Getting Around Google+: 25 Tips and Tricks for Power Users

Here are 25 tips and tricks to help make your G+ experience as good as it can be.

Google+

Getting started on Google+ may be simple, but mastering the service's full potential is an art. Thanks to advanced options and third-party extensions, there's always some new way to give Google+ an extra pinch of power.

Here are 25 tips and tricks to help make your G+ experience as good as it can be.

Work faster and better

1. Put your mouse down, homey: You can get around Google+ almost exclusively by using your keyboard. In typical Google fashion, G+ is loaded with keyboard shortcuts. Just press shift + the question mark key on your keyboard when you're in the main stream view and you'll get a list of available commands.

One common command is conspicuously missing from Google+'s keyboard shortcut collection: the ability to open up the notifications window. There is a workaround: From the stream view, press the forward-slash key, press Tab twice and then press Enter. It's a bit involved, admittedly -- sort of like a secret handshake -- but if you're a keyboard shortcut nut like me, it won't take you long to get in the habit.

2. Need to get back to the top of your stream from the Google+ desktop site? You can always use your keyboard's Home key, but if you prefer a mouse-oriented approach, clicking anywhere on the top navigation bar will also take you there.

3. When you mention another Google+ user in a post or comment, type a plus sign before you start typing her name. Google+ will then give you a dropdown list of users from which you can select. Doing so will notify the person that you mentioned her; it'll also let other users hover over the person's name to learn more about her and view her profile.

When you mention another Google+ user in a post or comment, type a plus sign before you start typing the name and Google+ will give you a list of users from which you can select.

Spruce up your posts

4. Google+ makes it easy to make your posts look good: Surround any text with asterisks to turn the text bold, with underscores to make it italicized, or with hyphens to give it a strikethrough effect. Those formatting commands work in comments, too.

5. Next time you're trying to find a particular type of photo from the images you've got stored on Google+, try the intelligent photo search feature. Just head over to the Photos page (you can find it in the left-hand menu) and type a term into the search box at the top of the page -- "dog," "ocean," "picnic," or any phrase that describes what's in the image you want. The system's accuracy will surprise you.

Google+'s intelligent photo search feature lets you find your photos by typing in a descriptive word or phrase.

6. You may know that Google+ automatically makes animated GIFs from related images you've uploaded, but did you know you can easily find all your animated GIFs in a single place? Just search for the keyword "motion" within the Google+ Photos section to see all the GIFs G+ has generated from your photos.

7. Google+'s automatic photo enhancements work on images uploaded to Picasa, too -- even old images uploaded before G+ was around. To check out enhancements made to your Picasa photos, first be sure you've signed into Google+ from the same account you use (or used) with Picasa. Then try searching the Google+ Photos section for keywords like "motion," "hdr" or "mix" to see the enhancements in action.

Streamline your stream

8. If there's a post in your stream you don't want to see, move your mouse to the upper-right corner of its card and click the small down arrow that appears. From there, select the option called "Mute post" to banish it from your life forever. You'll also find options in that menu to report spam or abusive behavior -- and, provided the post is from someone you've added yourself, an option to remove him from your circles right then and there.

9. Want to get a permanent standalone link to an individual post -- either for sharing on another social network or for referencing somewhere outside of Google+? You'll find a "Link to post" option in that same top-right arrow menu mentioned in the last tip; you can also just hover your mouse over a post's timestamp and then right-click to copy the link.

10. Social media is all about engagement, but sometimes you may want to limit the ways in which people can interact with your posts. Google+ has you covered: Just click the small arrow on the right side of the "To" box while you're writing a post. There, you'll find commands to prevent people from leaving comments on the post and also to prevent users from resharing it.

Get the word out

11. Track how widely any post is being shared with Google+'s Ripples feature. Click the small arrow at the top-right of a post to find the option; selecting it will show you a scalable chart with detailed info about who shared your post and how it spread.

You can also use Ripples to gauge how widely an external page -- a news article or YouTube video, for instance -- has been shared on G+; just add the URL to the end of this string:

http://plus.google.com/ripple/details?url=

Paste it into your browser's address bar or add a bit of code into your browser's bookmarks to create a one-click Ripples button.

(Note: If a post or page hasn't been publicly shared on Google+ -- in other words, if you've limited it to a specific set of people or circles -- no Ripples data will be available. So if you do want to take advantage of the feature, it's best to choose Public on the share dropdown.)

You can track how widely any post is being shared with Google+'s Ripples feature.

12. Think you've got some interesting people in your G+ stream? Share the love with a Google+ shared circle: From the Circles page (click on "People in the left-hand menu and then choose "Your circles" from the top menu), click on any circle you've created. The circle will turn black and offer three icons: a pencil (to edit), a right-facing arrow (to share) and a garbage can (to delete). Click on the arrow icon and you can then share the entire circle with your followers, who will be able to add everyone you've included into their own circles with a single click.

