Modern Software Experience

2011-07-19

sort order

Google+ streams after circle

Streams before and after sorting the circles.

This is an article from the early days of Google+. Ten days after this text introduced a method for sorting Google+ circles, Google introduced sorting through drag & drop.

circle list

The left column of your Google+ home page shows a list of circles. You can use these circles to control what content appears in your stream.
The list defaults to a collapsed state that shows only five circles. You need click on More to see the rest of your circles. A general problem with this user interface behaviour is that you need to click that button every time you reload Google+. You may want to keep the list expanded, but Google+ does not remember that your list was expanded last time you used it; it always shows the list in the collapsed state, and it is up to you to click on More to expand it again.

predefined first

Google+ gives you a few circles to start with; Friends, Family, Acquaintances and Following. You are free to create many more. You must give each circle a name, but you change the name later.

That sounds wonderful, but on your Google+ home page, all your custom circles are shown below Google's predefined circles. Google predefines four circles, your home page defaults to showing only five circles, so Google+'s default view shows only one of your custom circles.
A lot about Google+ is done very well, but this is a user interface mistake.

sorting alphabetically

Various sources claim that Google+ sorts your custom circles alphabetically. That makes it easy to sort your circles; just rename them in such a way that they sort as desired, for example by tagging numbers in front the existing names.
You can rename the predefined circles. The same sources may tell you that, once renamed, those default circles are no longer shown above the other circles, but will sort just like the rest, and snap into their appropriate place. Moreover, when you rename them back, they snap back to their privileged position.
Thus, you can sort all the circles just like you want them.

The problem with these instructions is that they do no longer seem to work, because Google+ does not sort your circles alphabetically anymore.

not sorting alphabetically

It now seems to me that custom circles were sorted alphabetically for while, but that Google+ is no longer doing so; custom circles I created a while ago are sorted alphabetically, but new circles are simpled tacked onto the end of the list.
Refreshing the screen or restarting the browser, does not change the display order. Either Google+ really takes it sweet time to resort the circles, or it simply does not sort your circles anymore.

I managed to join a Google+ hangout started by Vic Gundotra, Senior Vice-President of Social for Google, and asked. Vic Gundotra did not answer the question, but other participants confirmed that their existing list was alphabetical, but that new circles were simply being tacked unto the end of the list. Vic did not contradict or comment upon their answers.

Google+ starts out sorting your circles, but then stops doing so after a while. It is not clear yet what triggers Google+ to stop auto-sorting. What is clear is that Google+ has stopped auto-sorting circles for many users.
Once Google+ stop auto-sorting your circles, renaming a predefined circles no longer moves it. The predefined circles are practically locked into position, taking up the valuable first four slots.

sorting circles

Sorting Google+ circles is probably one of the most requested Google+ features. Google may soon improve Google+ with interface that makes it easy to sort circles. The easiest thing to do is to simply wait for that feature. If you do not want wait, and do not mind a somewhat complex procedure, read on. I've figured out a way to sort your circles already.

copying circles

You need to know how to copy all contacts from one circle to another. It is not very complex, but it is not very obvious either. You cannot simple drag & drop one circle to another. How to copy a Google+ circle explains how it is done. What's important here is that the new circle you create by copying a circle is tacked onto the end of your list of circles.

moving circles

There is no user interface to sort circles (yet), but we can move circles; every time we copy a circle, the new circles comes last. So, if we copy a circle and then delete the original circle, we have moved that circle to the end of the list.
That works just as well for the predefined circles as for your custom circles.

A new circle cannot be given the same as an already existing circle. An easy way to avoid that problem is first rename all the circles you want to move by adding old in front of their current names, e.g. rename Friends to old Friends, and then create the new circle with the name you want to use. You delete the old circle after copying it to the new one.

tip: copy & rename

There is another way to copy circles: copy contacts from one circle to another, renaming circles as appropriate. Depending on how many circles you have and which ones you want to move, this approach may involve less work.
This approach is error-prone, so be careful.

sorting your circles

It is possible to sort circles by copying and deleting circles; copying a circle creates a new circle at the end of the list, deleting the old circle frees up the old location on the list, causing all circles to move up one place.
This ability to move a single circle to the end of the list can be used to sort the entire list. It is cumbersome, but it works.

You do not have to sort all your circles. You can simply move any circle you don't want to appear as one of the first five to the end of the list. That does not sort them all, but does improve the usability of your Google+ home page.

If you do want to sort all your circles, you should first figure out and write down the order in which you would like your circles to appear. Once you have that figured out, you start copying your existing circles to new circles in that order; copy a circle, cross it off the list, copy the next circle, cross it off the list, etcetera. As each new circle you create is tacked onto the end of the list, the new circles will be in the order you created them. You delete the old circles, and voilà, your Google+ circles are now in the order you like them to be.

updates

2011-07-29 drag & drop

Google+ engineer Brett van Zuiden has announced the immediately availability of drag & drop sorting of your circles.

links