Yes, we know that the ‘social network’ term is starting to sound annoying, but due the fact that there’s no other term for making reference to those websites where people can interact with people we’re going to stick with ‘social network’ for a little while. Since laughter became XD, to blush =$
and more, the internet has become the number one channel for keeping a permanent interaction with the rest of the world, so know you can talk to any person around the world by just making click.
And is after these premises that the new social project of the almighty Google has been released. Google Plus promises to become the ultimate tool for social engaging and sharing that will change the way we see things. Although is kind of hard to determine how well things are going to be for Plus in a couple of months, we consider that these guys have learned from their mistakes (let’s not forget the big failure of Google Buzz and Google Wave)
and Plus will probably turn out to be a successful project for the company.
Although this new Google product is still on a preliminary phase, there are still several aspects that you need to understand in order to master Plus, so on this article we’re going to teach you all the aspects regarding this website that will help you become one of the first Plus experts.
Now that you’re a lucky member of Google Plus, you need to know how this social network works and where should you start from. After filling your contact information, the next screen that you will see is your homepage, which in case that you’re a Facebook user,
you will notice that it works in a similar way, it shows all the latest updates from your friend, it also lets you update your status and also includes some additional features that will make you love Google Plus.
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The previous picture is an example of how your Plus homepage will look as soon as you enter the network. Once you start expanding your circles, all the notifications from your contacts will appear on the big empty space on the middle of this picture, similar to Facebook’s homepage but less cluttered.
We have numbered all the main parts of Plus’ homepage to help you identify where every element is located, so let’s make a quick repass.
On this section you can find your different circles, clicking on one of them will show you the publications of that group only.
Incoming will display all the notifications from your contacts or the circle you have chosen. In case that you want to see your notifications in a bigger window, this button can help you with that.
Sparks is a newsfeed button that gives you all the current news on different topics that you can customize according to your preferences.
Google Talk has been integrated with Plus, making possible to stay in touch with your GTalk contacts directly on Plus.
Regardless of the Google application that you’re using, this button will help you go back to Plus at any time.
This is a very important section that will give you instant access to your notifications and will also let you update your status, you can also access the configuration options by clicking on the mesh button next to your profile picture.
Just like Facebook’s status bar, here you can update your status, share links and more.
You can find new people suggestions that can help you expand your circles.
Hangouts is Plus’ answer to Facebook/Skype alliance, which means that you can make videoconferences and find people online to start your own hangout.
We all now the importance of mobile devices these days, and that’s why you get the chance of adding Google Plus to your smartphone or tablet.
Be careful with this powerful element, because now you can play God and decide who joins Plus and how doesn’t.
Google is constantly improving its contents and that’s why you have the chance of sharing your thoughts on Plus by filling this quick form.
Google Plus Photos
Millions of photos are being shared every minute around the world, making this one one the most important aspects inside any social network . So far the king in photo sharing has been Facebook, despite the fact that there are much better sites such as Flickr for uploading your pictures, but now that Plus has made his entrance, things will definitely change.
At first glance, it appears that Plus photos’ tab is a simple and unattractive section, then you start browsing and surprise!. Sharing photos on other websites has always been an obnoxious process that forces you to use additional applications or understand that uploading your birthday’s picture may take an entire afternoon, with Google Plus, the whole sharing process has become simpler and more effective than ever.
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On the left side you’re going to find four main options: ‘Photos from your circles’, ‘photos from your phone’, ‘photos of you’ and ‘your albums’. In ‘Photos from circles’ you will see all the latest uploads from your friends, though this can also be seem directly on your mainstream, the second section is for all the photos that are uploaded from your smartphone, which was something really painful in the past as smartphones had a lot of problems for uploading pictures to your social profiles. ‘Photos of you’ displays your profile pictures or those where you have been featured, finally in ‘albums’ you can find your different photo albums and edit them.
