One of the new features that rolled out in Chrome OS 76 that has flown under the radar a bit is the addition of multiple account sign-ins from the People tab in your Chromebook settings. For long-time Chromebook users, it would be easy to overlook this setting as unimportant, but don’t be fooled by the similarities to the old way of doing things. This new feature fundamentally changes the way you add and remove accounts from a Chrome OS device for the better.
First up, we need to clarify something Windows and Mac users may be curious about. The way Chrome OS handles multiple account sign-ins has not changed to the format you get with just Chrome on other operating systems. With those setups, users can log into Chrome with multiple accounts and get a different setup for each that can be toggled from the user menu in the top bar. For Chrome OS, your main account is still your main Chrome account, so your bookmarks and settings for Chrome will always be the ones you have set up for your main account signed into your Chromebook. There is a simple shortcut for moving between primary logged in accounts, but there are some setup tips you’ll need that we’ll be covering in an article later this week.
For this new sign in feature on Chrome OS we’re discussing today, the accounts and their abilities are still quite similar to what you’ve always been able to do. You have the main Google account on your Chromebook, but then you can add other accounts for all your Google services and change between them by clicking your avatar inside that particular service. Gmail and Google Drive come to mind as clear examples of this. Opening Google Drive will always default to your main Google account that is signed in on the Chromebook, but you can freely switch between other accounts you’ve signed into.
In the past, the only way to add these accounts was to launch a service, click the avatar to switch, then add another account. For the most part, this has always worked for me, but there’s never been a clear place to see what accounts have been signed in nor was there a place to go add all my needed accounts in one fell swoop. All that has now changed for the better.
At some point while using your Chrome OS device on Chrome OS 76, you’ll be prompted to change your sign in and re-add any accounts you want to access on your account. The setup is simple and if you haven’t been prompted to change this yet, you likely will be soon. You’ll be taken to a screen like the one shown below and asked to add any accounts you’d like to access on your Chromebook.
From here, you can add additional Google Accounts you’ll need to get your work done, see who is signed in or not, and remove the accounts you no longer need access to. The old way of doing this always required going to a Google service and clicking your avatar to simply see what is or isn’t logged in. The workflow is much cleaner and simpler now, and if you try to add an account via the old method, you’ll simply see a little box that redirects you to this new settings page. Clean, simple and effective. But there’s a much bigger trick this setting changes that makes me very happy.
That simple yet fundamentally different change is the addition of Android app account support via this same log in screen. You’re reading that correct: log in with this new screen and your accounts are available anywhere on your Chromebook, including Android apps. In previous versions of Chrome OS, you could log into all the accounts you want and still have to turn around and redo that whole process with Android apps. The entire process only served to remind you that Android is not really native on Chrome OS even though in many ways it very much is.
This new log in process is nearly flawless and makes Chrome OS and Android feel so much more cohesive to the general user. There is no scenario where logging an account into my Chromebook should not also carry over to all the Android apps on the same Chromebook, yet that is exactly what we’ve been dealing with for a few years now. To a new user, this is not only unintuitive: it kinda feels broken.
The only current drawback is the fact that you can still manually add accounts to your Android apps and those don’t get automatically added to your Chromebook settings. For instance, I could open up Analytics as an Android app, add our shared Analytics account, and then go to the Google Analytics website and have to re-enter those same credentials to access this account via Chrome. The perfect scenario would be for Android app log in screens to simply push you over to this new unified login settings screen and we are very hopeful that this is in the works. If not, at we’re at least hopeful that accounts added via an Android log in also get added to the unified login settings area.
In the end, having a single place for all logged in accounts is the best way forward. This new setting that has been added in Chrome OS 76 is a massive step in the right direction. As long as the Android app log ins eventually end up getting to this same screen as well, we can mark account management off the list of things to fix for Chrome OS.