Your webapp may contain some complicated forms or user-interactions, and the user can at times get confused about which changes they have entered that have not yet been saved to the backend. To prevent frustration later on, you want to make sure no hard work of the user is lost. Luckily the web platform offers a simple solution: the beforeunload event.

The idea is that you register a listener for these events, and when you determine that there are in fact unsaved changes, you call preventDefault() on it. In response, the browser will show the user a built-in confirmation dialog, asking them if they are sure they want to leave the page and lose the unsaved changes. I’m sure you’ve seen some of these dialogs yourself.

window.addEventListener('beforeunload', (event) => {
  if (hasUnsavedChanges()) {
    // See
    event.returnValue = '';

But if you’re using aurelia-router for frontend navigation, not every action by the user will give you a beforeunload event — only full-page navigation or refreshes. The Aurelia router has its own hook for preventing navigation: canDeactivate().

class MyRoute {

  canDeactivate() {
    return !this.hasUnsavedChanges();

  hasUnsavedChanges() {
    // [...]

I wrote a simple decorator that can be applied to the View Model class of any Aurelia route that will register a beforeunload listener and implement canDeactivate(). Both will call hasUnsavedChanges() on the class, and if true is returned, will ask the user to confirm. If the user declines, navigation is canceled. Since the confirmation dialog triggered by canDeactivate() doesn’t rely on the browser default, you will have to give the confirm message yourself with getUnloadConfirmMessage() (or you can edit this decorator and hard-code it if you want). I use a simple function called decorateMethod() to add methods to a class if they don’t exist or wrap them if they do. Let me know if you want the implementation for that, but it’s pretty straight-forward.