Uploading your pictures
Uploading photos from your smartphone is now a piece of cake, now you won’t have to connect cables or wait until Bluetooth recognizes your mobile, you just need to download the application for your Android (coming son iOS) and upload all your pictures to a locked album that only you can configure.
In case that you’re working from your desktop, you can easily find the ‘Upload New Photos’ button on the right side of the website, you just have to click on it and the upload window will instantly open.
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One of the many hits of Plus is having added a drag and drop feature, so you can easily transfer lots of pictures from your computer to Plus, however, the traditional upload box can also be used for uploading pictures, even when you know that you’ll be always using drag and drop.
Google has definitely made an effort on offering a friendly interface that does not only works but also looks amazing. Once you have chosen the pictures to be uploaded, you can add them a caption and even rotate them while displaying an amazing animation!, another point for Plus.
Then you can give your album a name and before sharing it, you can also define the privacy, which can range from making it public to sharing it with one circle only, this is definitely an excellent way of sharing pictures with only the person that might be interested on seeing them, another great features is that if the person you’re sharing your pictures with does not have an account, Plus will send him an email inviting him to check the pictures anonymously.
Once Google completes the integration with the popular service Picassa, we will be staring at a really powerful photo sharing service, so don’t be impatient because it’s been less than 2 months since the release of Plus. In the meantime, you can use any Picassa-featured application for uploading your pictures to Plus.
Without a doubt, Plus’ photo viewer is better than Facebook’s and it should be compared with Flickr instead. When you browse through albums, a nice animation displays, showing you a general idea of what you’re going to find inside that folder.
As you can see, Plus makes really easier to browse through your friends’ albums, the guys at Google have definitely understood how to take advantage of animations to improve usability.
Once you’re inside the album, a rollover action will make the photos to expand while placing your cursor on top of them, making the albums more dynamic while preserving the navigability.
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Once you click on a picture, the amazing photo viewer will appear. We’ve seen a similar attempt at Facebook with poor results, but on the case of Plus, the results are neat, allowing you to browse throughout the entire album, insert comments and more. If you want to go back to the previous screen, just make click over the dark regions next to the picture or the X icon.
The tagging system is also really good, you can alter the marquee’s size to cover the precise area you want to tag and then type down the name of the person that’s going to be tagged.
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If you want to add effects and make your pictures to stand out, Plus has incorporated a simple photo editor that lets you add some pretty cool filters such as cross process and black and white.
And if that’s not enough, Google has implemented an additional feature for all the photography fans, you can click on the Actions button and browse the camera properties when available.
As you can see on the previous picture, all the main information is displayed to give you a hint on how the photograph was taken, a great hit from the Google team.
Google have learned from its past experiences that no matter how good a product is, it only works if it can be appealing enough to make people stay, that’s why they hired Andy Hertzfeld, an original Macintosh member and a specialist in interface and web design. The Google Plus interface features a friendly and clean design that conserves some similarities with Facebook so people can feel comfortable while browsing this new social bet from the Google team.
On the left side of the screen you can find the profile picture, a ‘send email’ button, then you can find two blocks featuring the people that you have on your circle in one and the people that have you in their circles on the other. Finally, you have two buttons for blocking the person or report it to the Google staff.
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The first tab works similarly to Facebook’s wall, it displays all your posts along with a comment and share buttons, it also includes a +1 button that as you already know, works in a similar way to Facebook’s like button.
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About will show you all the relevant information about the user, including occupation, education, links and thanks to the integration with Google Maps, you can see the person’s location in real life.
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The Photos tab allows you to see all the photos of the person in question (based on his privacy settings of course), these photos are labeled in albums, photos of the person with and photos of the person.
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On this tab you can find all the user’s videos, which is something that Facebook doesn’t have available at the moment of writing this post.
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As it works with photographs, you can click on the video to enlarge it and reproduce it without having to open YouTube (another point for Google Plus). You can also check the video properties from the actions button when available.
