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On numerous occasions, I have started writing something, then for whatever reason decided not to post it and left the page. After dismissing the "You have started writing" popup with "Leave the page", I get on with other things. Later, I might come back to the same page... and find that what I had already written is still there, waiting for me.

Similarly, every so often I will see "draft saved" pop up on the page for a moment when I'm typing.

It seems to me that there is no harm in leaving a page with a half-written post, because it will be there when I return anyway. If I had to guess, I'd say the "Are you sure want to leave the page" was an initial solution to the problem, and the auto-saving was added later.

I don't think the popup is needed any more. And we all know what Jeff Atwood thinks of unnecessary dialogs.

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Agreed, the confirmation dialog is really annoying. – Juhana Jun 22 '12 at 20:42
Do we know that the behavior is consistent across all browser/OS combinations, and regardless of security/scripting/cookie settings? I wonder if this combination is meant to cast the widest net in order to prevent work loss. – Aaron Bertrand Jun 22 '12 at 20:44
I believe the draft only gets saved every 45 seconds. I write a lot in 45 seconds and will be disappointed if I accidentally leave the page, come back, and find myself mid sentence. – Matt Jun 22 '12 at 20:49

Your draft isn't instantly saved every time you enter a new character, though. It is completely possible that leaving the page will cause you to lose information you have typed, which hasn't yet been saved. There are also cases where people accidentally exit the page without meaning to, in which case the popup saves them from that.

I agree the dialog is somewhat useless, but perhaps we can add purpose to it. Maybe something like:

You have started writing, what would you like to do with the text?

Save current draft - Exit without saving - Exit and discard - Stay here

The most frustrating thing for me is wanting to save my current draft but not knowing whether or not it's actually saved and not feeling like waiting around to make sure it's saved.

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So why not only show the popup if there is information that would be lost? Or better yet, just save it when the user wants to navigate away. – soandos Jun 22 '12 at 20:53
@soandos: There needs to be some sort of net to prevent users who don't actually want to leave the page. I don't know about you, but whenever I accidentally leave a page where I was typing, I get the brief "oh crap" moment even if I know that my information is safe if I return. – animuson Jun 22 '12 at 20:56
I'll just leave this here. – John Jun 22 '12 at 21:24
You're missing an extremely important point here: This is absolutely impossible. When a user leaves a web page, that page (if it wants it) is given one chance to convince the user to stay, in the form of a piece of text. Some browsers actually display the text in the dialog, others just ignore it. Either way, the browser (not the website) gives the user two choices: Navigate away, like you originally intended, or stay after all. There's nothing else the website can do. And for the record, despite it being a nuisance here: I'm damn glad that this is the case. – balpha Jun 22 '12 at 22:36

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