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Posted November 22, 2009

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How to Use Google Wave

What Is Google Wave

Posted by Scoroncocolo November 22, 2009

If you need a Google Wave invitation, email me at

If you already have a Google Wave account, come join all of us on How To Use Google Wave and feel free to ask questions and share what you know about Google Wave.

What Is Google WaveI, along with everyone else who doesn't work for Google, am new to Google Wave so I'm trying to learn how to use it. I still have a lot to learn but this article is about what I've managed to figure out so far.

What is Google Wave? Google Wave is the way we will communicate with one another in the future and the future has arrived. Here is Google's official definition of Google Wave: Google Wave is an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more. That is a good concise definition of Google Wave, but it doesn't really answer the question: What is Google Wave? The only way to answer that question is to dive in and start using it.

What Is Google Wave

The Official Google Wave Icon

Google Wave has not even been released publicly yet (rumor/Google leak: Wave beta to be released December 15th) and already it's getting dissed for being too complicated. But it isn't really complicated at all. It is, however, different from anything you've ever used before.

Google Wave Is Not Email

A wave ID is not an email address. If your Google gmail address is, your Google Wave ID is going to be But that's not an email address. That's a Wave address. You can't send or receive email to or from that address. You can only send and receive Google waves to and from that address.

Although Google Wave is far different than email, Google says Wave is "what email would look like if it were invented today." Most people don't realize that email is 40 years old. It's far older than the Web. It may even be older than the first lava lamps. No question, email has and will continue to be an extraordinarily successful form of communication. But Google Wave can do everything that email can do and a number of things that email can't do.

Here are some differences between email and Wave. With email, you send your message and then spend valuable time checking and re-checking your inbox for a reply from your recipient. With Google Wave, the exchange of information between you and your recipient happens in real-time. She can see every single keystroke as you send your message to her and she can begin her response to you even before you stop typing and you'll see her keystrokes even as you are typing your message. You can click into what she has written and edit it. She can edit your message as well. That a huge paradigm shift

With email, if you want to send someone photographs, videos, maps, etc. there's no unawkward way to do that other than to forward this to them or to place a link in the body of your message that would necessitate your recipient loading a browser page that would take them away from your message to them. Google Wave allows you to incorporate everything of this nature in the body of the message you're sending. This too is a game changer.

Email is pretty mano-a-mano. Sure you can send the same message to a great number of people all at once, but they respond to you one at a time. Google Wave allows for real-time, Simultaneous communication and editable collaboration between any number of people. That's no doubt the biggest paradigm shift right there.

How Does Google Wave Work

The Google Wave client consists of four panels in three columns. The top panel in the first column is the Navigation panel. The little panel just below it is the Contacts panel. The second column is the Search panel. This panel contains a listing of all of the active waves in your inbox. Every time you open Google Wave, the contents of your inbox will be displayed in the Search panel by default. If you click By Me in the Navigation panel, only waves that were instigated by you will be shown in the Search panel. The third column is where waves are viewed and manipulated.

how does google wave work

The Google Wave Interface

One of the first things you may want to try in Google Wave is to type with:public in your search box and then hit Enter. "Whoah!" Talk about data overload! What the heck, click on a wave and take a ride. Cool huh? But before you jump into the deep water, there are a few things that you need to know about Wave to make it more entertaining and useful.

How To Share a Wave With Others

If there are people listed in your Contacts panel, you wave with any or all of them in a number of ways. Click the New Wave button at the top-left corner of the Search panel, or click the New Wave link in the third column of the Wave client. Wave opens a new, empty wave in the third column. Type in your first message and click Done. Once you do that, Wave prompts you to add participants with a drop-down contacts menu. (This same menu displays any time you click the + (plus) button on the top of a new wave.) Click a contact to add him or her to the wave.

Another way to start a new wave with someone is to click their icon in the Contacts panel and then click the New Wave button on their profile pop-up. Type your message, then click Done.

And finally, you can start a new wave with someone by dragging their icon from the Contacts panel and dropping it at the top of the Wave panel. Then type your message and click Done.

Important Tip: Drag and drop may not work for you if you do not have the Google Gears extension installed on your browser.

