Some people jumped in early on the beta version of Google+ and have had time to play around. Others did not get an early invite from their friends and have been waiting for Google+ to open to the masses. That time is now. Google+ is now to the public.

When I first got my hands on it, I wrote a post about my first impressions. And since then I’ve put together this handy guide to Google+

With more users being added as we type, now is a good time to cover the basics. When you get on Google+ what do you need to know? What are the cool things to check out?

Your Profile

The first thing that you should do is setup your profile. I love the way that Google+ displays user profiles. It is clean and relevant info is easy to find. My favorite part is the About tab. You can actually post your bio, and all the of the links that you want people to know about are displays in the right sidebar.

Circles

Circles are your groups of friends. Or lists or friends, or whichever name you prefer. You drag and drop pics of your friends into Circles which adds them to the list. However, it takes a while! I wish that they would add the ability to change the view away from the card/circle view to make it a bit faster to sort. Some people have been complaining for a while about getting “Circle Fatigue.”

Hangouts

Hangouts are the coolest feature of Google+ in my opinion. They allow you to do group video chat with your Google+ friends. You can choose to setup a public chat so that anyone can join. Or, you can invite specific friends to join you in your chat, up to 10 users. Some new features that Google is working hard on adding such as Desktop sharing and a Sketch Pad are available in beta form. But right now you can chat, view YouTube videos, and mute your sound and/or video as needed. I can see using this quite often for group meetings or small webinars.

Google+ Mobile

Google+ Mobile is now available for iPhone and Android as a native app. If you do not have either of them, limited features are available via m.google.com/plus. It gives you the ability to view your stream as well as access your Huddle, upload photos, and now participate in Hangouts (Android Only).

Huddles (Messenger)

Think of Huddles as group chat. You can add a bunch of your Google+ friends to a Huddle and IM them all at the same time, right from your mobile. The only drawback to Huddles is that they are not available in the browser version of Google+. Although, you can mimic this activity by starting a group chat in Google Talk which can be loaded in the sidebar of Google+ and Gmail. But, each user would have to be a friend on your chat list. It would be great if you were able to continue a Huddle conversion when you get to your desk.

Games

Games show up on their own tab, and game notifications stay on that tab as well. They do not clog up your default stream, which is a good thing. So, you are only bugged by the games if you want to be.

This will get you started on Google+ and we’ll be adding more posts as new functionality is added.

Are you on Google+ yet? Do you use it differently than Facebook? What do you think?