We've talked previously about the usefulness of application shortcuts in Chrome, and about how to enable them on a Mac. As part of the hack to get things working on the Mac, we had to give each application shortcut it's own profile. It turns out that giving an application shortcut it's own profile can be useful on it's own, and it's easy to do on any OS. Here's the why and the how:
The main reason to give an application it's own profile is to decouple it from your main browsing session. This is particularly useful if you have multiple accounts at the same site. For the example here, I use Google Docs at work and at home, and I wanted to be able to use either without having to worry about switching accounts. When you set things up like this, you may have to do a little extra work to install whatever extensions and user scripts you want for each profile, but it also means you can completely customize each webapp.
Giving an application shortcut it's own profile is very simple. If you haven't already, start by creating an application shortcut for your site by navigating to the website, and choosing "create application shortcut..." from Chrome's menu. In my case, I created one for docs.google.com. Depending on your OS, you'll have a few different options about where to save it. For Windows 7, I like to pin them to the taskbar, but feel free to create it wherever you prefer.
After creating the shortcut, you now need to edit it to tell it to use the new profile. To do so in Windows, right click on the pinned icon, and then right click again on the shortcut, then click on Properties. Doing so will bring up a new window:
To change the profile, you need to append some text to the end of the "target" field. The text you need to append is:
Where [path_to_profile] is the file path to wherever you want to store the new profile. Chrome will create the folder if it doesn't exist, but you'll probably want to keep them all together (for example, I've created a C:\Profiles directory for this purpose, and have made profiles called Home and Work underneath that).
And that's it. The next time you launch the application shortcut, it'll use the new profile. If you want to install extensions and the like, just open a new tab with ctrl-N after opening the shortcut. The procedure is pretty much identical for Mac and Linux, but if you run across any problems, just let me know.