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!
Adding People to Circles
Circles are the way that Google Plus keeps track of the people you want to follow. When you put someone in a circle, it means two things:
(1) Their updates will now appear in your stream. The default setting on your stream is to see everyone's updates, but you can also choose to just see updates from the people in a particular circle by clicking the name of that circle in the left-hand column.
(2) They can see your posts and updates, provided you chose to share those updates with a circle that includes them.Bear in mind, a person doesn't need to have you in a circle in order for you to add them to one. They can choose not to see updates from you while still allowing you to see their posts.
Green Means Public, Blue Means Limited
When a post is marked "Public," that means anyone can see it, even people you have never added to any circles. The word "Public" on these posts appears in bright green so it's easy to spot. (Green means Go Out to the Whole World!) If you have decided to only share the post with certain circles, their names will appear underneath the post in blue.
Add Photos, Videos and Links Easily
To add media or links into your Google Plus stream, you can click the photo, video and link buttons like any normal person. OR, you can just find the link or the photo or video you want to post and drag it right into the Share box.
Use Keyboard Shortcuts to Save Time
Here's a quick rundown of some of the quick keys built in to Google Plus:
Space = Scroll down
Shift and Space = Scroll up
J = scroll down one post
K = scroll up one post
Q = jump directly to chat
Return = Start Comment
Tab and Return = End Comment