The Ultimate Google Wave Guide for Students: 100 Tips, Tools, and Tricks

Posted January 12, 2010

As a college student, we know you’re always on the hunt for tools that save you time and trouble, especially on homework. That’s why we’ve generated this list of tips and tricks for using Google Wave, a powerful collaboration tool that lets you manage projects, swap files and communicate in real-time, with no delay. First you’ll have to score an invite, but then you’ll be on your way to earning your degree even faster, whether its in business, health, or technology.


Here we’ll introduce to you the basics of Google Wave: tips for setting up, learning the terminology and

  1. Intro to Google Wave: "Dr. Wave" is a product manager for Google Wave and offers a quick overview of the basic features here.
  2. You need an invite: Google Wave is currently invite-only, but you can get access if someone already using Wave sends you invitation. Or, request one directly from Google.
  3. Waves: Waves are shared windows that allow you to chat, embed videos, send links, add pictures, and connect with other users in real time.
  4. Wavelets and Blips: Wavelets are threaded chats between two or more people, and the word "blip" refers to specific messages.
  5. Gadget: Gadgets are add-ons or extensions that enhance Google Wave usability.
  6. Embeded Wave: You can embed Google waves onto your blog or website to open up communication between you and your visitors.
  7. Document: Words, files, links and photos that you share in blips are all considered the document.
  8. Wave Robots: An automated "user" is called a robot, and you can set up robots to do different tasks.
  9. How to start a new wave: When you want to start a new wave, you can click the New Wave icon in the search panel and then add people from your contacts list.
  10. Use it to organize projects, deadlines and assignments: Google Wave is a helpful tool when you need to organize lots of lists, brainstorming, study group assignments, notes, and more.
  11. Play games: You can also use Google Wave to play games with friends during study breaks.

Communication and Collaboration

Wave was built around the idea that communication through email is too slow. With Wave, you can chat, edit and share in real-time, making it much easier for you to communicate and collaborate on group projects, whether or not they’re related to school. Here you’ll find tips and instructions for using Wave for both.

  1. Replying: You can reply within messages, adding your blip anywhere you want.
  2. Write drafts: Group projects that require lots of file sharing and drafts can be started in Google Wave.
  3. Photo sharing: You can drag and drop pictures from your desktop and create group albums with others in your wave.
  4. Edit and reply: You can edit other people’s blips and content
  5. Live collaborative editing: David Wang of the Wave team explains the collaborative editing feature.
  6. Translate: You can use the robot Rosy to set up automatic translation between you and another user who types in a different language.
  7. Archive messages: Archive waves to remove them from your inbox. When someone updates the wave, you’ll get to see it again.
  8. Unfollow waves: If you unfollow a wave, you won’t see it in your inbox unless someone sends a private reply to you.
  9. You can edit anyone’s message: Similar to a wiki, Google Wave allows anyone to edit any messages, and add their own replies in the middle of threads if they choose.
  10. Share files from your desktop: Instead of attaching files to an email message, you can simply drag and drop them into the wave from your desktop.
  11. Newly edited content is highlighted: If someone edited a wave while you were away, the next time you open the wave, the edited portion will be highlighted.
  12. Playback: Review entire messages in chronological order with Playback.
  13. Make waves public: Add to your contacts list and press enter to make your wave public.
  14. Copy public waves to make private versions: To avoid messing up someone’s work, copy a public wave’s content and then save a private version.
  15. Private access sub-waves<: If you only want certain people in a much larger wave group to see a private message, you can adjust the settings.
  16. Add friends by dragging their pictures: Another way you can add people to a wave is to drag their picture from your contact list into the wave.
  17. Don’t add bots to public waves: Automated bots can ruin waves, so stick to polite editing.
  18. Think before you type: Because you don’t have the delay of an instant message or email, you’ll have to make sure you think before you type.


These shortcuts — including keyboard shortcuts — will make your Google Wave experience more streamlined.

  1. Page Up/Down: Go to the next page in a panel.
  2. Shift+Enter: Press Shift+Enter instead of "Done" to speed up your chats.
  3. Spacebar: Jump between unread messages by pressing the spacebar.
  4. Jump from compose window to the inbox: Use the left and right arrows to go back and forth.
  5. Up/Down arrows: Scroll through your messages by pressing the up or down arrows.
  6. Ctrl+K: This shortcut makes it easier to add a link.
  7. Ctrl+5: Add bullets with this shortcut.
  8. Ctrl+E: Edit messages by pressing Ctrl then E.
  9. Ctrl+6: Use this quick trick to undo formatting.
  10. Home: Press Home to get back to the first message in your wave.
  11. End: Go to the last message in your wave by pressing End.

Management and Customization

Learn how to customize layout, tag waves, search waves and more in this list.

  1. Arranging panels: Minimize, drop down, and reorganize your panels by dragging your mouse.
  2. Tag waves: Add tags to make it easier to find waves and blips.
  3. Remove tags: To remove tags, click the X that appears over word as you hover over it.
  4. Filter waves: For optimum organization, filter waves by saving searches.
  5. Scroll: In Google Wave, you’ll move or click on the scroll panel to quickly jump around.
  6. Playback: Review a wave’s history by using the playback feature.
  7. Custom size your wave: If you know you’ll always want to see a smaller wave layout, you can customize it following these steps.

Blogs and Helpful Sites

Bookmark these Google Wave blogs and websites to continue learning shortcuts, cheats, and about new releases.

