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Where does IE store form data to resubmit when I refresh the page?

Posted on 2009-06-29
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Hi everyone, I'm new here and this is my very first question so be gentle. I've had a great time reading through many of the questions returned by my searches, and the many proposed answers, and final solutions. However most were related to webpage design and provided far more information than my simple webpage user question requires. I'll explain the scenario that has played out a number of times in the last week or so and has led to my question.

 I was trying to submit support forms to both Acer (acer.custhelp.com) and Handmark (handmark.custhelp.com). Both use the same popular format that I've used many times before on other company's support sites as well. After I entered the required information (ie. model #, serial #, OS, etc.) I then filled in the most important field of all: the narrative describing the details of my problem. I tend to spend a lot of time on this part and try to be as detailed as possible hoping to get the best response in the shortest time. The problem is that these and other sites will time out before I submit them. So when I finally do I get a message informing me that I've timed out and suggesting that I use the back button and refresh the page to continue.  Which would be fine except they don't mean continue. What they mean is start over because the form that I just spent a lot of time working on is now blank. After the sick feeling in my gut fades a little I try hitting the forward button and IE pops a window saying "To display the webpage again, IE needs to resend the information you previously submitted." Which is basically what I wanted to do, so I click the "Retry" button it provides to do this. And anyone who's had this happen to them knows, it redisplays the page informing me that my session has timed out. I can repeat this loop of steps over and over and each time IE tells me that it can resubmit my information by clicking "Retry". That's what makes me certain that my carefully crafted and lengthy narrative is temporarily being stored on my PC somewhere. So my simple question is "Where?" I've searched for it everywhere including the deleted file space. I did find a few .dat files that appeared promising in the C:\users\mypc\appdata\local\microsoft\internet explorer\recovery\high\active folder, including the file: RecoveryStore.{BCCE04F1-6284-11DE-B07E-000272C4B1B7}.dat. However I couldn't view them because they were in use by another program, IE I'm sure. I would be immensley grateful to anyone who's got the answser to my question. Oh, I almost forgot to mention I'm using Vista Home & IE 8.

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Question by:whiteoxx1
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by:jcimarron
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whiteoxx1--I confess that I have no idea where the input data is stored, if it is stored at all on our hard drive.  (There is an outside chance it is in a .tmp file, but I doubt it.)
When you find a site like that, perhaps the best procedure is to compose the message in a word editor on your hard drive first and only when when finished, copy and paste it into the input field of the website.
An alternative when you get the time out message would be to copy the message real quickly (Control+A) .  You will then have time to paste and save that into a word editor, and with that as backup you can start where you left off with a fresh page to continue.
I have never come across a "one way" input site that times out.  Are you sure there is a time out or could the message be something else--like too lengthy?  However, two way chat support often is pretty demanding about a quick answer.
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by:Vanguard_LH
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The problem is that the web page might redisplay so you won't get your old form data.  You get a *new* page.  That means you lose all your data.

The IE7Pro add-on has a form save function so you can re-retrieve your form data; however, it is not compatible with IE8.  Too many functions no longer work, some cause problems, some of its features are in IE8, and it can cause problems in IE8.  The latest version was released in Feb 2009 but that was before the release of IE8 (and the authors never bothered to test IE7Pro against the IE8 beta versions as they wasted time on non-essential functionality).  The developers haven't visited the user forums since Nov 2008 and the admins and moderators have abandoned the forums so no one else can get elected to be an admin or moderator (and get rid of the spam and porn that has infiltrated their forums).  Alas, another freeware product appears to have been abandoned.  There are other add-ons that will save form data but often they are adware, shove toolbars into IE (that you don't need), include a searchbox (that uses Google so the toolbar author gets a kickback for the clicks on the search results), and often are nothing more than an e-wallet program (they save your name, phone, address, e-mail, and other ordering info to make online sales easier) but they don't save variable data from web forms from an indeterminate number of web pages.

Before clicking submit or navigating away from a web page where you entered form data, you should get into the habit of always copying it to the clipboard.  The problem there is that you can only save 1 clip in the clipboard yet the web page may have multiple input boxes where you have entered your commentary.  I have Clipmate (not free) which lets me save multiple clips.  ClipMagic is very similar (and free).  This way, you could put the mouse into each field and click there (to move focus to it) and hit Ctrl+A and Ctrl+C to copy that field into the clipboard manager.  Repeat for as many fields as where you entered data.  All of these fields are then available in the clipboard manager so you can paste them back in.  

