Google Wave 101

So you've snagged an invitation to Google Wave—or a pal is sending one your way—and you've already taken a look at what to expect. Let's dive deeper into Wave features, etiquette and extensions.

Learn Wave's Keyboard Shortcuts

Every good webapp has a full set of keyboard shortcuts for getting around and performing the most common actions, and happily, Google Wave is no exception. While Wave is still missing a whole lot of shortcuts, there are a few you must know now. Here are the essential shortcuts to learn first:

  • Arrow keys: Move up/down within a list of waves, and left/right from inbox to open wave panel with your arrow keys.
  • Spacebar: Go to the next unread wave in a list
  • Ctrl+E: Edit a selected wave
  • Shift+Enter (in edit mode): Finish editing your wave; equivalent to clicking the "Done" button
  • Enter: Add a reply to a selected wave directly under it
  • Shift+Enter (in view mode): Add a reply to the bottom of a list of waves

Here's the full list of keyboard shortcuts. Alternately, you can click on the image below to see them all.

Filter Waves with Advanced Operators and Saved Searches

Wave is a very Googly product, so searching is simply a matter of typing a keyword into the search box. But like Gmail, Google Wave also offers several advanced search operators that let you find waves based on who they're with, what they're tagged and other attributes. For example, to see all the public waves—that is, waves in which anyone using Wave can see—use the with: operator. In fact, if you're feeling lonely in Wave, the first Wave search you should try is with:public.

To save a search for reuse, click on the "Save Search" button on the bottom right of your Wave inbox. When you save a search you can also specify filter actions for all the waves that match it. Right now the only choices are "Archive" and "Mark as read". Once you run that with:public search, every public wave you read will end up in your inbox, which becomes overwhelming almost immediately. So save your with:public search and check off "Archive" so they don't clutter up your inbox.

The opposite of with:public, the with:me search is very useful for just seeing waves that are explicitly with you as an individual (versus in the public group). To limit your results to only waves you've updated, use by:me.

Other search operators include tag: for tags, and has: for attachments like images, files and gadgets. For example, has:gadget returns waves with gadgets; has:image returns waves with images in them, and has:attachment returns waves with gadgets, images or files. You can combine search operators, like with:public has:gadget, and use the minus sign to exclude waves as well, like -has:image. Here's the full list of Wave's advanced search operators.

Make a Wave Public

Now that you know how to find public waves, you probably want to make one of your waves public—especially if you don't have many friends on Wave yet—but there's no one/-click button to make a wave public. The trick is to add [email protected] to your contacts list. To do so, click the + button on the bottom right of your Contacts module. Type [email protected] into the Address field, and even when Wave says "User does not have a Google Wave account", press Enter. The public group will appear in your contacts list, as shown. Add public to any wave you want to make public, but be prepared: Public waves often get destroyed by newbs and bots who haven't been in Wave long enough to grok the etiquette (see below). Also note that if you switch computers, you may have to add [email protected] to your contacts list again.

Know Wave's Bot Etiquette (and Bounce Unwanted Bots)

One of the biggest problems with public waves is that anyone can edit them or add recipients to them: including content-changing, and sometimes busted, bots. When you do your with:public search, you'll find dozens of waves that have been destroyed by newbs adding bots to them that delete or mangle the existing content so bad that even playback is broken. Good Wave etiquette dictates that you don't add bots to public waves. If you want to mess with a public wave, from its menu choose "Copy to New Wave" and go to town with your private copy.

If you've created a public wave and someone added a bot to it that you want out, add the Bouncy bot to your contacts ([email protected]). Then, add Bouncy to the wave, and reply to it adding the command bounce:botaddress, replacing botaddress with the email address of the bot to bounce. Bouncy will oust the unwanted bot from your wave. This only works on bots. After Bouncy's done his job, you can delete the wave with the command and Bouncy's response. Speaking of...

Garden Your Waves

Like a wiki, useful and popular waves require oversight and gardening, or else they fall in to disrepair or go out of date or get vandalised (especially if they're public). You can oversee, clean up, edit and update any wave you're a participant in, and everyone will appreciate it if you do.

First, empty "blips" or replies are a common occurrence around Wave, which is still kind of twitchy in different browsers and new to a lot of folks who might accidentally hit Enter when they didn't mean to reply. Delete empty blips when you come across them by clicking on the wave action drop-down on the top right of it, and choosing "Delete".

To automate this process on waves you create, add the Sweepy bot ([email protected]) to your contacts and to the wave itself. Sweepy will not delete existing empty blips, but it will delete any newly-added empty replies automatically. (Sweepy is one of the very few bots that may supersede the "never add bots to public waves" rule, as Sweepy's functionality cleans up the wave. For more on bots and gadgets, see this Google Wave Extensions list.)

If a wave becomes totally destroyed and you want to restore it to a former useful state, use its playback feature. Pause at the revision you want, and use the "Copy to a new wave" menu item to fork it into a new copy.

Bookmark a Custom Wave Layout

Netbook owners or those who keep Wave open in a sized-down window appreciate the ability to minimise unneeded Wave module and maximise reading or writing area on the wave you're working on at the moment. To load Wave with certain modules minimised by default, you can use a custom Wave URL with the #minimized parameter. For example,,minimized:contact launches Wave with the Navigation and Contacts modules minimised. The,minimized:contact,minimized:search URL minimises Navigation, Contacts and Search panes as shown here.

URL-observers will also notice that every individual wave has an ID that appears in the URL when you click on it. This means you could bookmark or IM a link to a public wave to anyone on Wave.

What Doesn't Work in Wave

The Wave Preview is a pre-beta webapp, and lots of things aren't working or just simply aren't implemented yet. From the "it's not just you" department, here are some notes on what's not working:

  • Some bots and gadgets: A couple of bots I mentioned in my first look at Google Wave worked in the Developer preview, but don't work in the regular preview, namely Bloggy, Polly and several others. The best way to see if a bot works is to just try it, or search for its name and the with:public operator to find discussions about it.
  • Requests or waves from other servers: The Requests link in the Navigation pane is presumably for you to approve waves that come from other servers. However, while Wave server federation is part of the protocol, it's not yet working for real. That's why users on the Developer preview can't wave at users on Yet.
  • Removing Wave recipients: Right now you cannot remove non-bots from a Wave once they've been added to it. Copy your wave to a new one and reinvite folks instead.
  • Uploading files (that are not images): While you can drag and drop images into a wave (and be sure to try that, it's fantastic fun), you can't upload other filetypes using the Files button yet.
  • The "I'm online" green dot: When the Wave preview first launched, a pretty green dot would show you which of your contacts was online at the moment. This feature had a serious bug involved so the Wave team had to pull it. Expect those dots to come back in the next few weeks.
  • Playback (sometimes): If a wave is huge and has lots of revisions or a bot has made extreme changes, playback on waves can be wonky or just not work at all.
  • Blog publishing: The Bloggy bot does not work right now, and while the Madoqua bot will give you Javascript embed code to add to your blog, ONLY people who are signed into Wave will be able to see your wave (and it has to be public, which makes it editable by anyone). So, while publishing waves on any web page with proper permissions and access by anyone on the web will happen, it's not working right now.

Overall, Wave is a rich platform with a huge community of people discovering more of its ins and outs and quirks and workarounds every day. Wave users, what are your favourite tricks and tips for getting more out of Wave? Post up your comments below or in this public wave.

Gina Trapani, Lifehacker's founding editor, really hopes to meet Dr. Wave someday to tell him just how shiny everything is. Her feature Smarterware appears every week on Lifehacker.


    My drag and drop photos feature is actually not working.

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