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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Understanding notifications

When something happens on Google+ that's directly relevant to you -- like someone mentioning you in a post or commenting on one of your posts -- the system will give you a notification to make sure you're aware.

Notifications are accessible by clicking on a bell at the top right corner of the screen. When you have new notifications, a small red box appears alongside the bell with a number to show you how many are pending. Click on the bell to view them and see what's going on.

Google+
Notifications are accessible by clicking on a bell at the top-right of the screen.

You can also opt to receive certain types of notifications via email or text message, if you'd like. To do so, you'll need to go into your Google+ settings. You can get there by clicking your name or image at the top-right of any Google service and selecting "Account" and then "Google+."

You'll find a host of settings there, including options to limit who can cause notifications to be sent to you and a list of specific notifications you can set to be delivered as emails or texts.

Chat and hangouts

Google's new Hangouts messaging system is integrated into Google+, which means you can chat with other users and also initiate video calls with them from within the service. Just click the "Hangouts" link at the top-right of the screen to get started, then click on any contact's name to open a chat session with that person. Once you're in a chat, clicking the icon that looks like a video camera will send a video chat request to your friend.

Managing your photos

Google+ gives you 15GB of free space for storing photos (the space is shared among Google+, Gmail and Drive and can be upgraded for a fee). You can upload photos to G+ by attaching them to posts, as described above, or by going into the Photos section of the left-side navigation menu (the one that appears when you hover over the Home icon). Photos can be shared publicly or with limited groups of people, or can be kept private and visible only to yourself. The Google+ Android and iOS apps also have options to automatically upload photos from your phone as they're captured.

Google+
Google+ gives you 15GB of free space for storing photos.

The Photos section of G+ features some useful image management tools, including a utility for organizing your images into albums. It also allows you to search through your uploaded images using Google's powerful visual recognition system; you could search for the keyword "food," for instance, and G+ would pull up all of your photos that show food. The system is surprisingly accurate.

Want to give your photos a little extra pizzazz? Easy: Google+ now automatically enhances all uploaded photos to make them pop. (You can undo the enhancements for any photo or disable that feature altogether if you want.) Another photo feature called Auto Awesome automatically creates animated GIFs, panoramas and merged group shots from series of photos taken in close succession; once you've started uploading images, you'll find its handiwork in the Photos section of your account.

Google+
Google+ has fairly robust tools for editing images manually, should the need ever arise.

Last but not least, Google+ has fairly robust tools for editing images manually, should the need ever arise. Just click on any image and select the "Edit" command to enter the service's online photo editing suite.

Beyond the basics

So there you have it: a quick and simple guide to getting started on Google+. The service has lots of nooks and crannies, of course -- from advanced options to mobile apps with their own sets of commands -- and we've only begun to scratch the surface.

In the next part of our Google+ series, I'll take a look at some things you can do to help get noticed and find an audience in the virtual halls of Google's social service. After that, I'll dive into some power-user tips and tricks for becoming a true Google+ master.

In the meantime, you can always find me on...well, you know.

JR Raphael is a Computerworld contributing editor and the author of the Android Power blog. He tries his best not to be an antisocial social network user.

This article, Getting around Google+: A guide to the basics, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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