40 Google+ tips and tricks for power users

Get the most out of Google's new social network with these 40 awesome tips and tricks.

Google+ is all the rage right now. Even under its limited-invite "field trial" phase, the social sharing service is growing in leaps and bounds, with oodles of new users joining every day and even more champing at the bit to get in.

Most of us, however, are only beginning to scratch the surface of what Google+ can do; like many Google products, G+ is brimming with advanced features and untapped tweaks. That's why I decided to put together this massive list of Google+ tips and tricks. It includes some of the best power-user pointers I've found both from my own experimentation and from following some really smart folks in the Google+ universe.

For more G+ tips and general tech talk, be sure to join me on Google+ as well. I promise I won't bite -- at least, not unless you ask really nicely.

Google+ Tips Part 1: The Stream

1. Use hotkeys to get around Google+ faster. In your Stream, press "j" or "k" to move through posts, and press Enter to start a comment. (Pressing Tab and then Enter will cause your comment to be submitted; hitting Tab twice and then Enter will cause it to be cancelled.) You can also press "q" to jump to the Google+ chat box.

2. Hotkeys work in the notification drop-down, too: Press "j" or "k" to move up or down in the list, and then press Enter to open any individual notification. When viewing a notification, "j" or "k" will let you progress forward or backward to other items. Pressing "Esc" will close the notification window altogether.

3. Want more hotkeys? Check out the G+ Extended extension for the Chrome Web browser. It adds a series of additional options, including hotkeys for +1'ing posts, sharing posts, and expanding comments.

4. If comments are getting out of control in your Stream, try the +Comment Chrome extension. It collapses all comment threads so you see them only when you click to expand. Another good option is the G+me Google+ extension; it leaves comments expanded by default but gives you a one-click option to collapse any thread or post on demand. It also provides badge-style comment counters to help you keep tabs on new activity for items you've collapsed.

5. You can take a specific item entirely out of your Stream by clicking the small drop-down arrow next to it, then selecting "Mute this post." That'll also keep you from receiving any future notifications about the item.

6. On your own posts, that same drop-down arrow holds options to shut down comments and prevent people from resharing. The commands affect only the specific item you're viewing.

7. Sometimes leaving a comment on an active post can turn into a bouncing-screen challenge, thanks to the top-of-page activity always pressing your Stream downward. To solve this, click the drop-down arrow next to the post you're viewing and select "Link to this post." That'll open the post in a new tab; type your comment there, then close the tab when you're finished.

8. Google+ lets you stylize text within posts and comments. To italicize, sandwich your text with underscores _like this_; to make text bold, use asterisks *like this*; and to create a strikethrough effect, use dashes -like this-.

9. Make Google+ a little easier on the eyes with the Google+ Ultimate extension for Chrome. It separates posts into individual boxes with an offset background and forces the top status bar and left sidebar to stay in fixed positions while you scroll. Another good option is the similar Usability Boost extension; it gives a slightly different modified look to the site that some users may prefer.

10. Mention (or "tag") someone in a post or comment by typing "+" or "@" and then the person's name. Google+ is still a bit wonky at times about bringing up the right result; try typing the name slowly and enclosing it in quotation marks (e.g. +"Bob Sacamano") if you have trouble.

11. Improve the G+ reply mechanism immensely by grabbing the Replies and More Google+ Chrome extension. The extension puts links throughout G+ that let you reply to the author of any post or comment with a single click -- and without all the "+"-typing hassle.

12. To start a private conversation with a friend or multiple friends, just share an update like you normally would -- but be sure to remove "Public" and any other circles from the share box. Then, tag your friend or friends using the "+" syntax mentioned above. They'll receive notifications about the message, and you'll be able to have an ongoing dialogue in the comments for the post. If you want to be extra safe, you could also disable resharing using the process described in tip #6.

13. Power up your Google+ Stream with the +Photo Zoom Chrome extension. With it installed, you can hover your mouse over any photo in your Stream to see an enlarged version of the image right there.

14. The Google+ mobile app allows you to view posts from people in your geographic area (using the section labeled "nearby"). Little-known fact: You can access that function from your desktop, too; just load the mobile version of Google+ to do it.

15. The Google+ mobile app has a hidden feature of its own: When viewing your Stream, press the menu key and select "Manage Views." Then, check off all your favorite circles and select "Done." You'll now be able to swipe right from the main Stream to view those circles individually.

Google+ Tips Part 2: Circles

16. Use Google+ to save posts and other important content. Go to your Circles page and search for your own name. Add yourself to a new circle called ".Save" (or something to that effect). Then, anytime you see something in your Google+ Stream that you want to save, just share it with your .Save circle. You can browse through your saved stuff by opening your .Save stream (it'll be at the top of the "Stream" list on the left-hand side of your Google+ home page). No one other than you will be able to see it.

17. If you use a note-taking service like Evernote, you can save content directly from Google+ into your off-site notepad. First, find your account-specific Evernote email address. Add that address into a new Google+ circle called "Evernote" -- then, anytime you want to save something from Google+ to Evernote, just share it with that circle. Google+ will send the content in an email, and Evernote will translate it into a notebook item in your account.

18. Want certain circles to show up higher than others in the main Stream list? Circles whose names begin with a period (like ".Save") will always shoot up to the top. Names starting with an asterisk (like "*Important") will appear next.

