Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Keyboard navigation, forms and frustration.

I'm a keyboard navigator; mice are for kids. As much as I think keyboards are one of the most horrible invention for input, there forever faster than a mouse when you're driving complex actions on a computer. As a keyboard navigator, I live and die by keyboard shortcuts.

I need Firefox/Gecko to solve something that industry has solved in most other applications with "auto-save." As the web becomes more and more "2-way" and users are entering more and more data into web forms (blog entries, comments, discussion boards), that data is at risk of being lost. Google's (I'm sure someone else did it first) done a great job with docs.google.com in this regard; I never have to think about saving. They've correctly taken it to the extreme of literally disabling the ability to save something; everything's always "saved." I've lost several hours over the past few years to accidental keyboard shortcut conflicts or fat fingering. While editing text in a form, and using character/word selection keyboard combos to select text for deletion/overwriting, I can't count how many times I've hit the browser back/forward navigation keyboard combos, and as a result, I've lost all the text I'd entered into a particular form. Incredibly frustrating.

From blogs to wikis, I suspect we've taken a step backward with respect to data safety while editing; this needs to be fixed.

I'm writing this entry in a text editor that supports auto-save. When I'm done, I'll copy/paste it into my blog editor. This is a sad workaround to something the browser should just solve for me.

I realize it's a non-trivial problem, basically getting into serializing user added text alongside a page that has all sorts of security/privacy knobs and dials to prevent just this sort of thing, but, it's needed.

If I keep losing work, my fault or not, while working on wiki pages, I'll eventually stop using them.

I need an "auto-save" equivalent for forms on web pages. It needs to work with SSL pages, HTTP GET, and POST. Thank you.

3 comments:

dossynj said...

I haven't looked ... but I'm betting someone's written a Greasemonkey script to auto-save textarea content to a scratch buffer, or something.

If not, it wouldn't be terribly hard to write.

valeski said...

Thanks for the suggestion. I found http://www.ilovejackdaniels.com/user-scripts/auto-save-forms-user-script/ . which does a so-so job. Problem is that so many wiki/blog textareas are so overloaded w/ JS these days, that the auto-save script can't always capture what's going on. At least I'm covered in some cases now.

ng2000news said...

See also: http://www.ng2000.com/fw.php?tp=keyboard