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First Look: Google+ gets a feature-packed refresh

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First Look: Google+ gets a feature-packed refresh

3:34 /

Photo-editing tools, revamped Hangouts, and a gorgeous new stream are some of the standout features in the redesigned Google+.

Watch out Facebook. Things just got interesting on Google Plus. There's a gorgeous new layout, a ton of new photo features, and an unexpected change to Hangouts. There are over 41 new features, so let's dig right in and check out some of my favorites. Right off the bat, you'll notice that this stream of posts looks entirely different. You might even say it looks like Pinterest. Posts are tiled, and the design is responsive. So as your browser window grows, more columns are added. If that layout is too cluttered for you though, you can always switch back to one column up here. Also new is super-sized photos and videos. So here, if I click the photo, it goes full screen with the media on the left and comments over here. Google Plus has also auto adding hashtags to posts, including yours, so that you can surf around related content. Click on a hashtag and the card will flip around so you can browse and comment on related posts. This is awesome for finding new people to follow and killing endless time. When you're done browsing around, hit the X and you'll be taken back to the original posts. Photos got a massive overhaul, turning Google Plus into an all-in-one photo storage and editing suite. To start, everyone gets unlimited storage for standard-sized pictures, which is 2048 pixels. Unlike any other social network though, you can upload full-sized photos, but they will count against your 15-gigabyte storage, which is also shared with Gmail and Drive. Once you upload photos, Google wants to make the process of editing and sharing them as fast as possible. This is where Google's expertise really shines. Once your photos are in there, Auto Highlight automatically chooses the best from the bunch with a smart algorithm. Blurry images, duplicates, and other black sheep will be removed and only the best will be shared. Useful for saving time, but maybe not so great if you're a control freak. Other new auto editing features include Auto Enhance for improving the overall look of the photo and a tool that takes a handful of similar photos and uses them to create one new awesome photo. And of course, Google is calling it Auto Awesome. Finally, Google Hangouts isn't just for video chats anymore. The new feature replaces Google Talk and is even a standalone app for iOS and the Android. In Google Plus, you'll find Hangouts here in the upper corner. From this pop-out list, you can start a one on one or group conversation that can be text only or a video conference. Some of the new features for chat include funny mood, gee, like cute little Smiley's or even creative ones like symbols and farm animals. And as you're chatting, this faint avatars will show you how far that person has read. Best of all, and this is huge for Hangouts, chat notifications will be synced to across all of your devices. So, those are some of the highlights of the new Google Plus, but of course there are many more features for you to check out on your own. And in typical Google fashion, we do expect more features to roll out. For instance, we're already hearing that SMS will be incorporated with Hangouts. For CNET.com, I'm Sharon Vaknin.

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