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[How To] Circles

If you're going in circles trying to figure out Google+ Circles, our how-to will help you make sense of how Circles works and how to use them effectively.

About Circles

Circles is Google's answer to online sharing. Google has made it really easy to share the right things with the right people in your life, with Google+.

The basic paradigm of Circles is that you'd typically put people in different circles, depending on how you know them, or what your interests are.
For example, you'd typically want to place people in your family in your "Family" circle. This way, when you share a photo of your cousin, little Timmy; you'd naturally select the "Family" circle and only your family will see the photo, and no one else.

Getting Started

You'll see Circles on the navigation ribbon to the left-hand side of Google+. If it's not there, it's hiding away under "More".
Look for this icon in your navigation ribbon
As a new user to Google+, you'll have a small set of pre-made Circles to get you started. You can use these as a base to build upon, or you can remove them if you want. A seasoned user may have 20 or more Circles set up, but it's all up to how you use Google+. There's no right or wrong way.
Circles, lots of circles

Adding people to your Circles

"Find People" is a great tool for discovering and adding people to your circles. The page will be filled with suggestions of people that you may know, or that posts content that may be interesting and relevant to you.

To add people that are already on Google+ from your work or school/college/university, click the relevant button to the right on the "Find People" page. You can also choose "Connect services" to find people in your Hotmail or Yahoo address books.

Organising Your Circles

The best thing to do is start organizing, or at least find some sort of structure to your circles as soon as you can. As you start adding more people and pages and you haven't worked created many circles, you may find yourself getting overwhelmed by a very noisy stream without being able to filter affectively.

Start off simple

The first thing you should do is build upon a basic structure:
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Co workers
  • Acquaintances
  • Following
If you already have people in circles, move them to the relevant ones. If they don't fit in a circle, create a new one. I would advise against very specific circles though, for various reasons, one being that it would be harder to organise in the long-term.

Filter by Circles

Now that your circles are nice and tidy, you can filter your stream by circles on the desktop and on the mobile app.

Filtering on the desktop

circles bar
You can customise the list by reordering your circles
To filter on the desktop, you'll see a tabbed bar at the top of the home stream, this displays your circles. You'll find 4 on the tab, the rest will be hiding in the "More" drop-down menu.

Filtering on your mobile device (Android)

Filtering is easy on mobile devices too! Just tap the "All circles" drop-down menu to see all the circles you've created, as well as the Nearby and What's Hot streams.
Circles Selection on Android

Fine-Tune Your Circle Streams

There are some people that you add that you might not want to see every single post of theirs in your stream, and then there are those (such as your family) that you may want to be notified about when they post. It's easy to adjust how much content is shown on your stream by changing the post volume settings for each individual circle.

To adjust, click on a circle from the tabbed bar at the top of the home stream, you'll see a settings menu underneath the thumbnails listed in that particular circle. There are several options you can opt for, uncheck "Show posts in Home stream" to stop content from that circle from appearing in your Home stream (useful for your "annoying people" circle).

If you still want to see a circle's content in your Home stream but want to see more or fewer posts, select the relevant option in the "Amount: More" menu. To go back to the default, just select "Standard".

It is also possible to be notified when a person or page in the circle shares, just select "Get notified about new posts". I'd use this option on circles with fewer people in, or with people that post less frequently but have share quality content.

Sharing Circles

One of the really neat features in Google+ is that you can compile a circle and then share it with your other circles. You can use it as a recommendation tool, just place the people and pages you'd like to share in a circle, click on that circle and hit the share button (in between edit and delete).

Sharing a circle is easy, and quite useful (when used right)
When you share a circle, other people can view the people in that circle and add them in one or two clicks. It's definitely an underrated feature.

Extra Help

Here's the official Learn More page for Circles:

If you still need help or have any questions, mention +Google+ Help (an official page) in a post with your question and they'll do their best to get back to you and help you with your problem/query.