Getting around Google+: A guide to the basics

Part 1 of our three-part how-to series on Google+ covers everything you need to know to get started.

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Finding people

Google+ does a pretty good job at helping you find and discover people to follow. When you sign in for the first time, the system will walk you through some steps to locate folks you know and connect with other interesting users you might not yet be acquainted with.

Google+
When you sign in for the first time, the system will walk you through some steps to locate folks you know and connect with interesting users.

You can always expand your circles later, too: From the desktop website, just hover your mouse over the word "Home" on the left side of the screen to access the main navigation menu, then click the "People" option. There, you'll find lists of people you might have a connection with, along with strangers whose content might interest you: celebrities, regular folks who talk about topics you like and even lowly tech writers who share stories about getting started on Google+.

Organizing your circles

While you're in the "People" section of Google+, click the link at the top of the screen labeled "Your circles." That'll bring you to a graphical tool with which you can adjust your circles by dragging and dropping people into different groups; you can also create or delete circles as needed.

Google+
A graphical tool lets you adjust your circles by dragging and dropping people into different groups.

When you click on any circle, you'll also find an option to share it. That allows you to post the circle publicly in order to let others see the group you've created. You might share your "Tech News" circle, for instance, to give other people your own recommendations of interesting G+ users who talk about technology. Shared circles are a great way to find new people and help your followers do the same.

Sharing content

Circles are useful when it comes to viewing content, but their greatest value may be in helping you share it. Circles make it easy for you to control who sees what you post on Google+; after all, some things might be okay for anyone to view -- but other things might be best left to the eyes of your friends, co-workers or a few specific contacts.

Google+
A drop-down menu lets you choose which circles you want to share your post with.

When you're ready to share something, click the large "Share what's new" box at the top of your Google+ stream. You can then type in any text, paste in any link, or attach any photo or video using the on-screen commands. When you're done, click inside the large white "To" box -- where it says "Add names, circles, or email addresses" -- to determine who will be able to see your post.

You can select one or more of your circles or add in the individual names or email addresses of anyone you know (if the person doesn't already have a Google+ account, he'll just receive an email with the content you shared). You can also opt to share to "Your circles," which will make your post visible to everyone you've added on Google+, and to "Extended circles" to share it with friends of your G+ friends as well.

(If you're already viewing content from a specific circle within Google+, the system will automatically set your post to be shared to that circle; you can always change it, however, and add additional circles or individuals to be included.)

If you want a post to be publicly accessible, select "Public." That'll make it so anyone can see your post; it'll show up with your name in searches within Google+ as well as in regular Internet searches through any Web search engine.

Note that if you opt to share a post with only a limited group of people instead of sharing it publicly, Google+ won't let anyone else reshare your post to Public -- you'll have to share it with one or more of your circles from that point forward.

Want to mention another Google+ user within a post? Simply type + and then start typing her name; the system will give you a list of matching options and fill in the rest for you. This will cause the person to be notified that you mentioned her and also allow other users to hover over her name and learn more about her.

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