Productivity software

Juggling Google Acounts? Help is Coming

Google power-users often have multiple Google accounts, for various different projects. Juggling those accounts is inconvenient. Google says it plans some help next week, although they're not divulging details.

Let's use me as an example of this problem, because I think my use case is typical. I have three primary Google accounts, plus a few more that I don't use much.

My main account is a Google Apps account, which I primarily use for e-mail, calendar, and more recently, Google Docs.

Google Apps doesn't give you access to all Google services, so I need a separate login for everything else I do at Google: Google Reader, Google Maps, Google Voice, and so forth. The nifty Google Dashboard, a tool providing an overview of all the Google applications you use from a given account, tells me I use 29 different Google applications on my non-Apps account.

Dashboard tells me I have a Buzz account, which is weird, because I've never even used Buzz. Still, not only do I have a Buzz account, but my magical charisma has attracted 159 followers, even though I've never posted a single thing.

It Gets More Confusing

I have redundant instances of several Google applications, including duplicates of Google Calendar and Google Talk, on the two separate accounts.

What's even more confusing is that until yesterday I used my Google Apps e-mail as the login for my second Google account. It made sense when I set it up that way -- Google asked me for my e-mail address, and I gave them my Google Apps e-mail, because that's my primary address. However, using the same e-mail in both places proved to be a bad idea, because I couldn't tell which Google account I was logged into at any time.

A few days ago, a colleague shared a Google Docs spreadsheet with me, and Google asked me whether I wanted to assign the document to my mitch@wagmail.com account or my mitch@wagmail.com account. Huh?

It was only yesterday that it occurred to me I might be able to change the login for my non-Google Apps account to a different e-mail. It's actually pretty simple: While logged in to the account, click "Account Settings" on the upper right of the page, then "Change email." Now at least I can tell which account I'm logged into, which is a big help.

The third account I use regularly was set up by my client, Palisade Systems, before I got there. I use it primarily for Google Analytics and AdWords on the company Web site.

Still More Account Madness!

But wait, there's more! I have a separate account for Google Wave, because I thought -- mistakenly -- that I needed to set up a separate account for that. I set up a separate Gmail account for my podcast, before I got e-mail set up on its own domain. I have an account I set up using the e-mail address at a former employer. I even set up a Gmail account for one of my Second Life avatars.

Now that I've gotten my main Google account and Google Apps account completely separated, that's a big help. But it's still a chore to switch between accounts, and keep track of which account I'm logged into at any time. And some problems I just have to live with -- for example, I have two address books with Google: One associated with my Gmail on Google Apps, the other one for Google Voice.

Google does plan some relief on this soon, but they're not providing specifics. A spokesman told me to watch for new information next week.

The company said in early May that they plan to allow Google Apps users to access other applications not covered in the core Google Apps group. For example, Google Apps will support AdWords, Google Reader, Blogger, and more. No mention of Google Voice, though, which is a priority for me.

But what about those of us with existing Google accounts with those services? Will we be able to merge those services into our Google Apps accounts, or will we have to start fresh if we want Google Apps integration? I'm eager to hear more of what Google has to say about this.

Mitch Wagner is a freelance technology journalist and social media strategist.

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