Of course, one of the main ingredients of any social network is posting your thoughts, current status or one sentence witticisms. Google+ helps you control who sees your messages through Circles. It also doesn’t let you hit Enter/Return to post a message. Instead, you have to click on the Share button, which is a subtle, yet helpful way to double check what you’re saying and who you’re saying it to.
Who can see your posts? To see who has access to your posts, the text next to the date/time in an individual post will display its sharing status. It might say Circles or Limited or Public. Clicking that text will show a list of exactly who in your circles can see it. This also works if you’re not the person who made the original post. If the circle is large, you’ll only see a portion of the shared people.
Private Messaging. Google+ doesn’t have an explicit private messaging system, but you can send a message to just one person. Create a new post, but in the sharing box underneath it, delete the other sharing options and share it only with the person you wish to communicate with. To keep that person from making the post public, disable resharing as well.
Tag a specific person. In posts and comments, you can tag a specific person to alert them to a post, similar to tagging in Facebook and @replies in Twitter. To share a post with an individual, either type @ or +, then their name in the text of the post, or add their name to the Sharing field underneath. In comments, use + or @. Currently, + isn’t working as well as @. If the system is working, when you type @ then add a letter, a popunder will start listing the people in your circles and those you’ve interacted with underneath.
Deeper control of posts. Each post has a menu with different options depending on whether the post is yours or not. If it is yours, this is where you can edit or delete and disable comments or resharing. On other people’s posts, you can find the permalink, report abuse, mute the post so it doesn’t show up in your stream again, or block the poster.
Keep posts private. For those who want to keep a post and comments limited to the specific circle you’ve shared it with, there’s one extra step you have to take. After posting, click on the menu at the top right of the post and choose Disable Reshare. Otherwise, if someone in your circle decides to reshare your post, you have no control over it. Even if you edit the original post, shared copies will not reflect this and you cannot delete other people’s shares. This is similar to Reblogs on Tumblr. Google’s engineers have said that sometime this week limited posts will automatically have resharing disabled.
Formatting options. There are a few simple formatting options for posts and comments, which will be familiar to anyone who uses the GTalk interface. Asterisks make text *bold*, underscores make text _italic_, and dashes make text -strikethrough-.
Users can add photos and videos to posts using the icons on the bottom right of the posting window or by dragging and dropping media into the posting window.
Notifications appear on the Google bar at the top right. When you have new notifications, the box will turn red with a white number inside. Otherwise, the box is gray. This bar is persistent across all Google services, including GMail, Docs, Search, YouTube and more. No matter where you are on Google, you’ll always know if activity is happening on Google+.
Turn off email notifications. By default, Google+ sends all of your notifications to email. To turn this off, go to Settings (the Gear icon on the top right of the screen) > Google+. Here you can uncheck some or all notifications. If you add a phone number to your profile or download the Google+ app to your smartphone, you can push notifications there, too.
Everything on Google+ is encrypted with https, which means that outsiders can’t intercept and read what you put on the service unless you explicitly share it with the public. This has vast implications for people using Google+ under dangerous circumstances, but also for average users who need protection from identity theft, for instance.
Who Can See What. By default, anyone on the Internet can see who you’ve added to your circles, though they cannot see which circles or the names of the circles. However, they can see the names of the people in your circles by default. You can change this setting by editing your profile. Go to Profile, then click Edit, then click on the section in the left sidebar that shows who is in your circles. Here you can choose which circles are public, and whether to restrict them to just the people in your circles or the entire web. To hide this information completely, uncheck all of your circles. This is where you can also choose not to show up in other people’s circle lists, even if theirs are public.
See how your profile looks to others. This popular way to check your privacy settings in Facebook is also in Google+. If you want to see how your profile looks to others, there’s a box on the right side of your profile near the top that says “View Profile As”. You can type in the name of a contact or see how it looks to everyone on the web. This is a great way to check whether the information you don’t want public is available.
As previously mentioned, joining Google+ reactivates some of Buzz’s features and adds a Buzz tab to your Google profile. Be sure to check that Buzz isn’t connected to any accounts or pulling in/sharing any information you don’t want. The Buzz settings are actually found in the GMail settings, the last tab on the right.
Picasa and Google+ are deeply integrated. Any photos users had in their Picasa accounts now become part of Google+. Likewise, any photos uploaded to Google+ are now on the Picasa web service. Albums act just like Google+ posts: they can be shared by anyone who can see them, and those who can see them can see who else you’re sharing with as well. Users can tag others in their photos, just as on Facebook, with an accompanying notification.
To hide old albums, you have to go to the Picassa site itself. Click into the album you want to change, then click on the “public on the web” link next to the album’s thumbnail on the right sidebar. Here you can change the permissions or lock it to private viewing only. If you delete a photo from Google+, the photo will also disappear from your Picasa album and vice versa.
Within the next few months Picasa will lose its separate branding and become Google Photos, but the features and functionality are expected to remain the same.
The +1 button is all over Google+, but they’re not exactly the same thing. The expectation is that you’ll use it the same way people use Like on Facebook. The original poster plus anyone the post is visible to can see that you’ve +1d a post or a comment. However, +1ing a post or comment doesn’t mark or save them in any way. Though there is a +1 tab on your profile, it only shows webpages you’ve +1d elsewhere on the web.
Additional contributions by Meghan McDonough