text editors generally do not include spell checking and auto-saving. Fortunately, you can also learn how to turn off the autocorrection features in Microsoft Word to prevent the introduction of special characters.

Questions & Answers

    Reader Comments

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      • profile image

        Sam 

        7 weeks ago

        Why is this still a relevant article? Everyone wants to recover text lost in the past.

      • profile image

        Elwanda Mckean 

        12 months ago

        Creative discussion . I was fascinated by the points . Does anyone know where my company could get access to a sample Consent for Minor Children to Travel document to work with ?

      • profile image

        Tocaraca 

        2 years ago

        WELL THIS IS HELPFUL NOW ISN'T IT. NO. I WANTED TO RECOVER SOME TEXT I JUST LOST, NOT FUTURE TEXT I MIGHT LOSE.

        Why doesn't Chrome cache the text?!?!

      • randel9 profile image

        Raffy 

        4 years ago from United Kingdom

        Maybe I will try this.

      • profile image

        bebe 

        4 years ago

        "Occasionally, Lazarus is unable to restore text for particular forms. If this happens to you, just follow a few simple steps to see all of the stored Lazarus data, then copy and paste the text back into the form."

        For some reason or another when i restarted my computer...only the older texts were showing up...and i can't seem to find it on the stored lazarus data either even though i checked to see if it saved before i shut if off

      • gajanis786 profile image

        gajanis786 

        4 years ago

        Nice tips....useful.

      • profile image

        Derek Stewart Macpherson 

        4 years ago

        Like most of those who have commented here, this would have been great for me if I'd known about it a few hours ago. But that's no good to me now, is it? How do I recover the lengthy comment I lost tonight? There must be a way. It HAS to still exist in my computer's temporary memory. If I was a suspected terrorist or something, the security services could recover it, so how do they do it then, and how can I recover MY OWN text? Sorry, but I'm having trouble moving past this. I REFUSE to write the thing again, and I refuse to accept that it's lost. There HAS to be a way to recover it.

      • pitzele profile image

        pitzele 

        5 years ago from Pennsylvania

        Thank you!! I just wish that there were something compatible with IE9.

      • profile image

        jcaiken 

        6 years ago

        Lazarus is not available for IE -based browsers. However, an add-in called IE Pro was able to provide a similar capability for IE7 and IE8. However, it appears to be no longer supported and will not work with IE9.

      • fritteritter profile imageAUTHOR

        fritteritter 

        6 years ago from Ohio, USA

        Unfortunately the software discussed in this article is not capable of restoring lost data after-the-fact, it can only restore text typed after it is installed.

      • profile image

        tammy 

        6 years ago

        i used firefox to send my online teacher my papers now after a month she said she has not received any of them! Will this help me recover them? Firefox may have deleted them on my noodle account at my college?

      • profile image

        Nightlife 

        6 years ago

        Of course we'll all coming here after a VERY frustrating loss of text.... GRR ! I hat it when I spend almost an hour typing completely spontaneously, and then lose all of it. All the witty remarks and cool phrasing, gone. And of what you do remember, you don't want to write it again, because it's not clever if it's not spontaneous, is it? Dang flabbit Dean !!!!

      • profile image

        The Nerdy Nurse 

        7 years ago

        Sure wish I would have had this last night!

        Great tool. Seems there are some issues with google Chrome and WYSIWYG editors. Hope they resolve this soon, I really don't like firefox.

      • revybaby profile image

        revybaby 

        7 years ago from On the Road

        I wonder if it would have helped me recover my NCAA Bracket last night!

      • profile image

        Data Recovery Delhi 

        7 years ago

        Its a good tools when your are submitting the information online . Problem Becomes big when you have type a full mail and some thing goes wrong and you just want to cry as you have to type all again . This is best tool for that . Thanks Admin for sharing a good information .

      • fritteritter profile imageAUTHOR

        fritteritter 

        8 years ago from Ohio, USA

        Heh, thanks for the enthusiasm! That's roughly how I felt when I first found the Lazarus Form Recovery plugin :D

      • profile image

        Terry 

        8 years ago

        MAN

        IF I ONLY FOUND OUT ABOUT THIS SOONER.. darn it!!!

        I installed it and IT WORKS GREAT!XD

        If I had this sooner... I wouldn't have to retype that 12 paragraph(A LOOOOOOOONG PARAGRAPH) essay thing all over again.

        IM SO HAPPY I HAVE IT NOW JKBASFJKABKBFJKA

        (please excuse the jbjkajbbgk-ing)

      • tritrain profile image

        And Drewson 

        8 years ago from United States

        Great info here! I like that you can protect the retrieval via a password.

      • save my system profile image

        save my system 

        8 years ago from United Kingdom - London

        Oh, I don't know that we can save our text with data recovery software. Thanks for sharing this with us. Screen shot make it much easy to understand and to it apply real time.

      • karpouzian profile image

        karpouzian 

        9 years ago from Iowa

        I could have used this last night! Great Hub! :)

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