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Making MotoBlur manageable

MotoBlur can be convenient, informative, and a time-saver, as long as you use it wisely.

Though the MotoBlur interface is a highlight of the Google-Android-powered Motorola Cliq, I wasn't sure if I liked it during my first experience with the phone. I enjoyed the capability to merge my contacts from various sources and access a universal in-box for e-mail and messages, but the constant flow of information seemed a bit overwhelming.

MotoBlur is a central feature of the Moto Cliq. Josh Miller/CNET

Now fast-forward three months. After spending a few weeks with the Cliq as a personal phone (I like to mix it up), I've changed my mind. MotoBlur can be convenient, informative, and a time-saver, as long as you use it wisely. Here's how.

The Happenings widget
Moto pushes this as one of the best features of MotoBlur, but I would dump it immediately. It sits on the Cliq's central home screen and informs you of a variety of, well, happenings, from the essential to the exceedingly trivial. I enjoy knowing when a friend writes on my Facebook wall (that's the only social networking site I use), but I really don't care when some friend, distant or close, posts a new profile photo. What's more, I don't like that the Happenings widget can't screen out the friends that you've chosen to hide from your news feed (oh, come on, everyone does it).

Yes, I could just not look at the widget, but each "happening" causes the Cliq's LED above the display to flash. And while I could turn off the light, I want it to alert me when I have an e-mail from my partner or boss. The best solution is to drag the widget off the home screen. You still can access it from the main menu, but it's not always there flashing in your face.

Universal in-box
This is my favorite MotoBlur feature. I love that the Messages widget combines my Outlook e-mail, Yahoo e-mail, text messages, and Facebook messages into one place. Gmail is not included, a fault that I hope is fixed soon, but I can scan through my latest communications and reply as needed. My only suggestion here is to be selective about which messages you want flowing into the universal in-box, particularly if you don't want your work and personal worlds colliding. The default setting is for all accounts, but you can change it to your liking.

As mentioned, MotoBlur merges your various contacts into one place. So if you have a work colleague who gives out their personal phone number and also has a Facebook account, MotoBlur will combine that person's information into one entry. Though that's fine for a coworker who also happens to be a friend, that may not work for your boss. Here again, you should exercise discretion when choosing which contacts you want pulled into MotoBlur. You're provided this option so take advantage of it. Also, when you're in your contacts menu, remember that you can choose to see everyone or just certain groups of contacts (work, personal, etc.).

The actual merging of contacts is a final important step. Once you add your selected accounts to the application, MotoBlur does a decent job of combining them. It's not perfect, though, so you'll have to spend some time managing the process. For example, if a friend includes a middle initial in their Facebook profile, but doesn't use that initial in everyday communication, MotoBlur won't recognize the two entries as the same person. The same goes for contacts with names that can be shortened (Charles vs. Charlie, for example). Once you do merge, keep in mind that a friend's Facebook status update will show on your display when they call.

Steps like these will help MotoBlur become more manageable for the gun shy. If you enjoy knowing everything at all times about your friends, then you may not want to change a thing. But if you're like me, you'll want to keep it to a limit.