Important Tip: Bill Jimenez (, being the serious geek he is, hated to have to take his hands off the keyboard to click that stupid Done button so he found out and informed me that Shift + Enter is the keyboard equivalent of clicking that stupid Done button. Thanks Bill!

The Anatomy of a Wave

A wave consists of at least one wavelet and most often, a great many wavelets. Wavelets are made up of blips. Blips are individual posts to a wavelet. All blips are editable, meaning you can format the text in a blip using the Wave text editor. (See Working With Waves farther down this page.) To add a blip (message) to an existing wave, hoover your mouse directly beneath the blip that you wish to respond to. A long thin blue box will appear. Click this box and type your message and then click the Done button or Shift + Enter. You don't necessarily have to place your message at the end of the last blip in a wave. You can post a message (create a new blip) anywhere within a wave.

You can edit blips that were previously posted in any wave, even blips posted by someone else. To edit a blip, click the tiny black triangle next to the blips timestamp and click Edit This Message and then change it anyway you want to. Of course, anyone in the wave can edit your blips as well.

Another way to edit a blip is to click it to select it and then use Ctrl + E.

Using Waves Text Editor

Google Wave has a decent text editor on board. It is available for use with every blip you create in every wave. You can change text color, size and fonts. It can create html headers and center align them. It has underline, line-through, italic and bold. It can create a bulleted list. You can place colored backgrounds behind your text. And you can align and indent text. Of course, if you're just chatting with a group of people in a wave you'll be far to busy keeping up with the conversation to worry much about formatting your text. But for serious collaborative ventures the Google Wave text editor is adequate if not at all dazzling.

how does google wave work

The Google Wave Text Editor

Like with all email clients and full-featured word processors, you can add links to URLs into the blips you create in Google Wave. Just highlight the the text you want to make hot (your link text) and click Link on the toolbar. Depending on your monitor's screen size and settings, this capability may be hidden. You may have to click the three little dots (ellipsis) on the right side of the text editor's toolbar to gain access to this feature (see illustration to the left of this text).

Not only can you link to external web sites in a wave, you can also link to other waves. When you click on the Link icon in the Wave text editor's toolbar, you are presented with a pop-up that reads URL or Wave ID and a box to type or paste in. You can place either a regular website URL or a Wave ID URL like:!w%252BcFa50l1aA.1 into the box and click Insert Link and your link will be hot.

Another, and far cooler, way to link to another wave is to drag it from your Search box and drop it into a wave. It shows up in the wave with all text underlined in blue to indicate it is a link. If anyone participating in the wave clicks it, it becomes another wavelet in the wave. To get rid of it (bring it back to single blip size) you just click the wave you are currently working on in the Search panel. That's pretty cool. That's just one of the many awesome things that makes Wave so powerful.

But you can do a lot of other powerful things with the Google Wave text editor. You can embed photos, audio files and video. Here's how to embed a video into your wave. In Wave's text editor click the G+ icon on the toolbar. You will get a pop-up with a search window on it with tabs beneath that that read: Web, Images, Video, Books, and More. So, click the Video tab and type a search term into the search box. Click around until you find the video you want and click Add to wave. If you look at your blip, you'll see a link to your video and there will be, of all things, a light bulb beside. If you click the light bulb, you can embed the video into the blip. If you choose not to click the bulb and just click Done instead, the link will remain and will be hot. But it won't be hot until you click Done and then when clicked it will open the clip in YouTube or wherever in a new window.

Public and Private Waves

When you create a wave in any of the ways we've discussed previously you will have created a Private wave. Only you and the contacts you have invited can see or interact with this wave. You can always invite additional people to join a wave at anytime by adding their icons to the top of the wave panel but other people can't just jump on your wave uninvited. You can, however, create a Public wave that anyone and everyone can see and interact with.

Important Tip: Remember, a good way to see a lot of Public waves is to type with:public into the Wave Search box and then type your Enter key.

Here's how to create a Public wave. Click the + button in front of Manage contacts on the Contacts panel. You'll get an "Add a new contact" pop-up. In the address field of that pop-up, type this: The Wave client will inform you that User dose not have a Google Wave account but go ahead and hit your Enter key anyway. Now will show up in your contacts list just like any other contact. It's icon will be a globe. Anytime you want to make a wave Public just make sure to add to that wave.

