Recovering content from a web form

You’ve typed something into a box in your web browser—something very well written, perhaps the first page of what will become the Great American Novel. You close the webpage before clicking the “submit” button. When you go back to the page, everything you had typed in that browser box is gone. You gouge your eyes out.

Or perhaps you’ve spent an hour crafting the perfect Canvas announcement when your computer suddenly reboots. Your announcement is gone. Forever. You gouge out someone else’s eyes.

Been there?

In this week’s Porta Potty Picayune, we are going to make sure you never have those experiences again.

Recovering content from a Canvas page

First, let’s take a look at a new Canvas feature called “RCE Auto-Save.” RCE means Rich Content Editor. When you’re editing text on a Canvas page, announcement, etc., the toolbar just above the text entry box is called the Rich Content Editor (RCE). Canvas recently added an auto-save feature. To turn it on, in each of your courses where you’re the instructor, go to “Settings,” click the “Feature Options” tab, and click the switch next to “RCE Auto-Save” so you have the green checkmark. In some future Canvas update, this will likely be a feature that’s automatically turned on for everyone. For right now, though, if you want it, you’ll need to turn it on manually.

Now if you type something in a Canvas text box, and then close the page before saving, when you re-open the page, you’ll see this popup message:

Click the “Preview” button to see what Canvas auto-saved for you. To restore the content, click the “Yes” button.

Recovering content in non-Canvas webpages

For this kind of recovery, you will need a web browser add-on.


Visit the Chrome web store, and add Typio Form Recovery to your Chrome web browser.

Try out Typio Form Recovery. Type content in a box on some webpage, such as this Google form. Close the page before clicking the Submit button. Revisit the page.

Click on the clock icon (you may need to click inside the box to see the icon.)

What you typed will be shown in a popup window. For some webpages, you’ll be able to just click on the text to re-enter the text. On other webpages, you’ll need to copy/paste the text. In either case, your text is there.

Firefox (and Chrome)

Visit the Firefox Add-Ons page, and add Form History Control to your Firefox web browser. This same add-on—Form History Control—is available for Chrome, but it’s not as pretty as Typio Form Recovery. If Chrome is your primary web browser, try them both and keep the one you like best. Try out Form History Control. Type content in a box on some webpage, such as this Google form. Close the page before clicking the Submit button. Revisit the page.

In the top right corner of your web browser, click on the Form History Control  icon (magnifier/pencil). Form History Control will save and make available to you the last 90-days-worth of content you’ve entered in any textbox anywhere using this browser. (I changed the default save for mine to 14 days—90 days seemed… excessive.) The most recent content will be at the top of the list. Right-click on the content you want to enter in the textbox.

From the popup menu, select “Copy clean text only” to be sure that all you are copying is text. In some text boxes, there will be html code that will also be saved—this tends to happen with Canvas pages. If want to include any saved code, choose “Copy to clipboard.”  Paste into the text box.


For the privacy-conscious—and you should be—both Typio Form Recovery and Form History Control store your data in your browser; content these tools save does not leave your computer: Typio Form Recovery’s privacy policy and Form History Control privacy policy.


Stay safe out there.

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1 thought on “Recovering content from a web form

  1. Thanks, Sue. Amazingly helpful and clear, as always. Glad I won’t have to gouge my eyes out ever again.

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