Tips and tricks for using your BlackBerry

The BlackBerry is an extremely powerful productivity tool, and while it's very much a "pick up and play" device, knowing the various operating system quirks and shortcuts can be very handy.

Choosing the right BlackBerry for you
The BlackBerry is an extremely powerful personal productivity tool, and while it's very much a "pick up and play" device, knowing the various operating system quirks and shortcuts can be very handy.

At this year's Wireless Enterprise Symposium in Orlando, Florida, Andrew Bocking, senior product manager for BlackBerry gave an extremely insightful presentation titled "BlackBerry Device Tips and Tricks". Naturally, the CNET.com.au crew was there, and this DIY guide summarises Bocking's most useful tips.

Note: The instructions detailed within should be consistent across all current BlackBerry models.

1. Tips and tricks for using your BlackBerry
2. Navigating the Home Screen
3. SureType
4. Phone
5. Messaging
6. Calendar
7. Battery life saving tips

1. Tips and tricks for using your BlackBerry
2. Navigating the Home Screen
3. SureType
4. Phone
5. Messaging
6. Calendar
7. Battery life saving tips

Navigating the Home Screen

The "Home Screen" acts as an entry point to all BlackBerry applications. It can be accessed by clicking the track wheel.


For simplicity, we'll assume that you're using the Icon-based Home Screen.

Moving, hiding and showing icons -- The icon layout on your Home Screen can be completely customised by holding "ALT" whilst clicking the track wheel. This will bring up a self-explanatory menu.

Application switching -- The "ALT + TAB" function on your desktop PC has been replicated on the BlackBerry. Simply hold "ALT" whilst pressing "ESCAPE" and you'll be able to scroll through all active applications.


Just like the ALT+TAB function on Windows PCs

Configuring convenience keys -- Both the BlackBerry 8700 and BlackBerry 7130 offer convenience keys for quick-launching any application. These can be configured in the "Options" menu under "Screen/Keyboard".


Convenience keys allow for quick-launching applications.

1. Tips and tricks for using your BlackBerry
2. Navigating the Home Screen
3. SureType
4. Phone
5. Messaging
6. Calendar
7. Battery life saving tips

SureType

A number of BlackBerry devices, such as the 7130 and 7100, use a "candybar" format and thus, don't offer a full QWERTY keyboard. Instead, multiple letters share a single key, which can make bashing out long e-mails a chore.

SureType helps to remedy this by analysing the keys pressed to predict the word you're typing, so you can use it just like a normal QWERTY keyboard.


SureType in action

There are a variety of settings that can be configured for SureType in the Options menu under Language > Input Options:

Compound words (On/Off) -- defines whether compound word handling is enabled

Frequency learning (On/Off) -- defines whether the system learns the frequency of the words entered and modifies default options based on that frequency.

Auto word learning (On/Off) -- defines whether the system adds words the user types that are not already in the core wordlist to the "custom wordlist" for future use.

Use Address Book as a data source (On/Off) -- defines whether the system uses the Address Book information on the device as supplementary words

Automatic word learning from Messages (On/Off) -- defines whether the system will automatically evolve its wordlist based on e-mail messages the user receives and does not delete.


Options > Language > Input Options

Customise the above settings to suit your preferences and you'll be bashing out essay-length replies in no time.

1. Tips and tricks for using your BlackBerry
2. Navigating the Home Screen
3. SureType
4. Phone
5. Messaging
6. Calendar
7. Battery life saving tips

Phone

Dialling letters -- If you're calling a number with letters in it, or you're asked to enter letters by a machine prompt, simply press ALT + letter keys and the BlackBerry will automatically convert them into the appropriate tones.

Speed dialling -- Users can assign all letters to quickly dial numbers from the Home Screen or Phone application. This can be setup by holding the desired key for a few seconds, after which a prompt will appear asking if you'd like to assign a speed dial. Once it's configured, simply hold down the appropriate key for one second to call the assigned number or contact.