13. Take a minute to make sure you've filled in the "Tagline" and "Employment" sections of your Google+ profile. They're particularly important, as the text you put in those sections appears in a small card every time someone hovers over your name while viewing content on G+.

You can edit both sections by opening your profile, selecting the "About" tab at the top, and then clicking "Edit" in the appropriate areas on the page.

14. If you have your own blog or website, you can put interactive Google+ follow buttons and badges there to encourage visitors to circle you. Google+ doesn't currently offer a full-fledged widget for showing your latest posts, but you can create your own using a third-party service such as Widgetbox.

15. Google+ doesn't provide any official tools for creating RSS feeds from your posts -- no surprise, given the company's broad moves away from RSS -- but once again, third-party services can fill the void. A free service called pluss.aiiane.com is a solid option that works well.

Customize and control

16. Not thrilled with the way Google+ collapses long posts on the Web? No problem: Install a free Chrome extension called Replies and more for Google+. It'll make the service automatically expand all posts by default. It offers a number of other interesting options, too, such as the ability to add a two-click command for sharing any post to email, Facebook or Twitter.

17. If you miss the way the Google+ stream used to refresh automatically, grab a Chrome extension called Auto Load New Posts for Google+. The extension does exactly what you'd think: It makes new posts show up in your stream as they're sent instead of requiring you to click an icon every time they arrive.

A Chrome extension called Favorite Posts for Google+ adds a one-click "Favorites" section into the desktop G+ site for you to use.

18. For a robust post-saving setup, check out a Chrome extension called Favorite Posts for Google+. The extension adds a one-click "Favorites" section into the left-hand sidebar of the desktop G+ site for you to use; it also adds one-click commands within individual posts for you to save the post to Pocket or Instapaper.

19. You automatically see your Google+ notifications at the top of most Google services, but if you use Chrome, you can make it so they're available anywhere on the Web: Just install the Google+ Notifications extension. It'll put a Google+ notifications box in your browser's toolbar area.

20. Ever wish you could schedule Google+ posts for the future? You can -- sort of. While Google+ itself doesn't yet provide such functionality, a Chrome extension called Do Share gets the job done. The catch is that your browser has to be running whenever the post is scheduled to go live in order for it to work.

Beyond Google+

21. You can interact with Google+ directly from Gmail. First, be sure you've set up your G+ email notifications the way you want (go into the Google+ settings and scroll down to the "Receive notifications" section). Then, when you get a G+ activity alert in your inbox, look for the commands to moderate comments, add comments or +1 a post. Performing those actions within Gmail will work exactly the same as if you had performed them from the main G+ site -- and you'll save a few precious seconds.

22. You can save content directly from Google+ to Evernote and other similar note-taking services. First, you'll need to sign into the note-taking service and find the email address associated with your account (for example, here's how you find your Evernote email address).

Then go to your G+ Circles page. Type that email address into the white box at the top right of the page. You'll see a box appear with your name and the Evernote address. Click on the box; you'll see a pop-up that lets you "Add and invite." When you click on that, you'll be able to create a new circle called "Evernote." Now anytime you want to save a post to Evernote, just share it to your Evernote circle and -- abracadabra! -- the deed will be done.

(Note: By virtue of the nature of this process, you'll likely receive an automated invitation to join Google+ in your Evernote account the first time you set it up.)

23. Google+ can serve as a note-taking tool itself: Just create a new circle called "Save." Add only yourself into the circle. Anytime you want to save something for your own personal reference -- whether a new note you're making or content someone else posted -- just share it into your Save circle and it'll be there waiting for you when you need it.

24. If you use Google Docs, you can share documents, spreadsheets and presentations directly from there into Google+. Click the blue Share button at the top right of any open document and then select the G+ icon. You'll be prompted to choose how public the document will be -- either accessible to anyone on the Web or accessible only to those who have the direct link -- and can also set whether other users will be able to edit, comment on or simply read the file.

Like with any G+ post, you can share a document with any circles or subsets of users you want. Once shared, it'll show up in your followers' streams as a readable thumbnail and will open in Docs when clicked.

25. You can make phone calls using Google Voice right from the Google+ desktop site: Open the service's Hangouts feature, located at the right side of the main stream. Once you've signed in, click the small down-facing arrow in the Hangouts section and then select "Call a phone" to get started.

(While Google Voice is free to use within the United States, there is a per-minute rate for international calls. To find out what they are, click the downward arrow that appears after you've selected "Call a phone" and then click on "Rates.")

You can also conduct video calls and group video chats from the same G+ Hangouts section, though those options work only with other Google+ users.

JR Raphael is a Computerworld contributing editor and the author of the Android Power blog. For more Google-centric tips, follow him on Google+ (and/or send him freshly baked cookies).

This article, Getting around Google+: 25 tips and tricks for power users, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

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This story, "Getting Around Google+: 25 Tips and Tricks for Power Users" was originally published by Computerworld.

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