To add contacts, click the plus button at the bottom of the screen and start typing in a name or email address - if your contact has a Wave account it will be displayed here. Alternatively, click Manage Contacts and add people to your My Contacts list; they will see you as Wave invites go out to them.
Step 4: To begin creating a wave, click the New Wave button in the central Inbox. This brings up the rich media editor where you can type your messages and add videos, images and various gadgets. Fairly simple formatting is available using the various icons in the Actions bar above the editor.
To insert an image, video or audio file, click the attachments icon (indicated by a paper clip) and browse to the file in question. Alternatively, you can simply drag-and-drop a file into your wave. Once your wave is ready to share, click Done.
Step 5: A wave is designed to be shared, so the next step is to add a participant who will be able to follow its development. Click the plus button located just above the Add participants link, then select users or groups with whom you wish to share your message. As you type your message, it will show up in their inbox and they will be able to comment on it as they see fit.
Waves can be divided into wavelets or smaller elements known as blips.
Step 6: You can navigate the waves you create by clicking All in the lefthand menu, selecting By Me for your personal waves or using the search function at the bottom of the Navigation menu. A Playback button at the top of each wave automatically plays each blip within a wave.
Some of the customisation features are yet to be developed, but it's already possible to enable or disable various extensions that plug into your waves.
Using wavelets, blips and gadgets
So far, we've looked at the basics for creating and sharing waves. However, Google also offers some elements that are worth investigating in more detail.
As we noted earlier, a wave is part document, part communication, and can be edited at any point by any user and updated in real time. The simplicity of this wiki-like approach to documents promises to be one of Wave's most radical applications.
When a threaded conversation builds up either within or outside a wave, this is referred to as a wavelet and works in a fashion similar to an instant messaging conversation. Single messages are referred to as blips. These in turn can have further blips attached to them and can function rather like Twitter tweets.
Waves, wavelets and blips can all have various documents and files attached to them, allowing other wavelets and blips to cascade out and draw in other users. Any wave and its associated blips and wavelets can then be embedded and uploaded to a website.
There will be plenty of opportunities for users to enhance Google Wave's capabilities with Extensions. These consist of gadgets or robots that can pull information from external sources such as Twitter.
Indeed, the ability to easily add various gadgets to a wave, such as one for Google Maps, promises to be a real boon. In this beta stage, this gadget is one of the best tools that you can use for exploring how Wave will work in future when sharing media-rich documents.
Step 1: The Google Maps icon is located on the action toolbar above the editor. Also here are a selection of other Google gadget icons, the ability to add a yes/no button to documents, and even the URL for other widgets you want to include in your wave.
Not all the gadgets have yet been implemented, but as Wave develops you should be able to add the various services that have become commonplace in Chrome and the Google toolbar for other browsers, such as translation and spellchecking tools.
Step 2: Once you've clicked on the map icon, a default map will be loaded into your wave. To change its location, type a place name or postcode into the search box at the bottom left of the gadget. Selecting 'Create copy on map' places a marker on your map, while the 'Get directions' button shows you how to get to that spot. Even if you aren't familiar with Google Maps, you'll quickly be able to find your way around a map gadget inserted into a wave.
Step 3: By using the line and poly tools next to the search box, you can begin to chart routes and locations on your map with various way points that contain information about those locations. When you wish to share this information with your contacts, click the plus button at the top of the screen to add a user or group to the wave.
Step 4: The Google Maps gadget has all the features of the main site. You can zoom in or out of the map and view satellite or terrain data; select your view using the icons at the top left of the map. Likewise, locations added by other users to Google Maps will also be visible to you and other wave participants. It's an extremely useful way of keeping tabs on helpful or important geographical information.
Step 5: If you can't see any extensions, you may need to activate some. Go to the 'Welcome to Google Wave' email you received when you set up the account and you'll see a list of extensions and options. To add more extensions, click the plus button next to Searches in the Navigation panel. Web-conferencing, video-chat and travel apps are offered. Click an extension's Install button to add it. Its icon will now appear in your toolbar, letting you add it to future waves.
Step 6: You can also embed a wave into an external website; it's more complex than embedding a YouTube video, but the principle is the same. The embedded wave retains many of its functions, such as the ability to drag-and-drop files.
Although embedding is still at an early stage of development, Google is already enabling the embed process to work with YouTube and other services.