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updated 6/28/2012 2:49:50 PM ET 2012-06-28T18:49:50

Amid all the excitement of Google's I/O event this week — the Nexus 7 tablet, the Nexus Q entertainment device, people jumping out of planes — it was easy to miss the addition of an "Events" feature to the company's foundering Google Plus (Google+) social network.

But unlike with Facebook, Events doesn't require people to be on  Google+. All they need is an email address. And if the host or guests use Google's much more popular network, Gmail, Events works especially smoothly.

Facebook Events is now the default way to send invites. But many people are paying less attention to every Facebook alert, including invites. And to invite a friend to your event, they have to first be on Facebook and also be your friend. If you often glance at your friends list and say "who is that guy?" you may not want to add yet more people in order to just send an invite. [ How to Stop Facebook Apps from Sharing Your Info ]

Google+ Events takes its basic design from Facebook, so the process is familiar. But Facebook no longer allows you to add email addresses of people who you aren't already Facebook friends with or who aren't on the network. Google+ does, and if you have Gmail, you can pull the addresses right from your Contacts list.

If the guests use the online Google Calendar, the invite automatically appears as an entry. (With Facebook, you have to download and a open a clunky calendar file, or just type the event on your calendar.)

In fact, it's more useful to think of the feature, not as Google+ Events, but as Gmail Events.

Setup

Events starts by offering a seemingly endless choice of themes — photos or illustrations of cocktail glasses, people dancing, popcorn and many others that appear as banners across the top of the invitation. You can also upload your own image, but it has to at least 940 pixels wide, and it will get cropped to a stubby 280 pixels tall. Most photos won't work or won't be worth the trouble of resizing. The rest is very familiar. Fill in the day and time (annoyingly using the 24-hour military-style clock) and pick a location using  Google Maps

Then type in a note or other details and invite guests. If they are on Google+, thier ID will appear. But don't worry about them never logging into the actual network. They will get an alert in Gmail, too. And if they aren't in the Google universe, just select from your contcts or manually type in thier email address. They will get the same email message, with a button that they can click on to access the event page and RSVP.

 

As with Facebook, you can see a listing of who has been invited, who has accepted and who has declined. Anyone can post comments to the event, and you can send updates to guests.

Google+ Events has several innovative features that go beyond Facebook, however. The best is Party Mode, which allows people to upload and view photos of the event in real-time and see in an album afterward. But this requires people to be active Google+ users, with the smartphone app. So it probably won't work for most people.

If you and your friends are drifting away from Facebook, or you don't want to add yet more acquaintances to your "Friends" list, Google's new Events feature is a handy alternative for getting folks together.

© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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