Friday, July 3, 2009

IE8 Opens Multiple Gmail Accounts If You Know What To Look For

This last weekend I broke down and installed Internet Explorer 8. I had been using IE7 and had heard such lackluster things about IE8 that I really saw no reason to make the jump to Internet Explorer 8 when Microsoft finally announced it for general availability.

To be fair, I did run some preliminary tests on it when it was in beta. Again, I saw nothing that really blew my socks off and there were some challenges with some of the Google Apps that I was using. So after a week of running some preliminary tests, I pulled the plug on it and went back down to IE7.

And there my browser stayed until last Friday when I broke down and upgraded to the general release of IE8.

So imagine my surprise when after upgrading, I found that one of the artifacts of IE7 had stopped working.

Hhmmm… not a huge surprise, actually.

What was that artifact, you say?

Running multiple Gmail accounts in different browser windows.

In a previous post, I mentioned that you could open an IE7 browser, login to one of your Gmail accounts, open another Internet Explorer browser, login to an entirely separate Gmail account and they will both function as separate entities.

So, as a sales rep, an affiliate marketer or a consultant, you can run several businesses or keep track of several clients on a single machine by running a few separate Internet Explorer browser windows.

Or at least, you can if you continue to use IE7.

If you have made the switch to Internet Explorer 8, then you have a problem, as I discovered this past weekend.

Turns out that there is a solution. There is a way to run two separate Gmail accounts in two different IE8 browser sessions.

For starters, know that the behavior of Internet Explorer was updated to be more inline with the latest HTML standards and expected browser behavior. So when you open an IE8 browser window and login to a Gmail account, there are certain low level credentials associated with that browser session. These credentials, also known as session cookies, are then shared across any other Internet Explorer 8 browser window that you open.

So regardless if I check the “Stay Signed In” checkbox or leave it blank in the Google login page, any new IE8 browser window that I open will use the original session cookie that I used in the first browser session. Doesn’t matter if I open the browser using the icons in the “quick launch” bar, on the desktop or in the program menu. If I login to Google account “A” with my initial browser, every browser that I open after that will be logged in to Google account “A”.

Of course, if you shut down all browser activity, all of the session cookies are cleared. Then you will be free to open a vanilla browser session and begin with a clean slate, provided you left the “Stay Signed In” box unchecked, of course.

However, there is a way to login to different Gmail accounts using IE8.

In Internet Explorer 8, there is a provision to start up a browser window without sharing the session cookies. Check it out.

If you are using IE8, open your browser like you usually do and login to your Google Account. In this example where I am using my favorite test account, notice that the “Stay signed in” box is unchecked:

Gmail login screen using Internet Explorer 8
Once I hit the “Sign in” button, I get to my familiar Google screen for my favorite user, the EPW Test Dude:

Google main page after login using Internet Explorer 8
Way down at the bottom, you can see the IE8 Icon in the “quick start” tray. Hitting that will bring up another IE8 browser:
Starting a new IE8 browser automatically logs in to your Google account already opened.
Notice, however, that it came up with the EPW Test Dude already logged in.

So how do we open IE8 browser without having the EPW Test Dude account already logged in? Check this out. Go up to the menu bar in your IE8 browser, click “file” and scroll down to “New Session”:

Starting a new IE8 browser session to login to a new Gmail account.

When you click “New Session”, a new IE8 browser will open and it will not share the same session cookie. So your Google login session will come up clean, allowing you to access another Gmail account while holding the first Gmail account open in the first IE8 browser.

New IE8 browser window opened with a blank session waiting for a new Gmail login.

You can also reach the same results by hitting the ALT-F (hit the ALT key while hitting the F key at the same time) and then hitting the I key. These keystrokes will perform the same functions that you performed with the mouse combination we just walked through.

Oh yeah. Always remember to uncheck the “Stay signed in” box or you will cause yourself unnecessary and unwanted problems.


Anonymous said...

This MS IE 8 technique using either File menu => New Session, or starting MS IE 8 with the “-nomerge” option, appears to work for individual Gmail accounts, but does not work for Gmail accounts attached to a user’s domain using Google Apps for Your Domain.

This is a major inconvenience, and I have tried many published supposed solutions for this, with no success (or, rather, with variable success as the various browsers, add-ons, and Google Apps change, but currently nothing that works).

Does anyone have any suggestions ?

Larry Prevost, Sales IT Tech said...


I feel your pain. I know what it's like to think you've finally found something that works and it fails to produce in your particular application.

So I had to go back and give this one a try.

I first ran the Google Apps login on my vista machine running IE7 and was able to login as two different users in the same domain in two separate browser windows (say IE7-1 logged in as and IE7-2 logged in as and was able to keep them separate and conduct business as usual.

Then I tried IE8 on my Win XP (SP3) system. I used the "-nomerge" switch shortcut to generate the IE8 windows. I was still able to keep separate from and conduct business. I must say, however, when I first tried it, it didn't work until I realized that the first browser I fired up had the "stay signed in" option checked.

That would be the first thing I would look at. Otherwise, tell us some more details about the configuration (stuff like OS, what plugins you are using, etc...) and we'll see if we can come up with a suitable workaround.

Anyone else seen a challenge like this?