Managing multiple identities with the new Edge browser

If you are a consultant, you probably have a lot of Microsoft identities in Azure Active Directory that you use to access resources like Office 365. I, myself, have at least 10 that are active right now and an uncountable number that I’m not using any more. If you use a single browser to access resources in Office 365 or Azure, it can be absolutely painful. It doesn’t have to be any longer though.

The story for this started getting better when Google added Chrome profiles. These worked great. You could create a profile for each tenant you used and it kept everything separate. The problem with them was that it was difficult to use them across different computer. The reason for this is that the synchronization featured built into Chrome required a Google account. You needed a separate Google account for each identity and that just didn’t work well in this scenario.

How Edge built on Chromium makes this better

Let’s face it. People love to pick on Microsoft’s Edge browser. Some of the criticism was justified and some of it probably wasn’t. However, Microsoft made the right call and adopting Google’s Chromium engine to build their browser.

When Microsoft implemented Chredge / Edgium (meaning Edge built on the Chromium engine), they dropped the Google account synchronization and implemented their own using Microsoft identities. You can use your Work / School accounts as well as the consumer based Microsoft accounts. Now, we are getting somewhere. You can create a profile for all of your personal sites. You can then go and create a profile for each Office 365 identity and now we can start synchronizing favorites, settings, passwords, and more across computers.

When you sign in with an Azure Active Directory identity, you’ll also get prompted to login less when you visit sites throughout Office 365. That’s a good thing. What’s nice is that it even works on Mac where we’ve never had that luxury before.

Getting Started

First, you need to download the new Edge from the Insider Channels.

Microsoft Edge download

When you visit the page, you’ll have three choices and they vary based on how often the builds are updated. If you are living on the edge (no pun intended), you can go with the Canary Channels which updates every day. If you like a little more stability in your life, go with the Dev Channel. I wouldn’t use the Beta Channel because it doesn’t update very frequently and some of the features you might want aren’t there yet. Personally, I use a combination of the Canary Channels and Dev Channels depending on the machine. In general, all of the builds have been quite stable. I have had a couple of issues with crashes on a small handful of days in the Canary Channel. In general it works surprisingly well.

If you have a Microsoft account or Azure Active Directory account linked in Windows, it will prompt you to connect the browser with that account so that it can synchronize your settings.

Once you have finished, setting up the browser, you might notice your picture in the top right. In this case, I signed in with my consumer Microsoft Account first and it pulled in those details. Notice that it indicated Sync is on.

Adding your work accounts

Click on the Add a profile link to add an Office 365 identity. It will create a new profile and then you have to link it to your cloud account.

Click the Add button to proceed. It will then prompt you to sign in to sync your data.

Click Sign in to sync data

Click Sign in to sync data and then select Work or school account. After that be sure and make sure Sync data is selected and now your settings will be synchronized as well. You’ll notice that your organizational picture will show in the top right corner of the browser as well.

Using the Office 365 New Tab page

One of my favorite features is the Office 365 New Tab page. This gives you access to all of the things that you access frequently in Office 365 right in the browser. It has a lot of the features that you get on the Office or SharePoint home page such as recent documents, sites, and more. You can turn this on by opening a new tab and then look for the Settings cogwheel.

Check the Office 365 Page content and the Informational Page lout. You’ll then see a new tab page like the one below.

I seriously use this page all of the time and find it often has the exact links I am looking for.

Managing Multiple Identities

Now just repeat the process for all of your accounts. You can then easily switch between them by clicking on your profile picture. Depending on which channel you opted for, you might notice that Sync hasn’t been implemented for everything yet. For example, you can Sync collections in the Canary channel but not the Dev channel. This will become less of an issue this year as Microsoft moves Edge into General Availability.

Sync settings in Edge

It’s still Chrome

You’re probably still seeking a reason to hate this new version of Edge right now. It’s not warranted though. Give it a shot. It’s got most of the features you likely need including Extensions and Developer Tools. I’ve been doing SPFx development in Edge for well over 6 months now and it works great. If you have a ton of Microsoft identities to juggle, I really think Edge is going to be the way to go going forward.

Many don’t know about browser profiles

I write this today because I found that even some of the most seasoned veterans of the tech industry, simply don’t know about it. This feature has been around a while in Chrome and even fewer people know about it in Edge. This really can make your day-to-day life easier if you have multiple accounts to deal with.

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