It isn't just when hitting Backspace where you can lose your form data.  The server could screw up, the network have a temporary outage, the server or network too busy and times out, or, as you mention, you take so long to enter your commentary that the login times out.  By you remembering to save the form data into the clipboard manager before you leave the page, you have it available when you need to recover that text.

If IE7Pro ever gets fixed to be compatible with IE8 then it would be a good solution to remembering your form data.  From how it has been going for many months, it looks like that add-on is no longer a viable choice for IE8 (but it still works well if you stick back with IE7).  Otherwise, using a clipboard manager is probably you best next solution but it does require that YOU remember to save the form data before moving away from the page.

I have heard of but never used (and so I cannot recommend nor warn against) the freeware Form Auto Filler utility (FormAutoFiller.com).  It claims to save your form data so it might perform the save effect of you saving each field into a clipboard manager but do it all at once.  I don't know if it saves the form data automatically or if you click something to have it record the form data on the current web page.  Form Auto Filler is the free version but it might be lureware to get you to pay for their Form Auto Fill product.
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by:whiteoxx1
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Thanks for your responses. I've added images of the 3 pages I'm seeing so you can see exactly what I'm getting. Let me clarify that it's not ra live chat session but actually a setup almost exactly like the one we're using here. I type my narrative in a box just like I am now and when I'm done I click on a SUBMIT button, the same a I do here. When I click the retry button it brings me back to square one, the "Timeout page". I'm pretty certain that my form data is still preserved (somewhere) because I can repeat the process from that point again and it offers to resubmit my info again. As for the suggestion to type the info in a different app first and cut & paste later to the web form, I've been doing that ...when I remember to. But of course even after I had just gone through the same frustration with the exact same support form on Handmark's website, I didn't think to use the cut & paste maneuver over at Acer. When your wrapped up in the middle of whatever frustrating problem led you to resort to using the support site in the first place, you're main focus is making sure they understand you're problem and not if their support page is going to multiply your frustration by losing everything your about to type. When it happens I'd rather spend hours trying to find where my form info is hiding than 15 min retyping everything over again.
Acer-timeout-page.jpg
Webpage-expired-page.jpg
IE-message-to-resend-info-previo.jpg
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by:Vanguard_LH
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The data you enter for a web form is not saved anywhere.  You enter it in the text controls presented on the rendered web page shown by your web browser but it doesn't go anywhere local when you click their submit button.  When you submit, that data is sent to them.  There is no local copy of it.  

When you click the Submit button, they *should* move you to another page.  However, they could use Javascript to validate your data (which is done locally since the script runs inside your web browser) or use server-side scripts to validate the data or your login session.  In your case, validation fails because your login expired.  Because the action for the form didn't move you to another web page, the web page where you entered you data is still there and you could hit the Submit button again.  However, this could result in another submit of your form data.  At an online shopping site, this could result in you issuing another order hence the warning prompt from IE about submitting the same data twice, or more.  When you click Retry (in IE's warning dialog), you expected to see the same web page.  That is, because their Submit didn't take you to a new web page, you're still at their old web page and you expect the text fields to remain populated.  Yet they can force a rewrite of the web page through Javascript events, like the onload event when the browser displays the web page.  That means you get a fresh copy of it (or however they chose to rewrite the page).  You refresh the page, click Retry in IE's prompt, the web page is loaded again (not re-retrieved but reloaded), but their HTML code, for example, uses the <body onload={somefunction} ...> where the function does a document.write() to repaint the page like it was when you first retrieved it or however their code rewrites the page.  You reloaded (refreshed) the web page, the onload event is triggered, their function gets run, and it rewrites the entire web page.  Because the page is rewritten, whatever were the pre-defined values for their text controls might get displayed (often blank) and your data is gone.  They do this to ensure that you are not submitting the *same* data twice.  This won't protect from duplicated orders (since the user might reenter their old data and effectively submit a 2nd order, or enter different data and end up submitting a 2nd but different order) unless they handle it at the server.  

