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Dissapearing notebook?


I have just been working on a notebook called ‘interdependent ranges’ for a while, building some interface elements.

Suddenly, the page redirected to ‘new’ (Observable), and all my work disappeared. Luckily, I had copied and pasted the largest code block into VS code to do some detailed editing, so not much was lost. But it’d be good to know what happened.

When the page redirected to ‘new’, I had put a debugger line in my interface. I’ve copied and pasted the code here in case it’s relevant. The debugger line was in the ‘get_value’ function.

I’m on mac, using Chrome. I’m 100% sure that my internet connection’s been active for most of the time i’ve been working on the notebook, because i’ve been Googling whilst working on it, and I don’t remember seeing any messages within Observable alerting me to the notebook not being saved.

I also checked my trash and there’s nothing there…


Did the debugger statement stop script execution every time you saved a cell? And did you continue, or stop, script execution after it was paused?

Hi Robin,

So we can further look into the issue, would you be able to find out and share a timestamp of when this happened? Also to confirm, you indicated that the notebook name was ‘Interdependant ranges’?



Thanks for replying.

Yes - can confirm the notebook name was ‘Interdependent ranges’ (that’s what it showed up as in my browser history). But it was private/unpublished so wouldn’t have had that as part of the url - but that should be in the first cell.

I was working on the notebook intensively for the hour proceeding the time I posted my message on the forum. I estimate it was around 10 minutes between the notebook disappearing and me posting on the forum.

In reply to:

Did the debugger statement stop script execution every time you saved a cell?

Yes - I think so. i.e. each time recalculation was triggered via a cell change, it entered the interactive debugger due to the cell being recalculated.

Specifically, I was debugging the state of input controls (range, radio buttons). So the debugger line of code was part of a function triggered by an event (onchange, or oninput, can’t remember).

And did you continue, or stop, script execution after it was paused?

I’m not 100% sure but i think most likely continued (by shutting devtools)

Hi Robin,

I had a very similar experience to you at nearly the same time. I had created a notebook and added several cells. Something happened, and I navigated back to my notebook list, and the notebook I was working on had disappeared. For 2 -3 days, I was also experiencing another (possibly related) issue where cells I was entering weren’t automatically executing when I exited out of them, and there, too, when I navigated out and back into the notebook those cells were lost.

I have no idea when these things were happening precisely. I assume that they never hit the Observable servers. It was weird though, as I was actively online the whole time - taking down my notes from the last week of Internet research. If I had expected it, I would have watched to see if my notebook had generated a URL that I could reference, but alas…

So - all of this is to say - you’re not alone <3

… Oh, and out of curiosity, do you suffer from poor band width / Internet speeds? I certainly do. My uploads are very, very slow. I have some sneaking suspicion that there was some connectivity issue on my side, but I am a bit troubled to have a notebook with a title line (and therefore presumably URL) just drop out…

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Thanks for replying! My internet here is typically good (50Mbps down/20Mbps up). I do get occasional connection problems but I don’t recall any indication I had an internet problem when this issue occurred.

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Additional Anomalies with Next Interface: I am seeing several. First, the cursor will not move within the text. I have to use the back arrow to position the cursor for some conditions (it seems this usually happens after a double-quote character is typed). Then, for some reason all is fine. Secondly, I use the exact same md+back-quote+# Heading for each notebook, but (most often or possibly exclusively in the first cell) the md is treated as text. If I copy a different cell into the first cell, it works - same text. Lastly, my problematic cell just disappeared and I’m getting a “wait” icon; the wait icon disappeared (and the prior version of the cell appeared). I have left the initial cell as it was where the md is treated as text: Observable These are not pressing issues but hopefully this description will help find some explanation.
Added item, same set of notebooks: Life Ontologies Project / Sam Smith / Observable now has a spinning wait icon on the Next interface, but if I switch to Classic it clears up.

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@smithGit You may want to create a new topic for these issues. Also, your first notebook link doesn’t seem to be published?

Note that Next now supports different cell modes. If you see “md`” verbatim in one of your cells, chances are that you selected the Markdown cell mode.

If you can reproduce a problem reliably, it would be helpful if you could share a short video of your actions that lead to the problem.

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Thank you for your reply. If the problem persists I will clarify, but I think your tip to check cell modes may be key. There is so much to Observable - How would I have been able to know about cell modes? Is there a reference that explains the Next interface? I was not able to search and find anything. There is a lot of good information but findability is a challenge. DUH: I just noticed the selections when creating a new notebook! (faint font on the right of initial row.) I had not noticed them – is their use described anywhere? Nice feature! Thanks! Suggestion: The excellent user manual: Could a “New Features” paragraph be added there to tip the user that there is something new, like the Next interface, and revise the appropriate section? For instance, in @observablehq/tutorial add a cell create-a-new-cell explaining the cell modes (and possibly mention what happens if the cell mode is JavaScript and you put markdown there).

I linked the announcement in my answer. Here is the link again:

For a general overview (without Next features) check out the Observable manual:

With all the work on Next, Plot and Inputs, the team appears to be spread thin for the moment. Hopefully the documentation will soon catch up to the new features.

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Thanks for reminding me of the link – I carefully copied it to my notes document and then forgot to click on it - as the cell-modes settings took care of my anomalies. The doco is great, but the issue is finding it. The cell-modes doco is great - could it be folded into the user manual? (The chicken and egg problem - if one is not aware of something new, he can’t find it.) [My rambling is taking up a lot of forum space, if there is a way to purge it that would be fine with me, as I do not think it would be helpful to others. I can’t find how to flag my issue as closed but it is, and I appreciate the guidance.]

The forum space is practically infinite :wink:

You can only mark a topic as solved which you also created. Don’t worry about closing, deleting, or taking up space. I would in fact encourage you to create new topics instead of expanding the scope of existing discussions. That way each discussion can be kept on-point.

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