Broken: Multiple User Accounts in Chrome

Google: Multi-account use in Chrome OS is broken. You should talk to his brother Android, he has it all figured out…

group-icon-7I use Chrome OS all day, every day, 50% of my waking moments are using Chrome OS. I perform my job with it, I communicate with my grown children with it, I watch a little entertainment here and there, I read with it, and I write with it. I am sure you get the picture. For some time now, I have had an “If I had anger issues this laptop would be in pieces” moment almost every day. It is always around the brokenness of multiple accounts. Let me explain.


I have a personal Google account, my original gmail address. I have a Google Apps-based business email for my company. I am a publicly elected school board member, so I have a GAFE account as well. This means I have three separate Google-based accounts that I am required to use. These are not optional. I am ignoring the plethora of other gmail accounts that I have. In order to be productive I need these accounts to play nicely together, but they do not.

Google, a long time ago, chose to keep people from combining accounts into one. I am ok with this if they would all work on my Chromebook together.

Android Does This Well

Other than winning the battle for the most useless apps in an app store, Android does very little better than Chrome OS. Multiple account support is one dramatic exception. In Android, if you want all your Google accounts to happily reside on your phone or tablet you simply add them under Settings>Accounts. Each app gives you the ability to seamlessly move between accounts and everything works very smoothly. If for some reason you want to wall off one account, say for security purposes, you simply create a new user on the device. Everything works in either scenario. Android easily bests any system I have seen from Google, Microsoft, or Apple.

Chrome OS

google_drive_logoHere is a simple Chrome OS scenario that happens all the time. I have had my personal and business gmail up side by side for more years than I can count. I bounce between tabs all day long. My “primary” account is my personal email, primarily because it is a good rule to log in under your most prolific address to garner support of as many 3rd party apps as possible. All works well for anything associated with my personal address. A daily occurrence is for an employee to email me with a link to a file on Drive. It is at this point everything breaks down.

Once I receive the email and note there is a file I need to look at, I have three choices. If I use the App Launcher in Gmail to open Drive, it opens up under the correct account but I have to go find the file. This works some of the time, but not if the folder is new. If I open up from the main Launcher it appears to know which account I most recently used but gives me the option to choose, then I go search for the file. This works only under the same conditions as the first. If I click the link in the email I get this ridiculous message that I do not have the right to open that file because it tries to open it with my main account (the personal one). Now the browser tab clearly knows what account it is using and every other feature of Gmail works correctly. I can even launch Drive correctly. But I cannot click a link in the email????

My only way to get to the file at this point is to note the name and search manually in Drive. We have tens of thousands of files in Drive so this can be quite a pain and it is a totally unacceptable answer. This solution also does not work if the folder is new in Drive. Some long standing bug with folders not showing until you link with them directly. That is unless you cannot link with them directly because the link in the email does not work! The only surefire way to get to the file at this point is to open it on my tablet/phone or logout and back into Chrome under my business account. This problem also can occur in Hangouts at times as well.


200809172222I know to some this may seem like a small issue. For someone that lives in the Google ecosystem, and has a sizable organization running completely in that same ecosystem, this is a royal pain… The situation appears to be getting worse as we are noting problems in other areas as well on newer versions of Chrome OS. I will not take the time to detail all of them but I see a pattern and I do not want it to be true. As the OS grows it may lose some of its luster. That luster that attracts me so much is zero administration, always works, works fast, and is predictable. These are all things that appeared to be coming into place for Microsoft when they released Windows XP in 2002. We all know they chose a different path that is leading to their deterioration. Did Google hire a bunch of the developers that Microsoft laid off?

Rant over. Now I’ll go back to being extremely happy using Chrome OS the rest of the day.

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