Speed dial

Connecting a Bluetooth headset -- If your BlackBerry offers Bluetooth support, you're able to pair Bluetooth devices with the phone from Options > Bluetooth.


Pairing Bluetooth devices

The Call Log/Hot List -- In the Phone application (accessed by pressing the green "SEND" key), a list of calls that have been placed or received are conveniently displayed depending on user preference -- either Most Recent, Most Used, Call Log (default) or by Name. This preference can be modified in Phone Options > General Options > Phone List View.


The Call Log/Hot List

Smart dialling -- This feature ensures that numbers dialled from the Address Book or Hyperlinks are connected successfully whether they're local numbers, national numbers or international numbers. Smart dialling options can be found under the Phone Options menu, and to configure it just enter your country code, area code and national number length (10 for Australia).


Smart dialling

Custom phone tunes for contacts -- You're able to give each individual contact on your list a custom ringing tone. To do this, go into the "Edit Address" screen of the contact that you wish to modify, then from the menu select "Add Custom Phone Tune".


Give your contacts custom ring tones

1. Tips and tricks for using your BlackBerry
2. Navigating the Home Screen
3. SureType
4. Phone
5. Messaging
6. Calendar
7. Battery life saving tips

Messaging


Key message list hot keys

Pre-canned searches -- To help you filter through your messages more easily, there are seven pre-canned search filters:

  • ALT + I - shows all incoming messages

  • ALT + O - shows all outgoing messages

  • ALT + P - shows all phone call logs (incoming/outgoing/missed)

  • ALT + S - shows all SMS messages

  • ALT + M - shows all MMS messages

  • ALT + V - shows all voicemail messages

  • ALT + D - shows all draft messages

Hiding messages -- Users are able to hide messages that have been filed and hide sent messages to reduce inbox clutter. This can be found under General Options.


Hiding certain messages reduces clutter

Advanced search -- Users can also perform more advanced searches by selecting Search from the Messages menu.


Advanced search

1. Tips and tricks for using your BlackBerry
2. Navigating the Home Screen
3. SureType
4. Phone
5. Messaging
6. Calendar
7. Battery life saving tips

Calendar

Snooze for Calendar or Task reminders -- As scheduled appointments and tasks frequently pop up when you're already in the middle of doing something else, it's often useful to set them to "snooze" for up to half an hour so that you don't put them off and forget about them. This can be enabled in Calendar Options and Task Options under "Snooze".


Enabling Snooze for calendar and task reminders is handy

Showing tasks in Calendar -- To show tasks as well as appointments on the BlackBerry's calendar, in Calendar Options set "Show Tasks" to "Yes".


Show tasks on the BlackBerry's calendar

1. Tips and tricks for using your BlackBerry
2. Navigating the Home Screen
3. SureType
4. Phone
5. Messaging
6. Calendar
7. Battery life saving tips

Battery Life Saving Tips

A number of small tweaks can be made to extend the already strong battery life of the BlackBerry:

1. Use the auto on/off feature (found in Options > Auto On/Off) to have the device automatically power off and power on overnight.


Auto On/Off

2. When wireless coverage is not needed users should "Turn Wireless Off" (accessed from the Home Screen).

3. Under the Profiles menu, try to minimise the number of notifications for often-occurring events, such as new e-mail. It's also a good idea to choose from either tone, vibrate or LED notification, rather than having all three going at the same time.

4. Turn off Bluetooth when it's not being used.

5. Lower the backlight timeout value (the time it takes for the backlight to switch off when the device isn't in use) from the Options > Screen/Keyboard menu.

6. Put the device in the holster when it's not in use, as this will power off the LCD screen to conserve power.

For further battery saving tips, be sure to check out the "How to Maintain Free Space and Battery Power On BlackBerry Devices" guide, which can be found on the BlackBerry Technical Knowledge Centre.

 

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