Thursday, May 16, 2013

How to Make the New Google+ Layout More Bearable

Yesterday +Google+  rolled out a new layout. My initial reaction was somewhat negative, as can be seen in my blog post from yesterday. While there are still things about which I am very unhappy (namely, the way they have redone chat), I am quite a bit happier than I was yesterday. That having been said, I am only happier because I made adjustments to improve my experience on Google+.

Those of you who use Google+ might have noticed that the default setting in this new layout is for one's streams to be displayed in multiple columns. If you are like me, you will find this highly annoying and want to do away with it immediately. Fortunately, one can set one's stream (and hence the streams of one's circles as well) by clicking "More" towards the top of the page and then scrolling down to "Stream Layout." Unfortunately, this will only set one's stream and circle streams in single column--one's profile and any searches one might do will all still be in multiple columns. Fortunately there is a fix for this as well. Simply go under setting and click the box under "Accessibility." Once you do this everything will be in a single column. I am hoping that Google+ will come up with a more intuitive means of forcing everything into single column or at least set it so that if one sets his or her streams to single column, then everything else will be as well.

Another potential annoyance is that Google+ can now automatically add hashtags to posts. Now once Google+ automatically adds a hashtag one can delete it, so people do not have to worry about having hashtags that they might not want on posts. While I know some people who like this feature, I know that I would find it annoying myself.  And while I happen to like hashtags myself, I know that there are those who do not like hashtags and would probably hate this features. Fortunately, one can shut off Google+'s ability to automatically add hashtags. One simply goes under settings and uncheck the box under "Hashtags" marked "Add related hashtags from Google to my newly created posts."

While people might vary in their opinion in Google+ automatically adding hashtags to post, I rather suspect most of us want Google+ to leave any photos we upload alone. Unfortunately Google+ has two new features that won't do this unless they are disabled. The first is "Auto Enhance," which automatically adjusts brightness, saturation, and so on. If you are like me you'll want to control how your photo looks and will have already done this in Paintshop Pro or Photoshop, if at all. The other feature is the rather poorly named "Auto Awesome," which basically blends photos together to create a brand new picture. Quite frankly this sounds even more annoying to me than Auto Enhance and I can't see that many people liking it. To disable both "Auto Enhance" and "Auto Awesome," simply go under settings and uncheck the boxes under "Auto Enhance" and "Auto Awesome."

I wish there was a solution to my major pet peeve about the new Google+ layout, which is the way they revamped chat (which is now called "Hangouts"). The new chat lacks any sort of status modes, so that one cannot set himself or herself to available, busy, or invisible. And while on the old chat one could make oneself visible to certain circles, but invisible to others, the best one can do with the new chat (I really don't like calling it "Hangouts") is set certain circles to "Can Hangout with Me" or "Send Request." Now there is the "Snooze" function, but unfortunately it cannot be set to only certain circles--one either appears to be "snoozing" to all circles or none. Worst of all is the chat bar. Whereas the chat bar used to show only those people to whom one had made himself or herself available to chat, the new one might not show people with whom one regularly checks and show people with whom one never chats. There is no fix for any of this, so my only advice is to send feedback to Google+ and complain. I consider the new chat so bad that it is hard too believe it was Google and not Facebook who developed it.

For the most part I have to say I do not hate the new Google+ layout as I did yesterday. That having been said, I think that they should have developed a means for people to force single columns throughout Google+ without having to go to settings. And while things such as Auto Enhance and Auto Awesome are minor irritations, I think they have basically ruined chat and gave us no means  to fix it. Google+ really ought to give us status modes back and they also ought to give us control over who is displayed in the chat bar. While I know people who like the multiple columns and there are probably even people who like Auto Enhance and Auto Awesome, I know of no one who likes the new chat!

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