Google Wave – Round 2

We here at MakeTechEasier got a lot of positive feedback on our coverage of Google Wave, along with quite a few requests for additional information. So here, by reader request, is the second installment of Wave. Today we’ll be covering some of the more advanced and detailed features that didn’t fit into the original post. In this installment we’ll take a look at Wave’s use of folders, contacts, extensions, and believe it or not, even scroll bars.

Message Management

One of GMail’s strengths is its ability to handle large volumes of email while allowing you to keep things organized. Wave built on GMail’s experience and has also included some useful features for keeping things in order. For starters, you’ve got Folders which work like GMail’s labels and everything else’s… well… folders. You can drag and drop waves into these folders and they will not show up in your inbox. To view that message you can either click the title of the folder or choose All at the top of the Navigation pane.

google-wave2-folders

As you can see in the screenshot, you can also colorize each of the folders individually. I can see how this could be helpful if you have a LOT of folders and want to use colors to group them together, or if there’s a particular folder you want to keep highlighted to catch your eye.

In addition to managing waves through folders, you also have two ways to essentially forget about a message until it’s needed. First, you can Mute a wave, so that it no longer shows up as unread even when it has been modified by others. If you just want a wave out of your inbox but still want to know when it’s been updated, you can Archive that message. You won’t see it until someone makes an update to that wave. Both muted and archived waves will show up in searches and in the All section.

I’ve found it useful to archive almost everything. When a wave has pretty clearly ended, I’ll set it to Archive and leave only messages I intend to keep alive in my inbox. If anyone happens to update one of those waves, it’ll pop right back up in my inbox like normal. Without this I think it wouldn’t take long for Wave to feel a bit overwhelming, if you use it frequently.

Embedded Replies

One messaging feature I really like is the ability to embed a reply inside the original message. In this example, Tara wrote the original message, and instead of creating a separate reply or copy & pasting her words, I can choose any spot in her message and insert my reply.

google-wave2-replies

Private Branches

Let’s say you’re in a wave with everyone at the office. Your boss is discussing the importance of TPS reports. Suddenly, a witty remark pops into your head, and you have a choice. Do you uphold your status as the office comedian, or bite your tongue to keep your job? Wave provides a third option – create a private branch. Only the people specified in that branch can see those messages. In this example screenshot, there are many people in the wave but only the person I included in my private reply can see what I wrote.

google-wave2-private-replies

Managing Contacts

The only really notable feature about the contacts is that you can do an incremental search for people in your contact list, as demonstrated below. My only complaint is that Wave does not apparently include GMail type status messages with the contacts. I’ve seen no word so far on whether or not that will be a feature in future Wave revisions.

google-wave2-contacts

Extensions

We covered extensions briefly in our first report on Wave, but there’s plently more to be said. Extensions can be installed and removed through the Extensions Gallery, which is a wave itself. For me, the extension gallery showed up in my inbox the day after I activated my Wave account. In it is a list of available extensions you can choose to install.

google-wave2-gallery

One of the most notable aspects of Wave in regards to extensions is they Google strongly encourages independent developers to create their own Wave extensions. The recommended language is Java but they also have a Python client library. As a fan of Python I think this is great news.

Bottom Line

With the many clever options Wave provides for message management and extensions, Wave is clearly going to be a contender for online communications. Right now the biggest obstacle is establishing a firm user base, as Wave is only useful if all your friends and associates also use it. Leaving the system open will work to Google’s benefit in that sense, as future users won’t be limited to just the official Wave website and client, but will be able to communicate over any wave-compatible platform. I, for one, look forward to seeing what the future holds for Wave.