And the Plus’ avalanche over Facebook continues. Although many people think that +1 is just Google’s version of the Like button, it’s actually a more powerful element as it lets you to like any content on the web without having to copy the paste the link and sharing it on your wall. Besides, all the contents that you +1 get stored on a single tab on your Plus profile, so you will never lose track of your discoveries.
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Although Google Buzz (the microblogging system of Google) was considered as a failure along with Google Wave, it has found a new space within Plus, so now you can see the latest updates from your friends and see what they’re buzzing about.
The famous Circles
Despite the fact that the whole Google Plus project has been probably the biggest revolution in social networking this year, the prime feature that has put this project aside of other social networks is definitely Circles.
While Twitter was created under a premise of “I follow you but you don’t have to follow me”, Facebook was created under the line “let’s be friends”. These two concepts have been expanded, adding a few Twitter elements into Facebook and vice versa, but while these two giants tried to emulate their competitors, Google Plus has adopted the best from the two worlds and created an unique system for organizing your connections.
To check your Circles, you can go to the fourth tab next to the profile button, though you can see them also from other parts as we’re going to explain right now.
So now the first thing you want to do is configure your circles, so go the the tab we said before to get it started. The circles window displays a simple interface with all your Gmail contacts on top and the circles below, which by default are ‘Family’, ‘Friends’, ‘Acquaintances’, ‘Following’ and ‘Work’; you can add more circles anytime you want and edit the ones that you already have.
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To start putting your contacts inside the different circles you just need to drag them to the circle you want and in case you want to retract your decision, just drag the contact outside the circle. The great thing about circles is that you don’t have to have a person within your circles to receive his updates as long as the other person has added you to one of his circles, same thing happens on the other way, you can add people to different circles and share information with only the circles you want, giving you a better control over your privacy than Facebook or Twitter.
So now when you share something, it will only be available for the circles you choose, unless you choose the ‘Extended Circles’ option, which is similar to Facebook’s ‘friends of your friends’, you might also choose ‘Public’ in case that you’re sure about sharing the information with everyone within the network.
Another aspect where Plus overcomes Facebook is the stream. While Facebook has recently blocked most of your real-time updates, leaving solely the ones coming from people you interact the most, Plus has placed all your circles on the left sidebar, so you can choose between each one of them and see what people from that circle are saying.
If you click on ‘Incoming’, all the posts that have been published by people outside your circles but that have included you in theirs will show up, this is a nice way of seeing if a person is worthy enough for being added inside your circles.
‘Notifications’ will show you all the latest news, including new people that have added you to their circles, new replies to your posts, comments and more.
Another feature that though is not implicit on the interface in the way of a button or a window is the ‘bumping’. What this feature does is that when new comments are made on a post’s thread, the post will come back to top despite of being older than other publications.
GTalk inside Plus
Although there are many chat services out there (Windows Live Messenger, Facebook Chat, etc), there’s no doubt that Google Talk is one of the most popular chat services out there. Gtalk has become one of the most utilized chat services thanks to the fact that it comes along with the mail service by excellence, Gmail.
Now GTalk has been integrated with Plus, leaving you no excuse for using this new Google product. In case that you have tons of circles and contacts to work with, Plus gives you the choice to enable GTalk for specific circles, that way you can interact with your friends only without revealing your presence to other persons that you don’t want to talk with.
Following your Sparks
In case that you’re a current Google News visitor, then this new service will definitely become a favorite as it integrates a new system similar to News dubbed Sparks. With this tool you can get a quick news-feeder inside Plus with all the topics that you actually care about, though the service is clearly on an initial phase and it still needs a lot of work before people starts using Sparks on a daily basis.
Sparks can be accessed from your Plus homepage right below your circles. Once you click on Sparks, a series of default streams will show up, you just need to make click over one of them and a stream containing news and updates about that specific topic will appear.
Although Google has not revealed the system behind the news that are displayed on Sparks, it appears to be similar to the one used in Google News. These Sparks allow you to check the latest news on the different topics you like without leaving Plus, this team has definitely put a lot of effort to make people stay inside Plus and still be able to find everything they need.
