Microsoft brings account switching to web, desktop apps
Microsoft has taken some tentative steps to make account switching easier in its 365 apps with the addition of a list of signed-in users.
Switching accounts in Microsoft’s product has long been a pain for users, requiring them to sign out and sign back in to (for example) change between their personal and work accounts.
While rivals like Google permit the addition of multiple accounts which can be switched by simply clicking on different profiles, Microsoft users have been forced to endure repeated and inconvenient exposure to the company’s login screen.
The problem can be worked around using an InPrivate browser window or a totally different browser. However, with the boundaries between work and personal life blurring, particularly with regard to device usage, the Microsoft’s approach to multiple accounts on one device seems a bit old-fashioned.
The company has now taken a step to address the problem. Users of Microsoft 365 (Office.com, Word, Excel, PowerPoint for the Web, Outlook, OneDrive and SharePoint) can simply add additional accounts (personal or Azure Active Directory) and switch between them via a click on the profile picture.
In our very subjective testing, the feature worked well, permitting the switching between multiple accounts (once signed in) seamlessly. Signing out from one account drops the user into whatever signed-in account remains, so some caution is needed, but all in all the functionality worked as advertised.
There are a few downsides. The feature is per browser and not per device. Users might also confuse it with browser profiles and the use of third-party cookies is required. In addition, it does not work in the Microsoft 365 Government and Cloud environments. Tenant admins can’t easily turn off the feature and only one account can be active per app at a time.
The biggest downside is that the worst offender for account switching – Microsoft Teams – remains on the “coming soon” list (along with other Microsoft web and desktop applications).
Still, limitations and omissions aside, the feature will be a relief for users dealing with multiple account challenges with Microsoft’s web and desktop apps. Worldwide rollout is due to take place between April and June. ®