Courously enough, the next time you log on to Wave, that Contact will be gone and you'll have to re-create it.

How to Ping Someone in Google Wave

How to Ping Someone in Google Wave

To Ping someone is to invite that person to engage in a private one-on-one conversation. To Ping a contact, click his or her name in the Contacts panel. This opens up the person's Contacts profile. Click Ping (user name) and you'll be presented with a box to type in. Type your message and then click done. The ping panel is minimized to the top of your recipient's Wave page, but it flashes green to indicate an active, incoming ping. The text of your ping also flashes in your recipient's browser tab. Your recipient can open read and type a response and you'll see it as soon as he clicks done. If your recipient is off-line when you ping him, he will see the Ping the next times he logs onto Wave.

Important Tip: By the way, it's always easy to tell if someone is on-line in Wave because if they are live on Wave a tiny green dot will be on the bottom right corner of their icon. If someone is live on Wave that little green dot will be on their icon whether that icon's in the Contacts panel, the Search panel or an open wave.

In-wave Pings

To send an in-wave Ping, Click the icon of the person you want to contact at the top of wave and then click Ping. The Ping displays inside the wave but only you and your recipient can see it. In either of these two methods of Pinging you can add more people to your private discussion by clicking the plus sign on the Ping window and then searching for the person you want to add.

How to Edit Your Google Wave Profile

One of the first things you'll want to do after you finally manage to snag that Wave account is to edit your Google Wave profile. It's important that you get your profile set up to look just the way you want it because your profile is your public face on Google Wave. Other Wave users see your profile every time you participate in Wave.

Edit Google Wave Profile

Editing Your Google Wave Profile

The first thing you need to do is find the photo you want to use to replace the un-cool looking default silhouette Google has saddled you with. Find the picture you want to use and park it on your Desktop so it will be easy to find latter. You can use a jpeg, a png or even a gif file pic. A jpeg works fine. Just make sure that it is realatively small. 600X700 is about right.

Once you have the photo you want to use setting on your Desktop, in Google Wave click your icon or name on the Contact panel. That that little-bitty window at the bottom left of your Wave page. Then on the profile pop-up click the Edit Profile button. So click Change picture and navigate to your Desktop, highlight your photo and click open. Your picture pops right into place - cool. Now in the top rectangular box to the right of your picture, type your name as you want it to appear to other Wave users. The smaller rectangular box just below that is where you can place some additional text like a smart-alec remark. I put this in mine: Discovering the discovered is still discovery. Anyway, just below that box is where your Wave address will appear automatically so don't try to edit that. Bellow your Google Wave address is where you can display your website url or address if you have a website or blog. Once you have everything looking just the way you want it click the stupid done button and you're done.

How to Add Contacts to Google Wave

That little-bitty window at the bottom left of your Wave page is called the Contacts panel. Everyone in your Gmail contacts who has a Wave account will automatically appear in your Wave Contacts panel. You can add people to your Wave Contacts panel. There are several ways to do that. To add someone to your Contacts panel from inside a wave, just click that person's icon at the top of the wave and click Add to Contacts. If you know the Gmail address of someone you want to add to your Wave contacts, you need only to type that address or that person's Wave ID into your Contacts panel's search box. By the way, if you know someone's Gmail address, you also know their Wave ID. That's because will always translate to Anyway, either the gmail address or the Google Wave address of someone is a good way to add them to your Wave contacts. Of course when you type an address onto your Wave Contacts search box, the Wave client assumes that you are looking for someone who is already there so it will pop up a box that informs you that it cannot find this address and so you just click Add to Contacts. Or you can click the plus sign on the lower right-hand corner of the panel and get an Add New Contact pop-up. And enter a gmail address or a Wave address. Either one will add that person to your Wave Contacts list, provided of course that have been able to sign up for Google Wave.

Some People Find Wave and Sarah Palin Somewhat Confusing

Some People Find Wave and Sarah Palin Somewhat Confusing

You can delete a contact. To do that click the Manage Contacts button on the Contacts panel and find the contact you want to delete by typing his or her name or Google user name into the search box. The Google user name is the xxx of Once you find them click them to reveal their information and then click the delete button. Warning! This action will remove them not only from your Google Wave contacts, it will remove them from all of your other Google apps like gmail, Picasa, Google Voice and Chat. There's no way, that I know of, to only remove them from your Wave contacts.

