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Use Google Hangouts as a free tele-conference—no Plus accounts needed!

Our author thinks Google+ Hangouts are usually preferable to any other online meeting solution: Skype negotiations, third-party proprietary setups, and one-shot but unreliable chat sites. Here's something even more convenient about Hangouts you might not have known: you can add people to them through a free phone call, no Plus account needed.

Start a "Hangout with Extras" (http://plus.google.com/hangouts/extras), then  click Invite at the top-left of the window. Choose Phone from the left-hand options, then simply enter the phone number (U.S. or Canada) of the person you want to join in. They'll get a call, and when they pick up, they're now chatting with everybody who's in the Hangout.

It's obviously most useful when you have two or more people already in a Hangout and need to add a third who's only available by voice call. But nothing prevents you from calling Skype numbers, or bringing in a bunch of voice calls and using Hangouts with Extras to take "minutes' on an all-voice meeting.

Got another clever use for Hangouts with Extras and free voice calls? We'd love to hear about it in the comments on this post!
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Patrick Neal's profile photoJohn Blok's profile photo
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Kevin can't wait to get home, grab his wife's iPhone, and mess with the new Google+ iPhone app. Oddly, not a single mention of an iPad app yet.

What's your favorite part of the new G+ on iPhone?
Sharing is deeply sensory. From cooking a favorite meal to getting together with friends, it's the smells and the stories and the smiles that make human connections so essential. With Google+ we w...
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Jeffrey Wetherington's profile photoPhil Manijak's profile photoKevin Purdy's profile photoMichael Haggard's profile photo
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I like that it's now obvious which icon creates a new post in the Stream view. I miss the side-swipe to rotate through circles.
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So, uh, notice anything new around Google+? Yeah, us too. Navigation moved to the left side, photos are now much bigger, and Pages? Pages are, from what we're seeing right now, much easier to navigate and use.

Here's Google's official post on all that's new. What do you think so far?
More than 170 million people have upgraded to Google+, enjoying new ways to share in Search, Gmail, YouTube and lots of other places. It's still early days, and there's plenty left to do, but ...
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Kevin Purdy's profile photoMike Blawas's profile photo
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We picked up a review on Slashdot! It's a really detailed look at the strengths, and the weaknesses, of the work. Michael is dead-on that Pages were being introduced and refreshed just as the first edition was coming out, and while we have a Pages PDF uploaded (http://examples.oreilly.com/0636920021919/gplus_mm_pages_info.pdf) to cover some of that material, it's definitely a moving target, and some material is going to be a bit behind (photos, I'm looking at you, in particular).

Thanks to Mr. Ross for the seriously deep read on the work, and for sharing on Slashdot.
Michael J. Ross writes "Prior to Google+, the company's previous attempts at social networking — Orkut, Dodgeball, Jaiku, Wave, and Buzz — were largely failures, and tended to frustrate users...
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How do you apply italic and bold styling to text in Google+? Why isn't there a button for this yet? Actually, you just use the kind of plain-text characters that are used in Markdown (http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/). Put underscores ( _ ) around text you want to make italic, without any space. Put asterisks ( * ) as sandwich bread around text you want to make bold. And place hyphens ( - ) to strike through text.

I covered this in my Google+ Webcast, "The 10 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Google+," which you can watch or parse in slide form at the attached link. Now go out there and spread the word about Google+ and its semi-hidden text tools!
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drjack ong's profile photoАртемий Маришкин's profile photoFranco Fassio's profile photoPaolo Marino's profile photo
 
Hey, I watched this archived webinar today. I looked for your circle that lets me adjust how many posts you see from someone, but couldn't find it. I follow Thinkgeek, but they are serious overposters IMHO, and I'd like to see less. Which bummed me out, because I was so hopeful. Any help? Did they take it away?
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Where the Cool Posting Tools for Google Are At (a.k.a. Third-Party Tools Status)

Right now, I'd love to enter this post in a queue, so it gets posted later on today, when I'm working on something else, and to give that post just below this one a little breathing room. But that will have to wait.

In Mid-November, Google announced that it was working with six partners on third-party tools: HootSuite, Buddy Media, Context Optional, Hearsay Social, Involver, and Vitrue. Those partners, in turn, could offer a select number of clients a few tools to test out with Google+. In HootSuite's case, they posted (http://blog.hootsuite.com/google-plus) that their tools offered to HootSuite Enterprise customers allow for just about every kind of Page interaction you might want. From their blog:


+ Manage circles in-dash with add/remove and edit functionality
+ Post public updates or to select circles
+ Search public posts and updates within your circles
+ Pop-up user profiles and company pages
+ See recent user activity without leaving the dashboard
+ See comments on posts and save to a stream
+ View users who +1, share and comment on posts
+ Measure results with five Google+ analytic modules in-dash

Other tidbits have come out. Google+ tools will have access to Hangouts (http://www.slashgear.com/google-hangouts-will-be-open-to-third-party-apps-05163201/). Google has opened up a developer Page (https://plus.google.com/110967630299632321627) that devs can follow to get the latest nitty-gritty on APIs and updates.

