Google+ is all the rage right now. Even under its limited-invite "field trial" phase, the social sharing service is growing in leaps and bounds, with oodles of new users joining every day and even more champing at the bit to get in.
Most of us, however, are only beginning to scratch the surface of what Google+ can do; like many Google products, G+ is brimming with advanced features and untapped tweaks. That's why I decided to put together this massive list of Google+ tips and tricks. It includes some of the best power-user pointers I've found both from my own experimentation and from following some really smart folks in the Google+ universe.
For more G+ tips and general tech talk, be sure to join me on Google+ as well. I promise I won't bite -- at least, not unless you ask really nicely.
Google+ Tips Part 1: The Stream
1. Use hotkeys to get around Google+ faster. In your Stream, press "j" or "k" to move through posts, and press Enter to start a comment. (Pressing Tab and then Enter will cause your comment to be submitted; hitting Tab twice and then Enter will cause it to be cancelled.) You can also press "q" to jump to the Google+ chat box.
2. Hotkeys work in the notification drop-down, too: Press "j" or "k" to move up or down in the list, and then press Enter to open any individual notification. When viewing a notification, "j" or "k" will let you progress forward or backward to other items. Pressing "Esc" will close the notification window altogether.
3. Want more hotkeys? Check out the G+ Extended extension for the Chrome Web browser. It adds a series of additional options, including hotkeys for +1'ing posts, sharing posts, and expanding comments.
4. If comments are getting out of control in your Stream, try the +Comment Chrome extension. It collapses all comment threads so you see them only when you click to expand. Another good option is the G+me Google+ extension; it leaves comments expanded by default but gives you a one-click option to collapse any thread or post on demand. It also provides badge-style comment counters to help you keep tabs on new activity for items you've collapsed.
5. You can take a specific item entirely out of your Stream by clicking the small drop-down arrow next to it, then selecting "Mute this post." That'll also keep you from receiving any future notifications about the item.
6. On your own posts, that same drop-down arrow holds options to shut down comments and prevent people from resharing. The commands affect only the specific item you're viewing.
7. Sometimes leaving a comment on an active post can turn into a bouncing-screen challenge, thanks to the top-of-page activity always pressing your Stream downward. To solve this, click the drop-down arrow next to the post you're viewing and select "Link to this post." That'll open the post in a new tab; type your comment there, then close the tab when you're finished.
8. Google+ lets you stylize text within posts and comments. To italicize, sandwich your text with underscores _like this_; to make text bold, use asterisks *like this*; and to create a strikethrough effect, use dashes -like this-.
9. Make Google+ a little easier on the eyes with the Google+ Ultimate extension for Chrome. It separates posts into individual boxes with an offset background and forces the top status bar and left sidebar to stay in fixed positions while you scroll. Another good option is the similar Usability Boost extension; it gives a slightly different modified look to the site that some users may prefer.
10. Mention (or "tag") someone in a post or comment by typing "+" or "@" and then the person's name. Google+ is still a bit wonky at times about bringing up the right result; try typing the name slowly and enclosing it in quotation marks (e.g. +"Bob Sacamano") if you have trouble.
11. Improve the G+ reply mechanism immensely by grabbing the Replies and More Google+ Chrome extension. The extension puts links throughout G+ that let you reply to the author of any post or comment with a single click -- and without all the "+"-typing hassle.
12. To start a private conversation with a friend or multiple friends, just share an update like you normally would -- but be sure to remove "Public" and any other circles from the share box. Then, tag your friend or friends using the "+" syntax mentioned above. They'll receive notifications about the message, and you'll be able to have an ongoing dialogue in the comments for the post. If you want to be extra safe, you could also disable resharing using the process described in tip #6.
13. Power up your Google+ Stream with the +Photo Zoom Chrome extension. With it installed, you can hover your mouse over any photo in your Stream to see an enlarged version of the image right there.
14. The Google+ mobile app allows you to view posts from people in your geographic area (using the section labeled "nearby"). Little-known fact: You can access that function from your desktop, too; just load the mobile version of Google+ to do it.
15. The Google+ mobile app has a hidden feature of its own: When viewing your Stream, press the menu key and select "Manage Views." Then, check off all your favorite circles and select "Done." You'll now be able to swipe right from the main Stream to view those circles individually.