Some time ago I was sitting with a few co-workers at a PAIT get together, discussing the intricacies of working with so many customer systems on top of our own internal Office 365. I mentioned a method I’ve been using to get as many browser instances as I want and the others were interested in how I did it. If you’ve ever had your browser open while signed into Office 365 or SharePoint and a “private” or “incognito” window to log in as another user for testing you kind of understand the problem, but when you are a consultant multiply that by 5 or 10 and you are living the life of my co-workers and I every day. For some of you there may be value in this technique, for instance being signed in using three or more accounts to the same system or multiple identities in multiple systems at once. So if it can help make your life a little easier, here it is.
My technique relies on the Mozilla Firefox browser which is a fine browser, but not always the best one for working with Office 365 or SharePoint. I haven’t found a way to do this with IE or Edge though, and using Chrome you would either need multiple google accounts or a browser add-on like SessionBox which stores some of it’s data out in the cloud, which may present some security issues.
The functions I use in Firefox are built in, and no special plugin is needed. Once you have Firefox installed you can begin.
First create a new shortcut on your desktop.
(Right-Click any blank space on your desktop and choose New > Shortcut)
In the Shortcut setup enter the path to your install of Firefox plus “-P -no-remote -no-default” in the Type the location of the item: field.
So by default:
"C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe" -P -no-remote -no-default”
Then name the shortcut something like Firefox Profiles.
The -P starts the Firefox profile manager, -no-default just makes it so that there is no default profile chosen and -no-remote makes the session you start A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SESSION than any other Firefox instances you have running.
After naming your shortcut it should appear on your desktop, double-click it and you should see something like this.
To create a profile, which can act as a completely different browser just click “Create Profile”, read the Profile Wizard welcome screen.
Name your profile, I named mine PAIT despite what the screen shot says, and click Finish. Your profile window will now look something like this.
Click Exit, and now every time you click on the “Firefox profiles” shortcut you will come back to this window. You can create a different profile for each account you use, each environment or customer you work with, whatever you may need an extra browser for. To use a profile you already have created, just highlight the profile and click Start Firefox.
Passwords are saved separately in each profile, as are bookmarks, history and any browser extensions. You can have any number of profiles running at a time, assuming your system has enough memory to support that many browsers, and each profile runs in its own context. You can’t have two of the same profile instance running, but you can have multiple browser windows for each instance, as normal.
The shortcut we just created is the easiest way to create or manage profiles but if you don’t want to have to click through the list of profiles every time you can also create shortcuts to start any profile directly. Just repeat the steps we used to create our Firefox profiles shortcut but in the Type the location of the item: field put something like
"C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe" -P PAIT -no-remote. (Substitute PAIT with whatever profile name you want to run.)
With these profiles I can be logged into our PAIT Office 365 location, and use my default account to log into a customer’s Office 365. You could also run a separate incognito window in each instance. If I had two accounts at PAIT I could create another profile just for that account.
Obviously things can get confusing if you create lots of profiles, but since each instance is separate you can also install different themes for each to make them visually different.
Here you can see my PAIT profile running next to the Default profile with a VERY different theme installed. No chance I wouldn’t know which is which.
So that is it. No magic, but it can be handy and a lot of people don’t know about Firefox profiles. I hope some of you find it useful and let us know if you do, or if you have any questions!