But most telling of all is Vic Gundotra's comments in October (http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/sergey_brin_vic_gundotra_on_pseudonyms_apps_users.php) that Google+ "doesn't want to make the same mistakes of others." In other words, it doesn't want to, like Twitter, open up its API, pull back parts of it, move in and offer official tools that take their cue from developer-made tools, and so on.

So it's a hurry up and wait scenario right now, if you're looking to create the best possible Google+ posting and reading app or plug-in.
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O'Reilly hosted a pretty great webcast the other day, where I (Kevin) got to list out "10 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Google+." The full video archive should be up shortly, right here: http://oreillynet.com/pub/e/2178

The slides, too, should be up fairly soon on O'Reilly's SlideShare page: http://www.slideshare.net/oreillymedia

In the meantime, I was really impressed with the questions that rose up from the chat room during the web cast. Great questions on third-party tools, differentiating Google accounts, profile short-links, and more. I'm going to work on answering those questions right here on this page.
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Patrick Lalande's profile photo
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Have them in circles
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Quick tip: Hangouts are supposed to be on-the-fly, if-you're-available chats. Sometimes you'll come across something that you really want to chat about, and maybe invite some people who are seeing it and reacting to it to do the same.

So if you want to create a Hangout around a particular public post, or maybe something you've shared with a select circle or set of folks, look for the camera icon below the post. That instantly creates a hangout with the post as a topic, and everybody who has you in their circles can see that Hangout happening when they view the post.
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Kevin Purdy's profile photo
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Here's a 10-minute, big-screenshot tour of all the new stuff in the Google+ redesign—or, at least, most of it. What'd we miss? What's new and interesting that you've discovered around these parts?
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Puleen Patel's profile photoTim Canoot's profile photo
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Here's a Google+ photo tip that came from a very insightful email I received a while back from +Tim O'Reilly. To paraphrase Tim's question: "How the heck do I organize my photos in Google+?!?"

The answer is, you don't--at least, not in Google+ itself. They've recently added an "Add to album" button in the Photos section of Google+, but that only does just that--move a few photos around, in somewhat toss-and-pray fashion. If you really want to organize your photos, or do anything beyond look at or download them, you need to log into your Picasa Web Albums account.

Google+ doesn't make it apparent, but your Google+ photo stream is tied to Picasa, their pre-existing web photo service. Log into Picasa Web Albums, and look at two of the album titles: "Instant Upload" and "Photos from posts." Click on one of those albums, then notice the buttons you have: "Copy," "Move," and, best of all, "Organize." You can sort photos however you want, order prints, touch them up, and also do something that Google+ makes tricky: sharing photos through Ye Olde Time Email. Click "Share" after selecting a few photos, then look for the "Share via email only" link at the bottom of the box that pops up.

So head over to http://picasaweb.google.com and get familiar with the less flashy but more powerful tool Google+ photo tool that Google hasn't really told you about.
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Benoît Huron's profile photoMark Bieri's profile photoBrian Crowder's profile photoalmadina madina's profile photo
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No, go into an album, and from Actions select Organize Album ...sort, move, rearrange, select thumbnail photo, etc. Most of the stuff that's available in Picasa, with a UI more consistent with G+ look and feel...
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Definitely my own most-requested feature, and a really handy way to keep an automatic copy of your photos online for easy sharing.
 
New Google+ iOS app, now with Instant Upload!

A new version of the Google+ iOS app is rolling out to the App Store, and it comes with one of your most requested features: Instant Upload! Once enabled, all photos and videos that you take are automatically uploaded to a private album on Google+ -- ready to share with your circles, or the world.

Other cool features in this release include:
- The What’s Hot stream
- Shake your phone to send feedback: Google+ Update: Shake and Send (Sexy) Feedback from your iPhone
- Various bug fixes and performance improvements

You can download the latest version here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/google/id447119634?mt=8

We look forward to seeing your beautiful pictures on Google+. Do keep the feedback coming!

* Instant Upload is only active while the Google+ iOS app is open, and for a brief period after you close it. Re-opening the Google+ app resumes your photo & video uploads exactly where they left off.

#googleplusupdate
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Rob Attryde's profile photo
 
This was a great feature in the Android version, then I moved to Windows Phone and that functionality has been lost... Anyone know when WP will get this added to the Google+ app?
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Picnik, a web-based image editor that Google acquired and built into some aspects of Google+, is closing on April 19, 2012. That means those little links you see in Google+ to "Edit image in Picnik" will disappear, too, along with your ability to use Picnik's more robust editing features in its own browser tab.

But! Google and Picnik say that more Picnik tools will be built into Google+, and that the Picnik team will focus on Google+ photo and image editing. And until Picnik is closed, everybody gets to use it as a premium (paid) member. Nice.

If you really need a stand-alone image editor to do some real touch-up on a photo, consider Aviary (http://aviary.com), which offers both heavy, Photoshop-like layer editing, and lighter markup tools.
Since joining Google in 2010, we have been creating editing magic in Google products while continuing to keep Picnik awesome. But now we get to focus on even awesomer things. Picnik will be closing on...
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Have them in circles
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