2 Butt-Saving SaaS Keystrokes You Need to Know to Avoid Losing Your Online Work

If you use a computer in your work you have probably noticed that more and more of your time at the computer is spent with a SaaS, as in Software as a Service. And I bet there have been times when that SaaS has bitten you in the @ss...in other words, it has lost the work you were doing. This blog post offers a simple technique that enables you to recover when that happens, whether at work or at home.

The classic example of a business SaaS is Salesforce.com, widely used for the important task of tracking the people with whom you do business. You don't install the Salesforce software on your computer you connect with it through a web browser. The same is true of Google Docs. This is software that lets you do word processing and create spreadsheets and presentations, but it "lives" on Google computers, not your computer.

In fact, blogs like this one are also SaaS. The software that lets me edit and present this blog post is on a Google computer and I operate that computer via a web browser. Even Facebook and Twitter can be considered examples of SaaS, particularly when it comes to trashing your work. What do I mean by that? Here's a scenario to which many can relate:

You spend time crafting a paragraph of words that are being typed into a text box in a web browser. You then click Save or Send or Submit or Update, whatever the button is called for that particular page. And nothing happens, or something happens but it's not good, the page reloads and your carefully crafted paragraph of words has disappeared. Sometimes there is an error displayed, like "Server Error" or "Authentication Failed" or the polite but infuriating: "Sorry, we cannot complete your request at this time." The point is, polite as the site might be, it has lost your work.

So how do you recover from this? I make it a habit to use two keystrokes right before I click Save. These keystrokes are: Ctrl-A and Ctrl-C in Windows; Apple-A and Apple-C on a Mac. These two keystrokes select All the contents of the text entry box and Copy them to the Clipboard, that slice of computer memory you use to copy things from one place to another. Then, if the SaaS that I am using somehow loses the contents that I just asked it to Save, I still have them, preserved in the Clipboard.

I have a second, more advanced strategy for serious work with a SaaS. If I am editing a particularly long piece of text, maybe a major blog post, I use Ctrl-A followed by Ctrl-C, as above, then I switch to an open document file that is local--for example Notepad or TextMate or even OpenOffice Writer--and press Ctrl-V. That pastes the contents of the Clipboard into a document that is independent of the web browser. If the SaaS crashes I still have my work. I could take that a step further and press Ctrl-S for Save after pasting into the document. That enables the work to survive a computer crash, should the SaaS behave really badly.

The whole process can be carried out very quickly, particularly if you are comfortable with the Tab commands for switching applications. So on a Windows machine where you have Firefox and OpenOffice Writer running it would go like this:

Ctrl-A, Ctrl-C while editing the SaaS text box in Firefox
Alt-Tab to switch to OpenOffice
Ctrl-V and Ctrl-S to paste the text and save it.
Alt-Tab to return to the SaaS in Firefox
Execute Save/Submit command in the SaaS

If you are using a Mac the sequence is the same but the keys are even easier:

Apple-A, Apple-C while editing the SaaS text box in Firefox
Apple-Tab to switch to OpenOffice
Apple-V and Apple-S to paste the text and save it.
Apple-Tab to return to the SaaS in Firefox
Execute Save/Submit command in the SaaS

Having lost more typing than I care to remember due to browser-based applications failing to save as instructed, these preventative keystrokes are second nature to me. When the work is a series of paragraphs I may save to the clipboard as I go. BTW, as an added bonus, saving to a local document file is a handy way to keep a record of your work (for example, I write a lot of comments on blog posts and some blogs just seem to lose them or fail to approve them, casting my well-chosen words into the ether, but I have a record of them in my local files).

The risks to your SaaS are not all equal. Some applications that involve extensive text entry perform periodic auto-saving (in the case of Google Docs I find the auto-save is actually too frequent). And a lot of work in programs like Salesforce consists of small pieces of data entered in a series of fields or indicated by radio buttons or checkboxes. These tend to be saved more reliably. It is in places like a "Comments" or "Notes" section that you can spend a lot of time getting your words right only to find you have to write them all over again (unless you used the preventative keystrokes described above).

Narrowband Wastelands? Of rural America, death spirals, and the Narrow Belt

Looking back they will say: "It could have been avoided." They will say: "If only the government had been more effective, if only the telecommunication conglomerates had been less greedy."

Somewhere it will be noted that, back in the Fall of 2010, somebody wrote:

Narrowband wastelandThe fact that tens of millions of people living in America's rural communities lack adequate access to broadband services (data, video, voice over Internet) is painfully apparent when you drive beyond the suburbs.

Some rural communities have broadband, others do not. Some of the latter are waiting to receive expanded broadband access that is being created with the help of federal stimulus spending, others are not.

And for this last group, the places that didn't make the cut for stimulus grants, the places that appear to be of zero interest to the nation's telecomm companies, the future looks grim. Such places may be destined to become narrowband wastelands, stagnant economic backwaters.

The fact is, during the last five years broadband has become an essential part of our national infrastructure, the dominant channel of communication for industry, enterprise, employment, medicine, government, education, and entertainment. Communities that do not have access to broadband are increasingly considered "off the grid" and out of the mainstream. In short, not the kind of place in which your kids or grand-kids will want to live or work.

By 2015 you will have trouble selling or renting any property that does not have access to broadband, and that means lower property values, which means lower tax revenues, which will impact schools and infrastructure, which will further reduce property values. In short, a death spiral.

Those patches and swathes of America's countryside where the only Internet access options are dialup or satellite will become narrowband wastelands: The Narrow Belt. This Narrow Belt faces a spiral of accelerating economic decline at least as pernicious as that which devastated the Rust Belt.

