Google Wave: a few tips for brand new users

Last week Google sent out 100,000 invites for its new Google Wave project. Each invitee got the opportunity to invite eight friends into the service, but Google warned that it could take some time before those friends heard anything. This morning (Oct. 6th 2009) I'm hearing reports that these invites are starting to arrive.

This is a good thing, because as I said on Friday, Google Wave is useless without other people to use it with. Now since that post I did add a few contacts and more importantly learned how to do a search for Public Waves (search term: with:public) so I've been able to get my hands a bit dirty. I thought I'd offer a few random tips for other newcomers to Wave.

One last note before we jump in: I'm using Google's terminology. Wave with a capital W is the service, wave with a lowercase w refers to a specific wave.

First, if you're a Wave user and wondering when your friends will get their invite, there's a Invitation Queue Tracker wave that is public.

Wave seems to work best with Chrome (no surprise there) or Firefox with Google Gears installed. Some drag and drop functionality won't work, otherwise. Remember this is a Preview build.

I already mentioned using "with:public" to find public waves (add another search term to narrow that down, e.g. "with:public blogging" for public waves that mention blogging) but to make your wave public, you need to add "public@a.googlewave.com" as a contact, then add that contact to your wave. At this point there's no way to make a wave publicly viewable but limit editing of the wave, as far as I can tell. Because of this public waves tend to be a bit chaotic since so many users are still learning. [Update: This feature appears to be broken now. public@a.googlewave.com comes up as an invalid user.]

Wave loves bandwidth. If you're not on a fast broadband connection, don't bother trying to use it.

Give yourself some room. Wave has a very wide interface that can make the experience feel a bit claustrophobic. Collapse the Navigation and Contacts panes by clicking the "-" icon in the top right corner of each pane. This will give you more room for your inbox and wave panes. The collapsed panes will minimize to the top row of your Wave window (next to the Google logo). You can still access their functionality by the drop down menus of the minimized versions.

Invite friends! Assuming the second wave of invites is the same as the first, look for the "Invite others to Google Wave" wave in your in-box, and send out invites. [Update: My assumption was wrong. New invitees don't yet have the ability to invite friends. Hopefully soon!]

Wave is still rough, but I'm starting to get excited about it as I find more time to play around with it. If you're in Wave and have found an interesting use for the technology, please leave a comment and share!

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