  1. What is Google Wave: This entire blog offers guides and videos to help you understand Google Wave.
  2. Google Wave API: This Google Group is for Google Wave API discussion.
  3. Google Wave Developer Blog: Google Wave’s official developer blog shares tools, videos and more.
  4. The Google Wave Blog: This is the official Wave blog from Google.
  5. The Shiny Wave: David Cook shares hacks, analysis and news regarding Google Wave.
  6. Google Wave Wikipedia: Google Wave’s Wikipedia entry discusses the history of Wave’s development and features.
  7. Google Wave Cheat Sheet: This nifty cheat highlights shortcuts and commands.

Videos and Tutorials

There are lots of videos online to help you understand Google Wave, but here, we’ve chosen just a few to teach you about searching, organization and project management.

  1. The idiot’s guide to Google Wave: Bob Moss answers common questions about using Google Wave like "What if I no longer want someone to collaborate on my document?"
  2. How to Uninstall An Extension Plugin Add-on on Google Wave: If you’re tired of a certain extension, follow these steps to delete it from your wave.
  3. List of Search Terms in Google Wave: Use these commands when you’re not sure how to search for what you want.
  4. Searching for Waves: Learn how to locate your waves and wave history here.
  5. Google Wave: 15 Features: Google Wave’s best features are outlined in this video.
  6. Google Wave Made Simple: This short video uses Lego people to explain Google Wave.
  7. Google Wave in Action: This is a silent video but it does show you how to navigate in Google Wave.
  8. Google Wave Overview: Steph and Greg share their Google Wave knowledge in 10 minutes.
  9. Creating a saved search: This video explains how to create and color code saved searches.
  10. Making a folder: Learn how to drag waves into new folders.
  11. Google Wave: The Complete Overview: Watch this video to get a feel for Google Wave commands and preview the screenshots.
  12. Google Wave presentation – abridged: This is a recording of a presentation to a large group, highlighting the best features of Wave. There’s a link to the whole version.
  13. Google Wave: CNET reviews Google Wave here.
  14. Cheat Sheet: Hints and Tips for Google Wave: Categories here point to tricks for editing, understanding terminology, finding and creative waves, and more.

Applications and Extensions

Here is a sampling of some Google Wave applications and extensions for homework, collaboration and socializing.

  1. Installing extensions: This tutorial explains how to find extensions and then install them.
  2. Twitter: Add the email address to your Wave contact list, and log into your Twitter account to sync the two.
  3. Ribbit: Turn your Google Wave into an audio conferencing tool with Ribbit.
  4. Wikify: Use Wikipedia’s Wikify to look up words in waves.
  5. LabPixies: Access Sudoku puzzles to your Google Wave with this very popular app.
  6. iWave: Create a Facebook-like profile on Wave with this trick.
  7. Trippy: Trippy is a Google Wave extension that utilizes Lonely Planet’s gorup trip planning tools.
  8. Starify: Bookmark waves with Starify’s add-on.
  9. TwilioBot: Phone numbers work as click-to-call links with this app.
  10. Firefox add-on: This Google Wave notifier works for Firefox users.
  11. Awesome Smile Emoticon: Add smile emoticons with this app.
  12. Bit.lyBot: Use this extension to shorter URLs in your messages.
  13. Map Gadget: Edit and customize maps with other users.
  14. Treeify: Organize your waves into tree structures with this robot.
  15. Amazon Bot: Share products in your wave with the Amazon Bot.
  16. Bloggy: With Bloggy, you can publish wave content to blogs.
  17. 6rounds: Google Wave turns into a video chat platform with this extension.
  18. Napkin: Napkin will help you draw and make charts in Google Wave.
  19. Slashdot: View headlines from Slashdot in your wave with this tool.
  20. Calcbot: Use Calcbot for math calculations within your waves.
  21. Embeddy: Embeddy makes it easier to embed waves that automatically generates the code.


This mish-mash of Google tips and tricks includes articles, videos and insight into what’s to come from Google Wave in the future.

  1. Second Life: If you’re into Second Life, you can also connect with users over Google Wave to schedule meet ups.
  2. Google Wave on iPhone: View the web dev preview of the iPhone application for Google Wave.
  3. Document collaboration: Soon, Google Wave hopes to add document collaboration for more serious, involved projects.
  4. Spellcheck: Especially when collaborating with professors, you’ll want to make sure you don’t make any spelling errors. Google Wave’s spellcheck makes corrections as you go.
  5. Three Google Wave Searches Worth Saving: This article by Gina Trapani, of California shows you saved search shortcuts that lets you find unread private messages and more.
  6. There is no version control for files: Unlike with attachments, there is no version control when you share files with Google Wave.
  7. Ask for extra contact information: This post brings up the point that without emails, there are not email signatures. When collaborating with a new user, make sure to ask for their phone numbers and extra contact information.
  8. Always remember who’s listed as a participant: Just because someone isn’t replying doesn’t mean he or she can’t read everything. Be careful with what you type.
  9. View contact history: Hover over a name from your Google Wave contact list, and you can choose to view their recent waves.
  10. Don’t get overwhelmed: It’s meant to cut out a lot of going back and forth on group projects, but it can also be a procrastination chat tool. Make sure you’re using it productively and take breaks.
  11. Open source: If you’re a developer, you should know that Google Wave is open source and open to your extensions.

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