advice The Top Google Plus Tips and Tricks  

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Google Plus (or Google+), the search giant's 2011 foray into social networking, got off to a fairly impressive start, adding so many new users in its early days that the company had to shut down its invitation system.

Once it stabilized, though, early users started to pour in and enjoy the company's slightly different take on social media. Though many of the features of Google+ have already been featured elsewhere - on sites like Twitter, Facebook, even Myspace - there are some innovations here and there as well. Most immediate is the introduction of Circles, a sort of mandatory, built-in groups system forcing you to put friends and acquaintances into categories rather than sharing with individuals or the general public exclusively.

As well, Plus introduces a variety of ways to chat live with friends, including the addition of Google Chat already available in Gmail and the concept of "Hangouts," which allows up to 10 people within a circle to video chat live on the system.

Google Plus launched with an Android app ready to go, and iPad and iPhone apps will follow in the weeks ahead.

This list includes some basic "getting started" information for people new to Google Plus, and also some tips, tricks and suggestions for those with a bit more experience using the system. Have additional tricks we didn't think of? Leave them in the comments below!

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Mute Posts

If you +1'ed or added a comment to a post, you'll then get notified every time someone else comments on that post. As well, it continually will show up at the top of your stream, because Google considers each comment "new activity" on that post.

This can get tiresome after a while, especially if the original poster was someone with a large following who gets a lot of comments. If you've grown weary of seeing the same post over and over again, just go to the upper-right hand corner menu and choose "Mute This Post." This will tell Google Plus to stop bugging you with it even when there's new activity.

If you're tired of seeing the same post pop up repeatedly, just click on the menu in the upper right hand corner of the post, and select "Mute this Post." That will prevent your ever seeing this post in your stream or notifications bar again.

Simple Codes to Format Your Text

*Word* will put a word in boldface
_Word_ will put the word in italics
-Word- will strikethrough that word

See Who Is Shared on a Post

Sometimes, you will notice the word "Limited" on posts from your friends. This means that they have chosen to share the post with some of their circles - and you're in one of those circles - but not with everybody.

By clicking on the word "Limited," you'll bring up a list of all the other people who can see this post. Enjoy the fun of knowing that you were included on something that not everyone else can see, and that these other people are your collaborators! Hooray for cliques!

Customize Your Profile

Google Plus has all the usual ways to customize your profile - adding photos, entering a bio and links, a section for "bragging rights," and so on. There is also a unique ability, however, to just customize your profile for certain other users.

When in "Edit Mode" on your profile, click on any section you want to change. Once there, you'll have the ability to enter new information, and you'll also see a menu reading "Anyone on the Web." Clicking this drop-down will allow you to select who you'd like to see this profile change - anyone, just members of certain circles, or even individual people. Then complete your update as you would any other change to Google Plus and click "Save." Then click "Done Editing" at the top of your profile and it's finished.

View How Others See Your Profile

When on your profile page, it's easy to take a look at how someone else would see you. There's a box next to the top navigation bar reading "View profile as..." Typing in another user's name will show you how that person sees your profile. If you have made any specific changes or customizations for that person, they will show up.

Who Can See Your Circles

Part of what makes the Google Plus circles system work is that no one can see which people you have added to which circle. So you can add people to just the groups that you want without having to worry about hurting their feelings or being too forward. To repeat, other people can see you have added them to A CIRCLE but they won't ever know which circle - what it's called, who else is in it, etc.

Normally, your profile page contains a list of all the people you have added to any circles. This information is considered generally "public knowledge" in the system and is shared frequently. It's very simple, however, to change that, and keep the other people you have added into circles entirely private.

To do this, go to the "Edit Profile" page. In the left-hand column, find the section marked "In circles." ( will be your name). You'll see a number (the total people you've added to circles) and a globe icon. Click the globe.

This will bring up a box to let you customize who can see information about your circles, and what they can see. Unselecting the top box will make information about who's in your circles totally private. Checking it will allow you to share this information only with people in certain circles. You can also disallow anyone from seeing the other users who have added you to circles.

Add and Import Friends

So now you're pretty adjusted to how Google Plus works. But you need more friends!

Going to your main Circles page will bring up three tabs. Click the tab marked "Find and Invite" to expand your community. This will suggest people for you to follow based on who your friends and connections are already following. You can also automatically import your contact lists from Yahoo or Hotmail.

Notably missing from this list? Of course, it's Facebook. There have been numerous workarounds already proposed for bringing your Facebook contact list into Google Plus. There are a few Firefox and Google Chrome extensions, for example, that will do the job, including Facebook Friend Exporter for Chrome. It's also possible to export your Facebook friends directly to Yahoo Contacts, and then move this list over from Yahoo into Google Plus.

Get a Custom Short URL to Your Profile

Getting your own name or another short, customized URL that leads right to your Google Plus profile can be helpful. It makes your profile easier to remember and find, and it's also neater when sharing your profile through other social media services (like Twitter).

To sign up for one, just go to Google Plus Nick and lock in your chosen nickname. Better hurry...people are sure to be reserving the shortest and easiest to remember names first!