Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hidden Wave Features: Search by Language

Like I said in another post, searching in Wave can be really useful if you know just what to search for. The problem is that getting the goods out of it can be tricky and you gotta search for extremely specific phrases, like "with:public" to find public waves. Wanna learn how to skip over all those English-only waves and reveal the hidden multilingual world within Google Wave? You've come to the right place.

You can search for waves of a the language you want by typing "lang:(language here)" into a search, a tool useful for multilingual or non-English speaking wavers, since most public waves are still in English. Unfortunately, you can't just type in lang:Russian and expect it to start pulling up Russian waves. Like a lot of Wave, search is still in an wonky beta stage, so you have to use fancy internationally recognized 2-letter language codes to search.

Maybe you've have seen them before, such as en for English or ja for Japanese. Lots of them are easy to guess, but some, like pl for Polish and pt for Portuguese can require some luck to guess, and others, like es for Spanish (espaƱol) or de for German (deutsch) use their own language's word for itself instead of the English one. But toss one of 'em in and search for public waves and you can pull up something like this:

Those 2-letter language terms are called ISO-639-1 codes (wiki). Here's some common ones for reference:
  • English - en
  • Spanish - es
  • Italian - it
  • German - de
  • Japanese - ja
  • Chinese - zh
A full list can be found at Wikipedia here. Watch out, it's pretty huge.

One thing you might have noticed about language searches is that not all of the waves they turn up are just the language you're looking for. Sometimes they only have a single blip with the language you're looking for. Just look at this search for Portuguese waves:

Most of the waves are in English, and one's in freakin' Chinese! Not quite the same thing as Portuguese.

Here's my tip to you to narrow down your searches. You could do something like "lang:pt -lang:en -lang:es -lang:it -lang:sp -lang:ja -lang:he -lang:zh -lang:yi -lang:zu -lang:xh" to exclude some languages from your search, but there are well over a hundred codes, and you'll always end up with a few errant waves showing up in Swahili or some other weird language that you missed.

Since you only want the Portuguese waves, all you really need to do is skim the English waves off the top (like fat), and you'll be left with a nice Portuguese soup. Copy and paste "lang:pt -lang:en with:public" to get rid of those English waves. This will remove not only all the waves that are mostly English with a one or two Portuguese posts, but also all the international multi-lingual waves filled with responses written in many different languages. Make a search like this, and...

bam, all the Portuguese or Swedish or Hindi you can handle. Since remembering all those codes and typing them in just right can be a hassle, I'd also suggest saving your searches for later use so you have an easy one-click link to switch languages

Of course, all of that was just for searching public waves. It's just as easy to create a "Portuguese Only" inbox (or English or Spanish or Arabic or Chinese) for those of you who might be doing a lot of multi-lingual waving and want to organize things that way. For instance, if you're living in Argentina but still keep in close contact with your family in Brazil, just search for something like "lang:pt -lang:es is:inbox" and you'll see all those dozens of messages from your charmingly doting mother
that you never read where she's making sure you're taking your vitamins and feeding yourself properly. Then save that search as "French". (for the opposite, try "lang:de is:read" to pull up old waves you have already read)

Hope that helps somebody out there!

There are a lot of undocumented, hidden, or obscured Wave features, like how to find and install third-party extensions (and why you would want to), and how exactly you're supposed to give Google the feedback they clearly need (and want) for this early version of Wave. I'll keep posting these and other tips, so keep your eyes peeled.

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