As we said before, you can search for your own interest and add them to your Sparks sidebar, then you only need to click on the spark and the stream will be automatically displayed.
An of course you can share all the news from your Sparks with your friends, you just need to click on the share button behind the news and voilà, a new window will pop up where you can share the post with your circles.
Joining or hosting a hangout
Nowadays it has become of common usage establishing communication via videochats, not in vain we have seen Facebook’s setting up a new alliance with Skype, the world leader in these kind of services. While Facebook is still implementing its new videochat feature, Plus has incorporated this service since day one with Plus’ Hangouts, which is basically Google’s way of working with videoconferences.
As long as you have a microphone and a webcam, you can either host or join a hangout, just click on the ‘Start a hangout’ button and a new window will pop up, this window is where the hangout is going to be taking place.
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As you can see, the new window will automatically detect your webcam and microphone, so you can comb your hair and clean up all the mess before the hang out starts. Below the video preview is the sharing field, here you can choose whether the hangout is going to be public or if it’s going to be shared with your contacts only. On the bottom section you can mute either the audio and video, abandon the hangout and check some settings regarding your camera and microphone configuration.
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Once the hangout begins, you can see on the bottom a small preview of all the persons that are currently participating on the conference (on this case we’re only testing the service and that’s why no one else is there). When the hangout is taking place, a larger preview is displayed where it currently says ‘No one is here right now’, usually the person that is talking will appear on this part, though you can decide who appears at anytime.
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As soon as the hangout begins, an instant message will show up to all the circles you invited saying that you’re currently hanging out, so all they have to do is click on the ‘join this hangout’ button and they will immediately join you on the conversation.
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Sometimes it could happen that none of your friend notices that you’re hosting a hangout, so in that case what you can do is click on the invite button and send them a direct invitation asking them to join your hangout.
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But that’s not it, Google Hangouts also lets you display a text chat window in case that you prefer to communicate with your friends using the regular chat messenger. Google has also taken advantage of YouTube and has integrate it within hangouts, so you and your friends can watch a video simultaneously and share your thoughts about it.
There’s no doubt that as the years go by, more and more mobile devices are being manufactured around the world, making very important to think about these devices when launching a new web applications. As we all know, Google owns one of the most important mobile operating systems known as Android, therefore it was obvious that Google thought about a Plus version for the Android devices.
Although during the first days, Plus was only available for Android devices, yesterday we saw the first official iOS application that will help iPhone owners to install Plus on their mobiles and enjoy all the features of Plus, you can download the Plus iOS application in iTunes.
Plus for mobiles has a simple interface featuring the 5 basic icons plus a notifications bar, you can access your stream, check and upload photos, modify your profile and administrate your circles. There are two main features that make Plus mobile rock, the first one is known as ‘Huddle’, which is a nice feature that allows you to gather a group of friends and exchange texts with them.
The second feature that makes Plus one of the best mobile adaptations in social apps is ‘Instant Upload’, which is basically the ability of taking pictures and immediately synchronize them with your desktop, so now you can easily share photos with your friends, you just need to login from your desk and approve the private album where your mobile photos are stored.
Although this service was available before Plus’ official release, it’s until now that people will truly understand the utility of Google Takeout. This simple but yet useful tool allows you to download a copy of your data stored within Google products, which includes your Picassa albums, Gmail contacts, Google Buzz updates, your Google profile and more. Once you start working with Plus, it’s recommendable to visit Takeout to create a backup of all your contacts just in case.
Scripts, hacks and more
So now we have showed you everything you need to now so far about Google Plus, we know that there are tons of new features and updates coming up, but as for this moment, this guide is everything you need to get you started on this new social bet from the Google team, now we like to share with you some of the most relevant hacks, scripts and plugins that will help you boost the power of Plus.
Google Plus Cheat Sheet
From the Mashable team we receive the first Google Plus Cheat Sheet, which includes all the main hotkeys, shortcuts and just everything that the site does not teach you by default. The cheat sheet is already been translated to other languages which you can check by following visiting this link.
