7 cool, unadvertised Facebook features

Hack your Facebook! These seven Facebook features aren't often advertised or well-known among most newbies, but can be quite helpful--and in some cases great time-wasters.

When I wrote our Newbie's Guide for Facebook last week, there were several things worth including that just couldn't make the cut. These seven features aren't often advertised or well-known among most newbies, but can be quite helpful, and in some cases great time-wasters.

1. Feed tweaks: Dial it up. Did you know the Friends' feed you see on the Facebook home page doesn't contain every little piece of information about what people are doing on the network? While everyone can tweak what they want published to the news feed, you too have control of what you see others doing. To adjust the feed, there's a handy set of 10 sliders that control the frequency of each story type, and how often it shows up. There's also an option underneath the sliders to hand-pick which friends you want to see more or less of. You can access this control panel by clicking the Preferences link on the news feed.

Get rid of the mountain of links under profile pictures with the little x button.

2. Changing links under your picture. As you install more and more Facebook applications, you've probably just skipped ahead when the program asks whether or not it's OK to put one of those little blue links underneath your profile picture. What you end up with is a tower of blue links under your name, and on everyone's profile you visit. Feel like cutting down the clutter? Just hit the little "x" button that shows up when you mouse over the box. You can do this with all of the links except for the Edit My Profile link.

Need to get the links back? Just visit the Edit page under "Applications" and find the applications that have profile links disabled. Hit the Edit button, and you'll find the option that will turn the links back on.

3. Reverting to older profile pictures. Think your profile picture is lost every time you upload a new one? Guess again. Facebook keeps a running tab of all your old shots in the form of a special, hidden album. If you want to revert back to one, just choose the Make Profile Picture option on the list of links in the bottom right-hand corner. You can also get rid of any shots that now seem horribly outdated.

4. Applications: Minimize, don't remove. Like the links under your profile picture, things can get a little cluttered. If you have a few applications floating around your profile that you would prefer not to see, just minimize them by clicking the down-facing triangle. Your friends will still be able to see the application box on your profile, but if both of you have it installed, and you have opted not to see it, it will show up as minimized on your profile too. This works on applications you haven't installed--so if you run across one that drives you crazy, and that several of your friends have installed (such as one of the ones from our 5 absurd apps list), you won't be seeing it unless you want to.

5. Pull a Twitter (kinda). Twitter is fun, but long before Tweets lived the Facebook status message, a single sentence description of what you're up to for all to see. This information shows up on your profile, and on various news and mini-feeds, but did you know there's a page that lists the last 70+ status updates of all your friends? You can sign up to get mobile alerts, and, of course, update your very own status from your mobile phone using the Web portal, or by sending text messages to a special Facebook number. There's also a simple RSS feed you can grab to add to your favorite feed reader.

6. Birthday fever. One of my favorite features of Facebook is the birthday reminder. Short of plugging in all your friends' birthdates into an actual calendar, this thing is boss when it comes to a handy heads-up. The only hitch is that you get just a few days notice, which is hardly enough time to get your act together. There is an easier way; from the home page (once you're logged in), you can click the "See all" link inside the Birthdays box. This will take you to a page with everyone's birthdays, listed month by month. The only thing missing is a reminder tool.

You can find the Friends game in the drop-down menu in the Friends tab.

7. Friends quiz. Ever played that music quiz game on the iPod? The one that starts playing a track and gives you a handful of selections to choose from before time runs out? Well, there's a similar game tucked away in your Facebook Friends menu that lets you guess whose profile to which a snippet of text belongs. It could be anything--from a quote, to a favorite book or movie. As the timer runs out, incorrect friends will fade away, leaving a smaller pool from which to guess. While there's no scoreboard, this small application is almost a year old, and represents one of the only official games put out by Facebook. It's also the closest thing to some of the more recent applications that have come out of the f8 platform.

As an advanced tidbit, if you feel like tweaking what kinds of questions the game asks, just click on the Preferences link in the lower right-hand corner to adjust the sliders.

These are just a few of the features I've enjoyed discovering. If you've found any, feel free to list them in the TalkBack.

About the author

Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.

 

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