Thursday, December 15, 2022

Incognito Mode in Google Chrome

This post is Day 8 of my "12 Days of Chrome-mas" where we are learning all about the Google Chrome browser including tips, tricks, lesser known features, and helpful ideas. You can access all of the posts in the series at:

It is great that Google Chrome syncs with your account to keep track of all of your synced passwords and browsing history and installed extensions and more.

But sometimes you don't want it to.

Sometimes you want to be able to use Chrome without it being tied to your account. To be anonymous. To have a blank slate. To be incognito.

Thankfully Google Chrome provides you with just that with "Incognito Mode" which is useful in a lot of different situations. Let's take a look at how incognito mode works, and several reasons for why you would use it.

See below for a short tutorial video and written directions.

▶️ Tutorial Video (9 minutes)

๐Ÿ–ฑ️ Launching Incognito Mode

Normally when you are using Google Chrome, the browser keeps track of several things that you do. This usually includes:
  • Your browsing history, including all the websites you have visited
  • The extensions you have installed
  • Autofilled information for forms, such as passwords, payment methods, addresses, and more
  • And finally cookies and website data from websites you go to

All of this is designed to make your life a little easier and save you time by syncing common information that you may want to use when browsing the web.

However sometimes you may want to be able to use your browser without having all this information tracked and synced. In Google Chrome you can do this with what's called "Incognito Mode". Here's how it works.
  • First go to the top right corner of your Chrome browser and click on the "3-dots" button.
  • From the drop-down menu choose "New incognito window".

  • Notice you can also use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl (or Command) + Shift + N
  • Also if you are using a computer that is managed by a school or employer, it is possible that incognito mode may be blocked, and will not be available as an option in the menu.
If you do choose to launch incognito mode, a new window will now open up.

You can now use this window just like your normal Chrome browsing window, and visit any website you want. Just remember a few key details about incognito mode…

First some of the differences would include:
  • The incognito window does not know who you are, so if you go to a website that requires a login, you will have to log in all over again.
  • If you have any Chrome extensions installed, by default they will not be running in incognito mode.
  • And of course it will not save a history of where you browse, or any cookies, or information that you enter into forms.
Now it is important to remember that even though your browser will not be saving anything, other systems outside of your computer may still be able to track your activity, such as your employer or school or internet service provider.

On the other hand there are some thing about incognito mode that are the same as normal:
  • Your bookmarks will still be there.
  • And your reading list will be there.
  • And anything you download will get saved to your computer while in incognito mode.

๐Ÿ•ถ️ Uses for Incognito Mode

So what might you use incognito mode for? There are quite a few situations where this mode can be useful. Let's take a look at a few.

๐Ÿ’ป 1) Using a Different Account or Computer

Incognito mode can be helpful if someone else needs to use your computer
  • Let's say a friend or family member is visiting and they want to work on one of their Google Docs. 
  • Instead of them sharing the file with you and then using your account, or adding another account to your browser, they can just use an incognito window.
  • Once you open up the incognito window, they can go to Google Drive, or wherever they need to go, and log in with their account as normal to get full access to all of their content.

When they close out of the incognito window afterwards, nothing from their account will be saved on your computer.

I use this as well when I need to log into another account that I don't access often.
  • It might be an account for a specific school or for a project that I help with from time to time.
  • Rather than add that account as an entirely new profile, I just fire up an incognito window when I need to and temporarily sign into the account to take care of what I need to.
And this same idea can be applied to computers that are not yours.
  • Let's say you are at a public library or using a friend's device.
  • Don't risk leaving behind your account details. Simply open up an incognito window, log into your account, and then be sure to close out of the window when you are done.

❌ 2) Troubleshooting Browser Problems

Another helpful use of incognito mode is to help diagnose errors you are getting when online. If you are trying to use a website but getting unusual errors, one of the first things to do is open up an incognito window and then go back to the same site and try again.

Because incognito mode acts as a blank slate, this is a good way to see if something connected to your account is causing the problem. 
  • If the site works properly in incognito mode, then you might have an extension that needs to be updated or removed. 
  • Or you may need to clear out the cache in the browser. 

This can always be a good place to start when troubleshooting online issues.

๐Ÿ”— 3) Testing Sharing Problems

In addition to testing problems with your browser, you can also use incognito mode to test issues with content that you have created and shared.

So let's say you have created a Google Site with lots of embedded content. When you go to view the published site everything looks good to you, but of course all the files are yours and you are logged in as yourself, so it makes sense that you should be able to see everything.

But what will the site look like to other people?

The best way to test the site is to copy the website link, then launch an incognito window, and then open the site there. In this case we might see that even though the website is shared, the Google Document and Slideshow embedded in the site are not shared.

So you would need to go back to the original Google Doc and Google Slideshow and properly share those files.

By viewing this incognito you can see what the site is going to look like for everyone else, and identify and fix sharing mistakes before you send it out.

⛔ 4) Protecting your Privacy

So a final use for incognito mode is to protect your privacy by keeping the record of your searching and browsing out of your history. 
  • For example, let's say you are trying to find the perfect gift for an upcoming birthday or holiday. 
  • Well if you search with your normal account, ads for the product may start showing up at other times and on other linked devices, which could give away the surprise to a significant other.

If you search and browse while incognito, there won't be any record in your search history or browsing history, which could influence advertisements and future searches.

And of course the same technique can be used to check out a YouTube video without having everything that creator has made suddenly start filling up your recommendations ๐Ÿ˜

๐Ÿ Conclusion

And that's it! Incognito mode is a helpful feature in Google Chrome for accessing different accounts, using different computers, troubleshooting a wide variety of problems, and protecting your privacy in general. If you use incognito mode, I would love to hear your recommendations for how it has been helpful for you.

Be sure to check out the other blog posts and videos in my series on Google Chrome to pick up more tips and helpful ideas here

(Click the image above or click this link: 12 Days of Chrome-Mas Google Drawing link)

Post by Eric Curts
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