The most part of hacks and scripts that have been released for enhancing Plus are Chrome extensions, so in case that you want to harness all the power of Plus there’s no other choice but using Chrome as your default browser. Now, talking about this first add-on, Extended Share is a nice complement that allows you to share your Google Plus updates in Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, of course the extension is currently in beta phase but has already reached more than 60K users, you can check Extended by visiting this next link.
Extended Share for Google Plus
Check Circle Hack
It was just a matter of time before someone released a Yoono-like application for Google Plus. Surplus is a nice Chrome extension that grants you access to the Plus panel so you can read your messages and update your status at anytime.
The tool features pop up alerts, switching between different Plus accounts and just everything you need to have for accessing Google Plus at every moment.
Download Surplus for Chrome
+Comment Toggle hides any comment inside a post within your stream and makes them available if and when you actually want to see them, leaving space for the information that actually matters.
Install +Comment Toggle
Oh yes, now you can have your Facebook stream right on your Google Plus homepage, which means that if this was done after less than a month of Plus’ release, things are going to change drastically during the next few months.
The extension inserts an additional button next to Plus’ main buttons to help us access our Facebook stream, the only thing you need to do is authorize the connection and from now on you will be able to check your FB stream right into your Plus account. This tool is an early attempt for captivating FB clients into Plus, so let’s see what other applications are released on the next couple of months.
And if there’s a Facebook application for Plus, then of course that a Twitter app is also available. Google+Twitter inserts an additional button next to the main four, giving you access to your Twitter stream. Because Twitter is faster and simpler than Facebook, this application offers you a better integration with Plus, allowing you to send tweets, utilize short URL’s, share pictures and videos through TwitPic and TwitVid, check mentions, retweets, inbox and more.
One of the most powerful scripts for leveraging all the power Plus is Google+Enhancer. This tool adds you some neat features to Plus but most important, it implements the Plus notification system to all the Google applications such as Gmail, Reader and Calendar, so no matter in which Google application you are, the top bar will always let you know of new events. It’s important to state that in order to use Enhancer you’ll have to install GreaseMonkey, a popular Firefox add-on.
Find People on Plus
In case that you’re involved with SEO, social marketing and stuff, then this website is definitely a must-bookmark in case that you decide to start using Plus. The site features an user search service, a short list featuring the most important people in Plus, it also lets you check the main data of a specific account, including some really accurate statistics.
The site is growing every day as more people joins Plus, so hopefully we’ll be seeing more features coming up that will help us analyze what’s going on in Google Plus at any moment.
Visit Find People on Plus
Plus Buddy analyzes your public Facebook profile and provides recommendations of who to follow on Google Plus, which is something nice to help you start building your Plus’ network with ease.
Visit Plus Buddy
Start Google+ is a powerful plugin that helps you put your Facebook and Twitter streams inside your Google Plus stream, allowing you to automatically post to Facebook and Twitter whenever you share something on Google Plus (you can turn this on/off from within the share window in Google Plus). It also lets you add a Gmail inbox notifier to the top bar, so you won’t have to keep a Gmail tab open. Clicking on the Gmail icon shows a menu with the unread messages that let you access your emails directly inside Google+.
Download Start G+
This extension helps you have a better visualization of your updates on Google Plus by tweaking the CSS and separating each post and comments visually. The notification bar remains fixed so you won’t ever miss another notification.
Check Usability Boost
Google Plus Widget
A really helpful tool for bloggers and people who wants to share their Plus updates in other websites. The site allows you to configure a Plus component that displays the main information about a determined user, including his latest updates and shares. You can adjust the font size, change color and just everything to make the widget fit perfectly within your website.
See more about Google Plus Widget
And so that’s it, everything you need to know about the new social bet of the Google team, we’re sure that Google Plus will give us a lot to talk about during the next months, so this guide is definitely a good start in case that you’re planning on join this network and even shutting down your Facebook profile and moving to what promises to become one of the greatest products in Google history.