Thursday, March 26, 2020

Side-by-side Firefox browsers separating work and personal accounts

Firefox is my favorite web browser. It supports proper Ctrl+Tab behavior, it's fast, and it's a leader when it comes to prioritizing the privacy of individual users over the agendas of corporate ad networks.

I also like keeping my work-related stuff and my personal stuff organized into two separate browser programs. A big advantage of that is I can be logged in to my work Google account (for email, calendar, etc.) in the first browser, and my personal Google account in the second browser, and don't ever need to manually switch back and forth between which account is currently active.

(Separate browser programs -- not just browser windows -- is needed for this to work. Separate browser programs, such as Firefox and Chrome, don't share cookie storage with one another, which means that they have completely separate records of your login information for each website.)

As a bonus requirement, I want to be able to tell at a glance whether a given browser window that I've got open in front of me belongs to my "work" or "personal" browser.

Finally, with Firefox being my preferred browser, I'd like to be able to use it for both my work stuff, and my personal stuff. Given that I need to be using two different browser programs in order to keep my work and personal stuff separated, is it impossible?

Enter: Firefox Developer Edition

As you've likely guessed, this all is possible, by installing Firefox Developer Edition!

Firefox Developer Edition is like the standard Firefox browser, but with a few additional programmer-oriented bells and whistles.  For most practical purposes, though, it works just like the standard Firefox.

Most importantly for this post's use case, Firefox Developer Edition fully supports being installed, and running, side-by-side with Firefox.  The two browsers each have their own separate cookie storage, and so each supports being logged in with a different user account to the same website, such as Google, at the same time.

Firefox and Developer Edition can also be themed (given a custom appearance) separately. I've landed on assigning a simple orange theme to my Firefox, and a simple blue theme to my Firefox developer addition, so telling which browser a given window belongs to is as simple as glancing at the top of the window, and looking at the color.

I'd encourage even non-developers who like Firefox, and are interested in separating out your personal and work stuff into separate browsers, to give this a try. There's nothing "scary" about Firefox Developer Edition; it's easy to just use it as another copy of Firefox.