19. The default Google+ circles will always appear above everything else. To get around this, create your own new circles to replace the default ones (e.g. "My Acquaintances" to replace "Acquaintances," and so on). Be sure to move everyone from the default circle to your new replacement one, then delete the default circle when you're done.

20. When moving people into circles on your Google+ Circles page, hold down Ctrl or Shift to select more than one person at a time. You can also click and drag to draw a box and select multiple people to move.

21. To copy one entire circle into another circle, click on the first circle and select "View circle in tab." Then select "More actions" and "Select all." Now, just drag the entire group down into the other circle and -- voilà! -- the deed is done.

22. Change the layout of the Circles page by clicking and dragging the divider line up or down between circles and people. This allows you to create more space on either side of the line.

23. If you want to look at a lot of people at once on the Circles page, try pressing Ctrl and "-" a few times to zoom your browser out and make the content smaller. You can always press Ctrl and "0" to return to the normal view.

24. From the Circles page, double-click on any person to jump right to his or her profile.

25. Try this: On the Circles page, hover your mouse over a circle that has at least 30 people in it, then scroll with your mouse's scroll wheel. The faces in the circle will rotate around like a carousel, giving you a nice graphical way to see who's inside.

Google+ Tips Part 3: People and Profiles

26. Find new people by searching for topics or locations in the search box at the top of the Google+ page. You'll get back a list of people who have your keyword somewhere in their profile.

27. Search Google+ from Google by putting "site:plus.google.com" at the end of your query. To search only through posts you've written or shared, use "site:plus.google.com/[your Google ID]" -- replacing "[your Google ID]," of course, with your own unique Google ID (the long number that appears in the URL when you click on your profile).

28. If you want to get really fancy, you can create special commands for searching Google+ within Chrome. Go into the "Manage search engines section" of your browser's settings and add a new entry called "Google+ Posts." Set the keyword as "post" and the URL as "{google:baseURL}search?q=site:plus.google.com inurl:posts/* %s." Add another new entry called "Google+ Profiles." Set its keyword as "profile" and its URL as "{google:baseURL}search?q=%s&tbs=prfl:e." Then, when you want to search through Google+ posts, just type "posts" followed by your query into the browser's location bar. To search Google+ profiles, type "profiles" followed by your keyword.

29. Jazz up your Google+ profile with a row of photos along the top of the page. Click the "Edit Profile" button on your profile page and then click on the large blank space beneath your name and short bio. There's plenty of room for creativity; check out this story at Mashable for some supercool examples.

30. You can edit photos right within Google+. Open any image from the "Photos" tab of your profile, then click the drop-down box labeled "Actions" and select "Edit photo." There, you'll find a variety of options for color and contrast correction as well as special effects.

31. All of your Google+ photos are actually stored in Picasa. You can see and share them from Google's Picasa Web Albums site.

32. Google+ makes it easy to see how your profile looks to other people. Just go to the "Profile and privacy" section of the Google+ settings and type any user's name into the box labeled "See how your profile appears to other users." Click "Preview," and you'll get a glimpse at yourself through someone else's eyes.

Google+ Tips Part 4: Google+ and the Web

33. Get a permanent link to any Google+ post by clicking on its timestamp. If the post was shared publicly, this link will work for anyone -- even if they aren't signed into the Google+ service.

34. Expand your Google+ sharing options with the Extended Share extension for Chrome. It gives you added commands on every post to send the content to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Tumblr.

35. Google+ doesn't officially offer RSS feeds yet, but you can make your own by adding your Google+ ID number to plusfeed.appspot.com. Mine, for example, would be http://plusfeed.appspot.com/108233028875375016776.

36. If you're jonesing to send your Google+ updates directly into other social networks, you can use your newly created RSS feed to do it. A service called Twitterfeed will take that feed and shoot it straight into your Twitter and/or Facebook account. (Just don't blame me when everyone on Twitter and Facebook starts unfollowing you.)

37. Anytime you +1 a story on the Web, it'll show up in the "+1" tab of your Google+ profile, giving you an easy way to save favorites or stories you want to read later. The +1 Button Chrome extension puts the +1 button into your browser's URL bar so you always have easy access.

38. Ever find yourself browsing in another tab and constantly switching back to Google+ to look for new notifications? Install the G+ Count Chrome extension. It puts your current notification count in the front of your Google+ page title so you can always see it at a glance.

39. For even more robust G+ browser integration, give the Surplus Chrome extension a whirl. It adds a live Google+ notification count to the top of your browser; you can even click the button to access your notifications right there, without having to open Google+ at all.

40. Google doesn't yet offer a way to create a memorable URL for your Google+ profile, but some third-party services are stepping up to fill the gap. Try gplus.to; you give it your Google+ ID number and pick a nickname, and it gives you a short link that points directly to your page. Or, if you have your own domain and are comfortable messing with the .htaccess file, you can create a "yourdomain.com/+" redirect with a single line of code. Googler Daniel Sandler has posted detailed instructions, fittingly enough, on Google+.

JR Raphael is a syndicated writer and the author of the Android Power blog. You can find him on Google+ by going to jrstart.com/+.

This story, "40 Google+ tips and tricks for power users" was originally published by ITworld.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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