Sure, if you lower your prices you still may be able to sell or rent in the Narrow Belt, but only to members of that increasingly rare group of people who think that Internet technology is just a passing fad, an unnecessary distraction, or a violation of some divine plan. We all know that is a rapidly shrinking pool of potential property buyers (with the possible exception of the Amish, who are expanding their rural holdings).

Furthermore, but often overlooked, there is this fact: Even those people who have no personal interest in broadband are aware that most other people do. Even the unconnected can see that connection adds value, lack of connection subtracts. Face it, as a factor in property valuation, access to broadband is here to stay; confinement to narrowband is now a form of property blight.

We are approaching the fourth quarter of 2010. The federal broadband stimulus funds have been allocated. If your home or community does not yet have access to broadband and is not part of a stimulus-backed broadband build-out, you need to start thinking about the alternatives (if you have not already). As I explore these alternatives, I will keep you posted.

The only way to save rural America from becoming a narrowband wasteland may be for the people who live there to take matters into their own hands. Let us hope they do so in a constructive way.


A. Satellite Internet: For a variety of technical reasons, which I will be describing in my forthcoming whitepaper, satellite should be considered narrowband and not broadband. The latency of satellite Internet is worse than dialup and satellite's capacity constraints and bandwidth caps mean high speed data transfers are only available in short bursts. As providers like HughesNet state themselves, satellite is not recommend for, or does not support, five technologies at the core of any functional definition od broadband: streaming video, VPN, VoIP, real-time trading, and large file downloads like security patches and other software updates for operating systems and productivity applications.

B. The Amish: I am not qualified to comment on what the Amish think of the Internet, but I have a strong hunch you will see a correlation between expansion of Amish farms and the narrowband wasteland.

Carrier pigeons are faster than rural broadband!

Brilliant way to demonstrate rural broadband disparities!

Our hats are off to our UK counterparts. I think a walking man carrying a hard drive between two villages in Upstate New York is next. The lack of broadband is stifling life in America's farm country and the telcos should be ashamed to run their cables through here without providing local service.

Carrier pigeons are faster than rural broadband - Telegraph: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Not So Big Foot: Time Warner Business Class says "You are outside the TWC footprint "

When we read this email from Time Warner Business Class they might as well have said "You are outside the TWC footprint and man is that going to cost you."

Two months have passed since we got this message informing us that Time Warner Cable Business Class was not going to honor its contract to supply us with broadband (see previous post for more details). So we thought it would be a good idea to publish the email so people can see for themselves the preposterous sum of "over $100,000" quoted for rural broadband access. We assume that they assumed we did not have over $100k on hand.
Time Warner Cable Business Class email
Note that we have obscured contact info to protect the TWC employee who at least had the courtesy to communicate with us (although they managed to spell my name wrong).

Of Nerds and Whitepapers, Satellites and Cynics

You know you are a nerd if...You spend your spare time writing technical whitepapers. And that's what I've been doing. Apparently, it's not nerdy enough that, for the last two years, I have spent at least 40 hours a week--and often many more--working on contract for a software company for whom, among other things, I write whitepapers. No, in my spare time I feel compelled to write more.

Not that the world is papered with my whitepapers. Many don't see the light of day, not because they're not good, but because a whitepaper often has to hit a moving target and few targets move faster than a software startup. However, I will soon be releasing one of my "spare time" whitepapers because the target is, as I see it, frozen in the headlights of public attention.

That target is the terrestrial telcos, the nation's broadband providers, the folks making loads of money delivering big fat juicy bandwidth to urban and suburban consumers, maximizing their profits by avoiding servicing the rural areas through which their bandwidth passes on its way from one profit center to another.

This seems to be a very American problem. In many civilized countries there are universal service requirements with respect to broadband (as there are in America with respect to telephone service). In order to stave off broadband service requirements in America the terrestrial telcos have formed an alliance with the non-terrestrial telcos, that is, the satellite Internet service providers. The strategy? Convince politicians and government regulators that every rural American can get broadband (without the need for running fiber optic cable or coaxial cable or DSL phone lines) because satellite Internet service is available everywhere. The problem I have with this is summed up in the title of my forthcoming whitepaper: SATELLITE IS NOT BROADBAND.

That's right, satellite is not broadband and it never will be. And the terrestrial telcos know this. The non-terrestrial telcos say as much on their own websites. (The short version: there's too much latency and not enough capacity, so satellite Internet cannot realistically support VPN, streaming movies, real-time trading, VoIP, automated software patching, interactive learning systems, or SaaS applications.)

Despite this, the strategy of "Let them eat satellite" is being pursued by lobbyists in state capitals and our nation's capitol. For example, the FCC website at www.broadband.gov now lists satellite as a broadband option, which is like the U.S. Department of Transportation saying motorcycles are an interstate freight delivery option. The bankrolling of this cynical hoax by the terrestrial telcos upsets me for a variety of reasons, the most immediate being:

a. Where I live we can't get proper broadband right now (Time Warner Cable's business division recently told me it would cost "over $100,000" to bring cable to my home office, even though they offer cable service less than 5 miles from here).

b. We can't afford to change where we live (that's not the fault of the terrestrial telcos, although they do seem to be guilty of perpetuating an attitude that says "If you can't get broadband where you live, just move to one of our service areas").

c. I recently committed myself to raising public awareness of a potentially fatal genetic disorder, widespread ignorance of which causes much needless pain and suffering. This project would go a lot better if my current Internet connection didn't suck so badly. (You can see the first phase of the project at www.CelticCurse.org.)

d. My current Internet connection is satellite Internet service, which is NOT broadband.

So, as I prep the presses for this whitepaper, I am marshaling my arguments and rounding up my footnotes. My hope is to provide--in the form of a well-argued and well-documented whitepaper--powerful ammunition for the patriotic forces of fairness and justice now arrayed against the self-interested terrestrial telcos.