You click Submit.  Their action for the form runs a script rather than move you to another web page so you remain on that same web page unless their script moves you.  There is an error in the submission.  You are still on the same web page.  IE tells you about the submission error.  You refresh (reload) that web page.  IE warns that reusing that same web page could result in duplicated submissions (it has no idea what the server-side scripts will do with multiple submissions within the same session).  Clicking Retry will try to redisplay the still current web page.  However, when that page reloads, that page repaints itself to its initial state so all your data is gone.  The page was coded to eliminate the possibility of duplicated submissions (but not for repeated submissions).  The site coded their web page so you cannot do what you want to do.

Sometimes redisplaying the web form page will still have your inputted data but don't count on it.  The IE dialog is a bit confusing because it mentions "resend" and "redisplay".  What will happen is that clicking Retry will attempt to redisplay the web page as it was before the error was detected.  Once redisplayed, you can click on the Submit button again to resend your data - if that data is still present in the redisplayed web page (or you reenter it).  IE is offering you the choice to redisplay the web form page.  The resend doesn't happen until you get that page and later click the Submit button again.  IE redisplays.  The page redisplays (but could rewrite itself using code).  Then *YOU* resend (by clicking Submit again).

I doubt you'll convince the site to change the code in their web pages.  Redisplaying a web page doesn't mean it won't get altered from its prior state in your web browser.  Because you won't know when a site's page might rewrite themselves when you reload them, you need to get into the habit of saving your form data before clicking Submit.  Even I will sometimes forget to do the Ctrl+A and Ctrl+V keystrokes before clicking Submit (and then get burned if the reload of a web page wipes my data when the submit fails).  That's why I mentioned a couple of auto-save utilities.  I used the IE7Pro add-on (when I was using IE7 because it isn't compatible with IE8 that I have now) and it saved my butt many times by recording the form data.  I haven't yet got around to testing replacements for IE7Pro's form auto-save function.
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by:jcimarron
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whiteoxx1--Thanks for the screenshot.  I now understand better what you meant by "time out" .  That is a pretty rotten way for a Support site to treat customers--especially if there is no warning until after the fact.
It sounds like we are pretty much in agreement.  
1)  The form input data is not on your hard drive--not even in a .tmp file.  (I do not think that line in the "Webpage has Expired" window about "do not save encrypted pages to disk" is about saving form data to disk.)
2)  Clicking Retry MAY get you back to the page that had your input data.
3)  Copying the data from time to time and certainly before clicking Submit should safeguard what you have typed.   But note you do that by Control+A followed by Control+C (not Control+V).
I suspect there is not much more that can be said to fix the problem.
P.S.If it is still pertinent, I do not understand your comment " I'm pretty certain that my form data is still preserved (somewhere) because I can repeat the process from that point again and it offers to resubmit my info again."  Or do you mean clicking the Retry button and  the Back button when you say "repeat" and mean you then CAN see your input data which is not Submitted?  That would be the perfect time to  Control+A followed by Control+C .
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by:whiteoxx1
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Vangard, I read your last comment and really tried to follow along but my skills as a programmer or web designer are limited to self taught BASIC back in High School and the same for DOS Batch files. So basically I have none. I will definitely consider switching back to IE7 though if you say that it is able to save the form data but somehow decided it wasn't worth including in IE8. I'd love to meet the folks that make these decisions. Probably the same one's that make those type of decisions at my company, Verizon! Is the IE7Pro add-on shareware available at CNET, etc., or if not, where did you get it and for how much? I should mention I use RoboFormPro for filling in ID's, PW's, and personal info into most forms. I can't imagine going back to life without it. It's almost like going back to life w/o DVR's once you've used one. I think it's possible that it may have some other features that I never bothered reading about that may be helpful.  
