Google Apps

10 small but brilliant things about Google Plus

Google+ includes several attention-grabbing items -- like Circles, Google Takeout, and Sparks -- but there are some great subtle features you should know about as well.

Have you heard about all the nifty things the new Google Plus social network can do? Of course you have. But have you dug around to see what's really good beyond the headline items? Well we have, and we've brought back some small yet superb details to crow about.

1: Automatic photo uploading from your phone

At first, the Android app for Google+ seems like a nice way to check activity, post about how awesome it is to skip work for a ball game, and so on. But head into the app's settings, enable Instant Upload, and the way you use your phone, and Google+, changes entirely. Everything you shoot is almost instantaneously synced to a private album in Google+. From there, it's just one click to sharing the photo, but you'll want to type out a sentence. Even if you don't share your stuff, Google+ is basically freeing you from the need to find a cord, fire up a program, and monkey around with your phone storage -- everything you shoot is in Google+, too. But you decide whether to put it out there.

2: Unlimited photo storage (pretty much) in Picasa

To make Google+ a place where people want to share their photos, among many, many competitors, Google had to pull out the big guns. In this case, those guns are server storage, something Google has more of than anybody else, by a good long shot. Google can offer almost unlimited photo storage in Picasa, so that photos smaller than 2048 by 2048 in pixels and videos less than 15 minutes long don't "count" against your storage space. Shoot and shoot and share and shoot again, and Google just keeps smiling at your feeble attempts to take up space.

3: Quick, easy, undo-able photo editing, with I'm Feeling Lucky

Photo presentation in Google+ is a nice, content-forward experience, with a black backdrop and easy sharing or deletion. Even nicer is that Google threw a few of the most helpful photo filters and editing tools in there, too. Click the Actions button just underneath a photo, and you'll get rotation tools -- and more important, Edit Photo. A right-hand sidebar pops up with some Instagram-like filters: cross-process, Orton, and black-and-white. There's auto-color and auto-contrast and the ever-helpful I'm Feeling Lucky button, which helps non-photo-nerds by applying the most common light and color corrections to your shots.

4: Profiles for better Google search results

Sensing some need to let actual people have a say over the machine math that produces search results, Google previously offered Google Profiles as a dedicated spot where you, the person, could have a say and show up in searches. But like the best advice about vegetables and tax receipts, Profiles weren't widely adopted by the general user. As Google+ gains users, it's making the Profile an essential tool in connecting to others and discovering interests, which in turn is causing users to more accurately and fully fill out their Profile. It's a sweet syrup that helps us swallow the bitter bill of self-promotion, with the healthy result of having a say in what Google says about us.

5: Keyboard shortcuts, both built-in and add-on

Like most Google products, Google+ has a good built-in list of keyboard shortcuts that let you run through stream items, start a new post, and generally navigate the social realm without reaching for your mouse or moving your fingers onto the trackpad. If you want even more no-pointer-needed functionality, try the Google+ Manager for Firefox or Goo Plus Manager in Chrome.

6: Simultaneous YouTube video watching for groups

The group video chat Hangouts inside Google+ have received lots of attention and rave reviews, and for good reason. Hangouts are like group Skype chats, just with Google helping on the server side and with a more polite single-focus video window. But the part that gets less play is how everyone in the Hangout can see the same YouTube video at once, watching it in real time and commenting on specific moments (in text by default, but by voice if you'd like). That's handy for training, presentation critiques, and other moments when you can't all be around the same screen.

7: Drag-and-drop sharing

Technically, yes, you can grab links from other Web pages and drop them into Facebook or Twitter for sharing. But Google+ lets you snag photos, links, YouTube videos, and other items and just drag them into the sharing panel. You can even drag Web items into the Share box on that black Google toolbar we mentioned above for truly lazy content making.

8: The universal Google toolbar

Once you've activated Google+, nearly every Google Web service shows a kind of universal toolbar, black and seemingly bolted to the top of your viewing window. It provides universal notifications about new Google+ happenings in a little red number square, quick posting to your Google+ stream, and a quick click to see your profile. But it also somewhat normalizes the links to other Google services you'll see (Gmail, Calendar, Documents, etc.) and provides a consistent feeling to Google's Web services, a win/win for both the search giant and its most dedicated users.

9: Handy chat client to unburden Gmail

Google+ has the same kind of built-in Gmail/AIM chat window in its lower-left corner that Gmail offers. Gmail, which now does far more than it was originally built for (including free phone calls), could use some help lightening its loading time and memory bulk. So consider keeping Gmail for email and opening Google+ when you are available to be social.

10: Post-publish editing... Enough said

Inspiration comes a lot faster than clean, conscientious copy. On most social networks, that's just too bad. Twitter and Facebook don't let you clean up your words or remove photos -- you have to delete your post entirely and destroy the comment or reply chain. Google+ provides a little arrow in the upper-right corner of all your posts that drops down to offer editing -- as well as comment striking, turning off comments, and yes, post deletion if things really went the wrong way.

About

Kevin Purdy is a freelance writer, a former editor at Lifehacker.com, and the author of The Complete Android Guide.

43 comments
goodybegood
goodybegood

I would like an invite also to learn more. Thanks in advance.

