How to Recover Lost Text Typed in Online Forms in Your Web Browser
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 SoftwareClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Will you use Lazarus to recover lost form data?
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.
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 Wonâ€™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.