By Guest author XanthusKidd
Google Plus has a very clean looking interface that’s not entirely dissimilar to Facebook. It keeps the new Google toolbar that is normally displayed on Google’s search site at the top of the screen, but changes the icons around to give you access to more collaborative items (Gmail, Calendar, Documents, etc.).
Google+ Contacts and Circles
One of the major changes from Facebook consists of the way that G+ handles your contacts. In Facebook, you only have the option to add people as “Friends.” Once you’ve done that, you can group them and play with settings, but it’s quite complicated and easy to miss the minute details. In G+ you add people to circles, and whenever you post anything, you choose which circles see the info. It’s incredibly easy and very smooth. Much of G+ is drag-and-drop capable, so the interface is very easy to use.
Your Google + WebPage
When you first open G+ after creating your profile, you are greeted by a three column webpage, like Facebook. The far left column displays your profile picture and name, your various “Stream” options, your “Sparks,” and the chat dialog box.
- A “Stream” is like a news feed in Facebook. It shows all of the posts from the people in that circle. You can specify what you see in your main feed by narrowing the feed down to different circles.
- A “Spark” is an interest of yours. When you want to be kept up to date on something on the web, merely search for that term in the sparks search bar and add it to your interests. You will be notified whenever anything new is posted on that topic.
The center column is much like Facebook’s “News” column; this is your main stream. At the top of this column resides the option to “Share what’s new…” via text, photo, video, or link.
- The status box is very similar to Facebook, and gives all of the same options, although there are some improvements. The link option is the most noticeable change. If you post many links, you will like this option. Not only can you choose what picture it pulls from the website, you can remove the summary statement as well. The photos and videos buttons give you the option to drag-n-drop to create an album, and the video button allows you to post YouTube videos. You can also share photos directly from your phone, using your PC, if you have an Android phone.
The right column shows the people in your circles, suggestions of people you might know, the “Hangout” option, and some other options from Google.
- The “Hangout” option is, while not revolutionary, a very solid and nicely put together option. You can text chat, video chat, watch YouTube videos simultaneously, and host and participate in video conferencing. One of the convenient, and slightly amusing, features of G+’s video conferencing is the option to mute individual people.
Your profile on G+ provides all of the standard options, plus the ability to link accounts from Facebook, Yahoo, Flikr, and others. You can also modify each aspect of your profile to set which circles can see what. You can change the visibility of tabs (such as your photos and videos) and allow only certain people to see them. That infamous +1 button that’s popped up everywhere on the internet is finally showing its worth. Everything that you’ve +1’d shows up on your profile under the +1 tab.
Google + Photo Album Feature
The photo album feature in G+ is greatly improved from Facebook’s. If you have used Google Picasa then you will be familiar with the album view option in G+. It shows one main photo with all of the others down at the bottom of the screen, allowing you to browse an album easily without constantly exiting the photo viewer.
Google + Notifications and Takeout systems
The last features that I’ll cover are the Notifications and Takeout systems. The notification box in the top right corner of your screen shows a number that corresponds to however many new notifications you have. When you click on it, it opens a drop down box in which you can read and respond to the notifications. You also have the option of opening all of your notifications on one page.
The Takeout feature is a backup system for your account. It allows you to download all of your data as a zip file and store it in case anything ever happens to your Google account.
Google + Performance
Right now, G+ is very fast and seems to be quite stable. The best option seems to be using it with Google Chrome, although I haven’t had any problems with Firefox 5. My main browser is Opera, and there are quite a few glitches and unusable features (namely notifications and drag-n-drop.)
Google + My Take on the Future
I think that Google Plus has a very good chance of becoming the next big thing. If Google plays their advertising right, and markets towards the younger crowd, I think that they will have a viable and strong social networking community. The main features missing right now are the options for business and website accounts, like Facebook’s Pages. If Google builds those in, I think they can compete quite well with Facebook.
Hold on Facebook, you’re in for a fight; there’s a new kid on the block, and he’s cool.
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Google +1 Buttons for Bloggers