Google+: The Official Guide.

  • June 30, 2011 7:32 am

Google+ is by far the freshest and “newest” thing to hit the social networking scene in many months. And while it takes obvious cues from Facebook (and several other social media services), the end result is nothing short of awesome. But Google+ will be even better — provided the masses adopt Google’s new social service. Though given the quick take down of the invite button, it appears Google finally has a social hit on their hands.

Step inside as Gadgetsteria takes you through the halls of Google+ and details every nook and cranny along the way…

Google-Wide

You’ll now notice in your various Google apps and services a new black navigation bar. Here you’ll find all of the Google services you’ve come to know and love along with the new Google+ service. It now gives all of Google’s services a more “appy” feel. Though personally, we prefer this new, darker navigation bar.

In track with keeping you connected to all areas of life, on the far right side of the new black navigation bar is a small share box from which to share no matter which Google app your in as well as a notification icon. The icon will show you the number of notifications and when clicked on, provide a drop down box of said notifications. The best part, however, is that each of these notifications can be clicked on to expand and replied to. When you’re done, simply collapse the notification window. Overall a very nice feature for heavy Google app users.

Stream


The Google+ Stream is synonymous to the Facebook Feed, though there is one big difference. With Google+ you’re forced to see the most recently commented on conversations. Facebook gives you the ability to toggle between most recent and most recently commented on — a nice feature we expect Google will ultimately enable.

Moving past that potential sticking point for some is a continuous stream of updates that are fast, simple, and elegant. Trust us when we say: Google hit one out of the park.

When updating your Google+ status you can (like Facebook) share location, photo, video and links.

On the left side of the main stream resides your various Circles, Sparks, and familiar Google Chat window with currently online buddies. We’ll go deeper into Circles in a little bit, but for now we’ll focus on Sparks.

Think of Sparks as “keywords” or “tags”. You can add Sparks to literally any topic you want and in turn receive news/user updates based on that subject. It’s a great way to pull in information tailored specifically to your own taste. It is but one small part of Google moving your entire daily life into one window.

On the right starting at the top you’ll find a list of people in your various circles, suggestions for new Google+ contacts, and a link to start a new “Hangout” — this being one of the coolest features of Google+. Essentially it’s an extremely easy way to set up a mutli-person chat — Video chat too! — room.

Photos


The next button in your Google+ account is that of Photos. You can choose to tie the Google+ photos section into your Picasa account or not. For the sake of simplicity and in an effort to achieve the most seamless experience, we chose the former.

Clicking on a photo brings up a spotlight-esque view where users can comment on and tag people. Further adding to Google+’s attraction is the ability to sort photos by Circles, photos from your phone, photos uploaded by you, and album view.

Profile


The profile tab/view is the most straight forward — it shows off you and your connections and conversations. If you’ve every used a pre-Google+ Google profile, you should be familiar with the setup here. If not, there are several different categories within the profile view that each contain their own information streams: Posts, About, Photos, Videos, +1′s, Buzz.

One other small feature located just to the right of the share box on the main profile page is the ability to view your profile as another user (specifically) or generic public view.

Circles


Finally, we get to the most unique aspect of Google+ — Circles. Think of this as Facebook’s bulk list of friends on steroids. Want to share something on your Google+ profile geared towards some college friends but don’t necessarily want mom or dad to see? It’s super easy if you’ve got said contacts organized into separate groups. With each and every post made to your Google+ profile, you have the option of which Circles to include/not include.

Creating new groups can be done a couple different ways, though our favorite is the drag and drop method found on the main Circles page.

Breaking down Circles further can be done by people you’ve added, people who’ve added you, and searching through your Gmail contacts to find a new person to invite to Google+.

Mobile Apps

Google is serious about Google+ as they have an Android app already prepped and prepared. While we would have liked to see an iOS app launch simultaneously, considering Android is part of Google this is understandable. Still, we can’t help but feel a little envious and left out with our iPhones. With that said, the Google+ webapp is actually quite nice, though, still falls short of the experience a true native app offers. Google has announced an iOS Google+ app is currently under development and will be available “soon”.

Nonetheless, Google’s tying together of desktop, cloud, and mobile communication has been done very nicely.

Outlook

Google+ is garnering a lot of attention currently because of its newness. But where Google’s failed Wave project quickly lost interest in the public eye, Google+ is more encompassing and more engaging. It is already are preferred network over Facebook despite a considerable less amount of friends/followers.

But here’s the kicker: once Google opens up Google+ we don’t think they’ll have a problem getting people on board. We’re getting emails like crazy asking us for invites. Google has already stated that demand has been “insane”. And while it took us a couple extra days to get an invite, we understand their slow and steady approach. Nothing kills a new startup service faster than a poor user experience.

With that said, we would like to see at least one change made that pulls directly from Facebook — the ability to toggle between most recently commented on/popular conversations and new comments. It’s a simple change, but one that we feel will make Google+ even more desirable.

One other feature that we love about Google+ is that it’s fast and clutter free. While we fully expect ads to be introduced at some point — Come on, it’s Google after all — if done right we don’t think we’ll notice. Of course, not having to looki at stupid app notifications in our Google+ feed makes us happy. Very happy. So not only is it a Facebook on steroids, Google+ is a more refined, less polluted Facebook too.

As it stands now, Facebook has quite the contender in Google+.

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Gadget lover, smartphone collector, and beer connoisseur. I've been writing about gadgets for three years now and loving every minute of it. Outside of the digital landscape, I enjoy being active outdoors. I'm always up for a good conversation, so feel free to drop me a line!

  • Anonymous

    Great guide! Thanks. And I totally agree that the “ability to toggle between most recently commented on/popular conversations and new comments” is a MUST. I miss that. Other than that. Nice job Google! 

  • http://www.gadgetsteria.com The Gadgeteur

    You’re very welcome.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gwen-Reed/100001414776271 Gwen Reed

    The grey on black navigation bar fails W3S accessibility standards.  It is only a matter of time before they either re-design it, offer option to change it back, or both.