Use Chrome User Accounts for Family

Use Chrome Users for Family Computer Sharing & Productivity


If you haven’t yet discovered Chrome’s User Accounts feature, it’s about time. User accounts uses your Google (Gmail, YouTube, Google Apps, etc) account to sync all your extensions (plugins), bookmarks, and saved login info like usernames and passwords to various sites.

All you have to do to start using them is click the Wrench button, then “Settings.” You’ll see toward the bottom, the “Users” section. Just click “Add” and login to your Google Account. Now do the same thing for other people in your family. This way, you can each have your own set of bookmarks, saved passwords, extensions, etc.

Great for Families

Once you’ve added some accounts, you’ll see a user-icon in the top-left corner of the browser, next to the tabs. You click this to switch between accounts. On my parent’s computer there’s around 5 user accounts on Chrome. Each person just quickly selects their own user when getting on the computer. When they do, it opens the tabs they had open when they last closed their “window,” as well as displays their own personalized bookmarks, extensions, etc. To have it re-open all your tabs, you’ll need to have the “On startup” section of Settings set to “Continue where I left off.”

Increase Productivity

Another useful application is for productivity purposes. If you haven’t already heard, human multitasking = inefficient and ineffective. So to keep myself focused, I have 2 Google accounts: my personal Gmail and my business Google Apps account at my business’ domain That means 2 entirely separate email accounts, Google Docs accounts, YouTube accounts, etc, etc.

Google actually has account switching built-in to most of their web apps (Docs, Gmail, etc), so you can be logged into both and quickly switch between using the user menu. However, this way I find that makes it far to easy to get distracted and switch to personal and “fun” stuff while I’m working. So I don’t login to both. I use Chrome’s users (you’ll notice my “Tevya FS” for work and “Tevya personal” in the screenshot above) to be in either “business” or “personal” mode. I have an almost entirely different set of bookmarks, saved passwords, and even extensions in each. For example all my website building and client bookmarks are in my biz account, but no Amazon wishlist extension).

This way I have to switch users. Maybe this isn’t much of a deterrent for some, but for me just the mental separation helps a lot. I now rarely look at Google+, Facebook, personal email, or other distractions throughout my workday. And additional deterrent to having both your biz and personal accounts open in separate windows is that if your computer isn’t the best, having 2 instances open at once, with a bunch of tabs in each, may slow things down.

If you really need to take it a step further (I did for a time to help get me mentally used to it) you can also install an site-blocking productivity extension like Nanny for Chrome or StayFocusd in both accounts but block different sites in each. For example, you might block Facebook and Google Reader in your biz account, but block work sites in your personal.

 Advanced: Set Shortcuts for Individual Accounts

A more advanced hack is that you can make shortcuts that open a specific account. This works on both Windows and Mac. All you do is edit the shortcut. On Windows, just right-click the icon and select “Properties.” If it’s pinned to the taskbar, it’s a little more complicated. See the screenshots below for details.

All you do is add a space (included below), then the following on the end of the path to the Chrome application. In Windows you’ll find this in the “Shortcut” tab, then the “Target” field. If you want to link to the first user added, it’s [highlight bgcolor=”#E0E0E0″ txtcolor=”#000000″] –profile-directory=Default[/highlight] for other users, it’s [highlight bgcolor=”#E0E0E0″ txtcolor=”#000000″] –profile-directory=”Profile 1″[/highlight] or 2 or 3 or whatever, in the order they were added to Chrome. You can also change the name of the shortcut (back on the “General” tab in Win) or even the icon, so it’s easier to remember which is which. See the screenshots for a visual:

Now when you use those shortcuts, it’ll launch straight into the User you want, rather than the first one added, and then have to switch over from there.


1 comment
  1. I just realized yesterday that I should set this up on my home computer for my wife and I. I’ve been using to separate home and work accounts at work, but didn’t make the logical leap until yesterday. Luckily, if I hadn’t made that leap, I would have read this post today and made it.

    It’s an excellent solution for families to share a computer.

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