If I had to name the single most frustrating aspect of internet browser usage experience it would be this: Why can’t you handle online documents like any other document in an application‽

I mean, come on: How hard can it be to just know that a browser tab may have unsaved changes (usually form input) and in that case just ask the user if he really is sure, that he wants to close the tab (or navigate away) without saving?

I think this is an atavism from the old times in the web, where a browser would just be used as a viewport for reading documents online. But those times are gone. And if you really want the user to switch to browser based apps, it would be a pretty important thing to make them behave and not destroy work.

It really annoys the crap out of me. Statistically I lose some work almost every day because of this idiosyncrasy. It just happens too often, that one closes the wrong tab or the whole browser accidentally. In case of a closed tab, sometimes a good browser lets you just undo the action and reopen the tab without any data loss. But this doesn’t always work; and never does if it’s the whole browser you quitted.

So please implement something like the security dialog which is found in almost every desktop application:

There are unsaved changes in this/some tab(s), are you sure, you want to close this/these tab(s)? Yes | No

It would in addition probably make sense to provide a standard compliant way to mark a document as having unsaved changes, aka being dirty for the cases where the editing is not done by just filling in form fields and the browser wouldn’t otherwise have a way of knowing about the changes.

Thank you!

(It may be that there are significant reasons that this has not been widely implemented. If so, I would be happy to learn about them.)


I was asked by @Johanstormarn, why I wouldn’t use a greasemonkey-script or other kind of extension/add-on to my browser.
Well: First of all, I don’t know of any such script. But more important: I do not think, that it is the users responsibility to provide such functionality. What we are seeing is a trend towards using the browser as os for apps. There hardware-APIs on the way. W3C is talking about accessibility and defining standards for webapps (local storage etc). So I think a fundamental standardized dirty-mechanism is not a too devious thing to ask for.
And @presroi told me, that any website could implement that on it’s own.
I don’t dispute the fact, that every website could build such a security question with javascript. But: I don’t know of any somewhat relevant site that does this. This suggests, that it either is too difficult/timeconsuming to do or the programmers just don’t give a damn (or don’t even recognize that there may be a problem). Additionally I do not think it would help user-experience, if a user first had to test, if a site does implement something like that and then had to rely on a possibly broken implementation (I really don’t think an average user would perform tests before writing a comment). In addition to that, it would not be standardized; moreover: the tab would habe to use js-dialogs, which are handled differently. And you can’t prevent someone from closing a tab regardless what javascript is saying. So I come back to the point above: Regarding the incline in webapps, this really should be standard browser behavior.

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