Organizing Your Waves

Once you start creating waves and participating in other peoples waves, your Inbox will quickly fill up. So you're going to need to organize your waves. you can Archive a wave to get it out of your Inbox. Just like in Gmail, when you Archive a wave it is moved from your Inbox to your All waves folder. But, if someone updates an archived wave, it will reappear in your Inbox.

To archive a wave, select it so that it shows up in the Wave panel and click the Archive button on its toolbar or click the Archive button in the Search panel. You can Archive several waves at once by using the Shift key to select them and using the Archive button on the Search panel. You can put an Archived wave back in your Inbox. To do this just select it and click the Inbox button in the Search panel.

Often you will find yourself in waves that you care very little about. Maybe the subject matter has gone way off topic, become racy or otherwise inappropriate. You may want to Unfollow these waves. Unfollow is different from Archive in a very important way. As I mentioned before, an Archived wave will pop back onto your Inbox the moment someone adds something to it. An Unfollowed wave will not do that. Designating a wave as unfollowed does not kill the wave. Any updates to the unfollowed wave will be posted to it but you won't know anything about it until or if you decide to re-follow that wave.

Important Tip You can find all of the waves that you've unfollowed by typing is:unfollowed in the search box.

If you find a Public wave (see above about searching for Public waves) that you would like to track updates to, select it and click the Follow button on that wave's toolbar. This will have the same effect as if someone added you individually to that wave. You may then want to Archive it so that any time it updates it will appear as a new wave in your Inbox.

Another excellent way to organize waves and keep your Inbox manageable is to create some folders in your Navigation panel to store them in. Here's how to do that. To create a folder to store some waves in, click an empty space inside your Navigation panel and use the wheel on your mouse to scroll to the bottom of it. You can also re-size the Navigation panel by dragging on the bottom of it. Below All, By Me, Requests, Spam, Settings, Trash, you will see Searches and finally, Folders. So click the + sign next to Folders and type in the name of your new Folder and hit your Enter key. You can create as many folders as you like and even sub-folders within those folders.

To move waves into folders, you can use the Move to option on the toolbars in the Search panel or the Wave panel. If your monitor view is not wide enough, you might not see the Move to option so you will need to click the three dots (ellipsis) on the right side of the toobars to get access to move your selected waves to a folder you have created. If the browser your using has Google Gears installed, you can drag waves from the Search panel and drop them into folders. To move more than one file at once, use your Shift key. You can easily access these waves by clicking open folders and selection them.

Clarifications Comments and Corrections

Google Wave Update ··· November 28, 2009

In the text box above entitled Public and Private Waves, I explained how to make a wave public so that anyone can see it (if they can find it) and participate in it. I explained that in order to do this, you needed to add to your contacts list and that unfortunately the icon that would be added to your list of contacts would not be there the next time you logged onto Wave and that you would have to go through the whole rigamarole of replacing it into your list of contacts in order to go public again. Well, here is an application that you can place in your Contacts that will cause the Public icon to stick around from one session to the next:

What Is Google Wave

The Official Google Wave Icon

I was, until a short time ago, confused about the difference between an in-wave Ping and a Private Reply. At first glance, they looked to me to be pretty much two different ways of doing the same thing i.e. initiating a private conversation within a wave. Again, Bill Jimeniz at had the answer. Here's the deal. You can Ping anyone who's icon you can see at the top of a wave but you can use Private Reply to communicate only with people in your list of contacts.

When viewing or working on a wave in the wave column, you can make it go full screen by clicking on the little double screen icon at the top right corner of its panel. Click that icon again to bring things back to the default view.

In the text box above titled The Anatomy of a Wave, I explained how to edit blips. I failed to mention that you can simply double-click a blip to make it editable.

If you're lucky enough to have snagged a Wave account, you're welcome to come join our discussion group about how to use Google Wave that's going on right now on Google Wave. You'll find a link to it in the white colored text below.

If you need an invitation to Google Wave, I can get you one. Just email me at You'll need give me your Google Gmail address before I can sign you up. If you're having trouble getting one of those, email me and I'll send you an invitation to Google's Gmail.