Richard Turpin
Richard Turpin

There is always a place for kiddies entertainment! well done Google something for them to do in the holidays when the weather is bad.

honeybear0816
honeybear0816

Please send me an invitation -- honeybear0816@verizon.net. Thanks very much!

jaack4242
jaack4242

I am really grateful to the blogger. Superb pots. Incredible design. I haven???t found such a blog for a long time. Be consistent in posting. linux server management -

johnniecast
johnniecast

Google+ invite please! johnniecast@yahoo.com

hammermustfall
hammermustfall

I love these comments about this and that feature in Google+. I asked my two teenage daughters if they'd heard of Google+. Of course they answered no and have no interest in hearing about it either as they are too busy on FB. Maybe Google+ will be like an online retirement community where us old folks go to socialize. But if you are looking for a mass exodus from FB to G+ in the 13-35 demographic (where market capital valuations live), don't count on it - even if it is "better".

daboochmeister
daboochmeister

Really nice that their open architecture permits extensions like Start Google Plus to be created - it effectively adds all your FB content into your G+ view, and permits posting from G+ that cross-posts to FB. This is providing me a reasonable transition strategy, as I wait for G+ to open for business. Only works for Chrome, however. Don't know if there's something comparable for Firefox/IE/Safari/etc.

Gisabun
Gisabun

And the paid advertising by Google to TR/ZDNet/CBS interactive continues.... Surprised I haven't seen any Google + ads on the sites. i guess once Google decides to take it out of beta in a couple of years, there will be ads.

jsaubert
jsaubert

A number of people have been asking me about Google+ but likewise I haven't been able to play with it. None of the invites going out currently are letting anyone new in.

spin498
spin498

Google closed my account today because I refuse to provide my date of birth. They now want extort a valid credit card info from me to reopen the account. This is out and out privacy invasion they can stick it.

zeitgeist21
zeitgeist21

Hi there, I have read much about it and these are 10 cool stuff as compared to FB. The sad thing is that I could't get an invitation. Clarence

phillibe
phillibe

As I've tinkered with G+ over the last couple of weeks, I keep coming across new features that I didn't know were there. The automatic photo upload from the G+ app was distressing until I could get to a computer and realized the photos were private. I really didn't want pictures of my kid showing up when I didn't approve it. The takeout feature was one I hadn't seen but I'm definitely glad its available. I think better tie-ins to other Google features like your calendar could be integrated into the landing page for your G+ account to add to your experience.

bratwizard
bratwizard

What a bunch of overblown, stuffed-up baloney. Facebook and Twitter too, if you ask me.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

"Already invited? We've temporarily exceeded our capacity. Please try again soon." I've been getting that for a month.

Wired99
Wired99

I think Google is doing a lot of things right with G+. They have a well designed framework to which they are now adding these nice features. Notice how they are all there for you to use or not if you choose with specific sharing options. Just wish I could +1 this article :P

BurningLamp
BurningLamp

Google really packed on some great features. The identity issue and its fallout is what I just hope they can manage better. Let's hope Google+ stays and becomes a viable alternative to the current offerings by FB, etc. Now, if only I could get a G+ invite....

ctgarcia
ctgarcia

What does that make FB users?

Laurel Raven
Laurel Raven

Good...didn't want to talk to them anyway. Now, get off my lawn!

thashums
thashums

I hear your pain, but if your account is really important to you, at $0.3, it is an insignificant cost. that is a cost they payout to their payment gateway

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It's a 100% voluntary program. People who don't like the TOS shouldn't open an account, or quit as you did. But merely requesting information in exchange for a free, voluntary service is neither extortion nor an invasion of privacy

KarrasB
KarrasB

A personal invite is the trick. Give me an email address and I'll send you an invite.

jinxygirl
jinxygirl

I've been trying to get in, but it always says "closed".

Chronological
Chronological

Give me your email address and I will send you one. :)

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

Been there, done that. It ain't fun. Learned a lesson. A lot more careful with CC info since then.

bratwizard
bratwizard

If 750 million people jumped off a bridge...

dz@4thpres.org
dz@4thpres.org

but would you be so kind as to send me an invite, too? Many thanks, and i'll understand if you're tired of sending invites. ..*AT*4thpres.org

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

I guess I can't send to you right now, but I "followed" you so I should be on your PM list. I hate to post real emails on an open forum like this cuz they get spammed.

KarrasB
KarrasB

Besides a personal invite I believe people still must have a google account of some kind, gmail if nothing else, but post an email and I'll send you an invite..

exxazz
exxazz

bamsebrum at yahoo dot com Thanks!

plunketts
plunketts

Can you send me an invite ? sarah.plunkett@hp.com Thanks!

Chronological
Chronological

I invited all of you. Have fun exploring. :)

mupton
mupton

Can I get an invite too? muptonspook@yahoo.com

jrhodus
jrhodus

Can you send me an invite to Google+? Thanks so much! My email is jrhodus5@yahoo.com

kjsmac
kjsmac

Google+ invite please! soremfamily.c@gmail.com

Trick-Starr
Trick-Starr

Can you also invite me, PLEASE, corus@live.co.za

charbel.nasr
charbel.nasr

Can I get an invite too? Charbel.nasr@ieee.org

exxazz
exxazz

Thought I could pm you but no. plz send one to bamsebrum at yahoo dot com. Thanks.

hallahan
hallahan

Please invite me - Thank You Kindly - Loretta

kcommenter
kcommenter

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