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There isn't a concept of a "sent mail folder" when filling out forms on a web page, so there is nothing to retrieve.

I'm running Windows 7. Last week, I sent an email to my congressman via his website. I never made a copy of it. Anyway, his office responded with a generic answer that referred to the subject and not the real question. I can't remember how my email was worded and I was wondering if there was any way to retrieve it, even though it was sent directly to his site. Thanks.

In this excerpt from Answercast #51, I look at the way that forms on websites send messages to the website managers. It's not the same as email.

Filling out a form

What's important here to realize is that, in a sense, you didn't really send email.

What you did was: you went to a website and you filled out a form (much like you entered your question to me) and that form then somehow made its way to the congressman or probably to one of the congressman's aides.

There is no email

Just like in my case when you fill out a form with your question, there's actually no email involved.

The message is stored in a database and it's that database that I'm looking at right now, for example, as I respond to the question.

Message stored on the website

So, in that sense, there is no email and there is nothing to get back. The message has been stored in a database somewhere.

If you didn't keep a copy of it yourself before hitting Submit, I don't know a way of retrieving a copy for you. It's just like I said:

  • It's not email;

  • There isn't really a concept of a "sent mail folder" when you're filling out forms on a web page.

And that's all that this really was.

Article C5795 - September 10, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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4 Comments
Peter B
September 11, 2012 1:45 PM

There is a very long shot that if you go back to the page, your browser (or a plug in) MAY be able to show you what you input in the field. In Chrome, you click in the field to see what data it has stored.

KRS
September 11, 2012 5:47 PM

If you go back to the form and follow the instructions again, you should be able remember much of what you wrote.

Nickey
September 12, 2012 8:18 AM

The best thing to do when filling out the message field of a Contact Us page is after it is all written, do a Copy All and paste into a document and save that.

Tony M.
September 12, 2012 9:04 AM

I recently began using a Firefox extension called Lazarus Form Recovery. It's designed to do precisely what you need: Recover web form data you've posted after the program was installed. However, it might be worth checking to see whether it can screen your browser's cache to possibly recover previously-posted information.

There's also a low-tech alternative that may have little chance of succeeding, but it's easy enough to try. As you revisit some web pages presenting forms to fill out, occasionally the previously-entered information for each text entry box can be re-displayed if you'll place your cursor (insertion point) inside each text entry box and type just the initial character of the entry previously submitted.

What if you can't remember what you entered? Then try a different initial character. If the entry is not recalled after the first character, press Backspace and try another letter. This technique may not work for all web pages, nor for all text entry boxes. Good luck!

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