Jcimmaron, it would be nice if they alerted you that you were about to time out or even notified in advance of that possibility and how much time you have. I'm certain that neither case is true. I can't help wonder if it's by design. Well, in 2) of your comment you mentioned what happens when I click Retry. Actually it brings me back to the "Timed out" page. I tend to think that it attempts to resubmit the data I originally entered in the form, essentially what it says it will do. I know from past experiences when I've gotten the same "Retry" option, that it does in fact resend the form with the fields filled in and whatever I was doing continues on to the next screen as expected. The reasons for it not going through the first time have been things like the server was busy or just too slow to respond. But after refreshing the page and clicking "retry" it will often go thru the 2nd or sometimes several retries later. In fact now that I think of it, this happens so frequently that it's become 2nd nature to just hit F5 and Enter because "Retry" is the default button. So if you're right and it's not stored in a file or the registry then it must just remain in memory until I close that browser or navigate to another site. What I meant about being able to "repeat" the process is when I initially submitted the form and got the "Timed out" screen, I then hit the back button as it suggests which brings me back to the now empty form. I then refresh the screen as it then suggests to do. Which of course does nothing except refresh the form with blank spaces. At that point I click "Forward" and receive the "Web page has expired" screen. This is when I hit F5 and the "Retry" window appears. I click it and I'm back to the "Acer Timed out" page. I don't think I mentioned the part about going "Forward" again in my previous comments. Sorry if I left that out. So that's what I meant by being able to repeat the process, because from there I can start the sequence of "Back, Forward, Refresh, Retry" and repeat. The reason I even mention it is because I absolutely believe that when I click "Retry", the form with my original data is then submitted to Acer. Believing that the information I'm trying to recover still exists somewhere, in some form, in order for it to be resent to Acer is what led me here. Before I read your posts I was intending to ask if you knew of any utilities that could perform a search of memory contents? My thinking being that if the data wasn't on disk then it must be in memory.
One last thing I've noticed is that every other field on this form has all my past entries available by just double clicking on the box and picking from a list of them. I believe I read in one of the other posts when I was searching that this data gets saved in the registry and is part of IE's autocomplete feature. I wish it would do it for the field that contained my missing comments but I understand why that would be a teriible idea.
Thank you both for sticking with me on this.
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jcimarron earned 63 total points
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whiteoxx1--"if you knew of any utilities that could perform a search of memory contents? "
Memory contents would be in Temporary Internet Files and or in the hidden subdirectory Content.IE5.  But you will have to go though those files carefully, since they will not have a name that obviously connects them to Acer or Handmark.  Perhaps delete your History which will clean up your Temporary Internet Files and minimize old stuff.  Then try sending another message to Acer or Handmark.  Then see what new files you can find in Temporary Internet Files and Content.IE5..
The best way to reach Content.IE5 is to enter C:\Documents and Settings\UserName \Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5 in the Address bar of Windows Explorer and click OK.  Open the alphanumeric files from the left hand panel.
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by:Vanguard_LH
Vanguard_LH earned 62 total points
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The form auto-save function has never been in any version of IE, so it wasn't "lost" in IE8.  The IE7Pro add-on works on IE7 and somewhat works in IE8 (but it can also cause problems).  It is free at www.ie7pro.com.  You might want to read their forums to see what problems have been encountered and some workarounds (although they aren't guaranteed to work for you).  I've tried twice to get IE7Pro to work with IE8 but had to dump it each time due to problems with functionality not working (I only use a small set of its functions) or with behavior it effected in IE8 that wouldn't be tolerated.  IE8 changed a lot in how it implements security, like running a separate iexplore.exe processes for the frame and others for the tab resources.  It is likely that the authors didn't have the expertise to figure out a solution or it was too much effort for them to do a near-complete rewrite of code.  Since the developers haven't bothered to attend their forums for around 8 months, the users don't know why the product got abandoned.  I gave IE7Pro as an example of an add-on that provides a form auto-save function.  I haven't yet hunted around for other similar add-ons.  There was one that seemed almost a duplicate of IE7Pro back when this add-on first showed up (they showed up so close in time to each other and had so many shared functions that users started to wonder if one ripped off the other).  I just can't recall its name.  IE7Pro was the better choice so the other one might've fell off the cliff and disappeared.

As your inquiry of why you don't get notified regarding a timeout of your login, that would require a popup and it is likely it won't appear if you have a popup blocker enabled.  It would also interrupt the user during their input.  It could also corrupt the current page (since what is under the popup has to get repainted).  It would also require a persistent connection which is usually employed in transaction systems, not where a web page gets delivered to a client and the connection ends until another transmit.
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