If you're already signed up for Google Wave, come join all of us on our wave at How To Use Google Wave and feel free to ask questions and share what you know about Google Wave. You're welcome to edit the wave, place a reply anywhere in the wave, ping anyone in the wave and play around in the wave in just about anyway you want. But please do not delete anything in the wave, unless it's something you placed there yourself.

Clarifications Comments and Corrections

Google Wave Update ··· December 15, 2009

Wave now has enabled Ctrl + Z that functions as un-do/re-do just as in most all Windows applications. This is a very useful and welcome improvement to Wave.

Previously on this page, I mentioned that you could go down a wave one blip at a time by using your down arrow key. And you can go up in a wave one blip at a time using your up arrow key. Of course, you can also travel up and down a wave using the Wave panel's scroll bar or by using your mouse wheel. Another really cool way to move down or up a wave is to use your Space-bar. Typing your Space-bar will take you to the next un-read blip. That's a great time-saving feature. And people may be making replies to a wave you're viewing and those replies may be to a blip far up the wave from where you are. No problem. Because Shift + Space-bar will take you up the wave to the nearest un-read blip above where you are now in the wave. That's pretty cool!

When, after some period of time, you revisit a wave, new blips may have been added to the wave. You can always tell if new blips have been added to a wave because there will be a green oval box below the date-stamp of that particular wave in your Inbox. That little green oval box will not only inform you that new blips have been added to that wave, but it will tell you how many new blips have been added since you visited that wave and put blips into focus to designate them as having been read

Wave is getting more Shiny (powerful) all the time. Keep checking back here. I'll let you know the most recent innovations the Wave team is implementing as Wave gets Shinier and Shinier.

Clarifications Comments and Corrections

Google Wave Update Read-Only Participants and Restore from Playback · ··  January 30, 2010

On January 20. 2010 the Google Wave team made two huge improvements to Google Wave. For one thing they came up with a way to allow the creators of Public Waves to limit the way that visitors can change the wave and for another they came up with a way for waves to be restored to an earlier form. Let's talk about these two important new Google Wave features one at a time.

··· Read-Only Participants ···

For anyone who has ever created a Public wave and then tried to moderate it and keep it "on topic", this is a huge improvement. Shortly before I wrote this Web page I put up a Public wave called How To Use Google Wave (click that link and if you have a Wave account it will take you there) and I was immediately confronted with the problem that this new feature is designed to confront - namely, people jumping in from everywhere and virtually taking over my wave.

Read-Only Participants

Read-Only Participants

Here's how the new feature works. You can now click any avatar (icon, photo or whatever you want to call them) that appears at the top of your wave and in the drop-menu that will appear you can choose to give that person full access to the wave which by default they have to begin with or choose to limit that person to Read-Only status. Read-Only participants are prevented from making any changes to the wave nor can they add new participants. They can view live changes being made to the wave and they can look at the history of the wave by accessing the Playback mode. They just can't Reply, Edit or change the wave in anyway.

Here's something really cool about this new Google Wave feature. You can make the Public Avatar Read-Only! Take a close look at the above illustration. Why is that cool? The last time I looked at my Public Wave I had over 80 followers. Some public waves have hundreds of Followers. To make them all Read-Only, I would have to click them all one at a time and change their status. It's much easier to click the Public Avatar and change it's status to Read-Only. That way none of the Followers of your wave has Write permission and everyone is Read-Only. But here's another cool thing. Now that everyone is suddenly Read-Only, you can click on individual avatars at the top of your wave and choose to give a select few Write permission. This works because the last permissions you grant take precedent over the permissions you granted before.

···Restore from Playback···

The other feature Google added to Google Wave on the 20th of January 2010 is this. Anyone with Write status to a wave can now restore a wave to a previous state that is visible in Playback mode. Google says this:

Restoring does not delete anything from the playback history, but adds the restored state to the end of the history. That way you can use the new restore function to correct mistakes you or others make in a wave (including restoring the the wrong state!).

I can see how this feature could be useful in cleaning up waves, especially Public waves, and giving them a new starting and/or ending point.

Check back here and I'll keep you up to date on all the exciting changes being made to Google Wave.

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