• A Better Way to Handle Multi Sign In

    by  • 2013/03/11 • Google, How-to • 5 Comments

    Google has a cool feature to let you sign into multiple accounts at once, but in practice it really sucks. Here’s why, and also a better way to manage multiple Google accounts.

    It Sucks Because

    • You have no easy way to manage what account links will open with (mailto, calendar, docs)
    • You can’t (easily) have to inboxes open at the same time from different accounts
    • All of your bookmarks, history, open tabs, plugins sync no matter what account you’re using
    • Every account is subject to the same browser plugins permissions
    • You are limited to a single private browsing window
    • This method doesn’t work for all Google services

    How to Make it Better

    Chrome and Firefox have the ability to set up multiple user profiles. In Google Chrome go to the settings and click add a new user.
    Once you do you’ll have new icon in the top left corner (at least in Chrome) with the icon for the new user. Click this drop down to select your new users and you’ll be prompted to sign into your Google account to start syncing your data. Each profile will be able to sync bookmarks, open tabs, search engines, passwords, and extensions individually so you don’t have to worry about opening your browser at home and seeing all your research tabs from work.
    Using multiple profiles allows you to have multiple windows open each with their own Google profile signed in. Any mailto, calendar, or docs links will open in the browser window (and Google profile) of the last active window.
    You now have the ability to also open multiple private browsing windows (one for each profile) for testing websites without cache, and logging in with additional credentials. Don’t want to test a new browser extension with your Google Apps domain admin user? Test it, and its security, on your personal account first without worrying about it stealing confidential information.

    Why It’s Still Not Perfect

    • No way to set a shortcut to control which profile opens initially (opens last used profile)
    • No ability to selectively sync content between profiles*
    • Multiple users are not supported on mobile browsers
    • Switching users/windows may get confusing if you have a lot open

    I have been using this method of managing my browsing habits and Google accounts for about a year now and I would never go back to the old multi sign on method. Got any tips for Google account management and browser syncing? Please leave them in the comments.

    *I am able to sync selective content by using 3rd party services for my passwords and bookmarks. I use LastPass and Diigo under a single account and just install the extensions in each browser profile.


    Avid learner with a passion for technology and people. He is always trying new things or taking something apart to make it better.

    5 Responses to A Better Way to Handle Multi Sign In

    1. Naethure
      2013/03/11 at 08:06

      To solve issue 1 and 4 (the shortcut and knowing which is which), make multiple shortcuts that open with different profiles and have different icons (maybe the Chrome icon with the profile picture over it?) Use the –profile-directory=”[PROFILE]” command line argument to select the profile. http://superuser.com/questions/377186/how-do-i-start-chrome-using-a-specified-user-profile has more information.

      • 2013/03/11 at 08:51

        FYI I just tried this and it completely broke my chrome user data folder. Chrome wouldn’t open at all (with or without the shortcuts) until I deleted the User Data folder and then re-created the profiles.

    2. John
      2013/03/11 at 14:07

      Thanks! Just tried this and (latest Chrome on Windows) it shows the selected icon for each user in the corner of the Chrome icon on the task bar, which fixes your ‘which profile’ issue.

      • 2013/03/11 at 14:25

        I just updated my version (Version 25.0.1364.160 m) and I still don’t have the profile icon. I wonder if this breaks with the enterprise msi installer (installs in C:program Files). I’ll have to test on a different computer

    3. 2013/03/11 at 17:14

      On mac I use command-shift-m to quickly switch between profiles. It would be nice if I didn’t have to arrow down to select the profile but it’s a start at least.

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