Blackberry Tips and Tricks


The following tips and tricks have been compiled over the years (since I started using a model 950 in 1999) from many sources on the Internet, RIM tech support, user manuals, and from simply playing around with Blackberry handhelds. Some of these may or may not apply to your handheld. Just how useful you find them may depend on things like: the model of handheld you own, which carrier you use, the software version installed, how your handheld is configured, any IT policies in place, and of course your own personal preferences and needs. Although many of the following tips and tricks will still apply, owners of Blackberry handhelds that feature SureType keyboards (i.e. 7100 and 8100 series) should look for additional ‘tips and tricks’ that are specific to their handheld.

Terminology

On this site and other websites, you may see the words (with or without a space or hyphenation) 'thumbwheel', 'scrollwheel', 'trackwheel', or 'wheelbutton' used interchangeably. RIM has often called this special button (that can be clicked and rolled much like a wheel mouse) a "thumb-operated trackwheel" in their documentation.

You may see the words 'ribbon' and 'home screen' used interchangeably.

The Blackberry handheld is often simply referred to as the ‘handheld’. BB and HH are common abbreviation also.

ALT key – Has half moon on top of it (or is orange on older models). Left side of keyboard below the ‘A’ key.

CAP key – Bottom right key (AKA SHIFT key) next to the space key.

SYM key – Can be used to enter less-often used characters in email messages, browser URLs, etc.

In General

1) Hold the ALT key while you roll the trackwheel to scroll horizontally in any field where you can enter or view text.

2) Hold the ALT key while you roll the trackwheel to scroll through a field to view options. Pressing the space key may let you cycle through the options as well.

3) Hold the CAP key while you roll the trackwheel to select multiple items in a list.

4) Type the first letter of an item in an options list or menu to jump directly to that item.

5) Type the first letters of a name or the initials separated by a space to find a contact in the Address Book screen.

6) Press the 'C' key to compose a new message from the home screen or within Messages or Save Messages [Note: This option disappeared in newer firmware but can be added back via a third party app]. If 'Enable Quick Entry' is set to 'NO' (Calendar/Options), then the 'C' key can be used to create a new appointment/meeting request while in the Calendar. See the calendar section below.

7) Rearrange the ribbon: In the Home screen (ribbon), hold the ALT key and click the trackwheel to bring up a menu. You can then select Move Icon, Hide Icon, or Show All. If you hide an icon, to show it again click Show all and it will appear with an X over it, bring up the menu on it and uncheck hide icon.

8) The Blackberry display can be backlit to allow reading messages in low light conditions. To get the light to come on, hit the backlight button usually in the lower right of the keyboard. Newer models also have a backlit keyboard as well so you can see the keys as you type if needed. The light goes out automatically after a few seconds of inactivity. The latest models with current handheld software allow you to change the timeout value (up to 2 minutes) and the level of brightness (2 step).

Note for C++ Model users: To get the display backlit, you need to press the ALT (orange) key quickly three times.

9) Turning the radio off and back on when coverage is spotty and you've lost signal seems to help on some handhelds.

10) Set Owner info and password protect your blackberry: Go to the Options menu, then to the Owner item, and enter your name, and additional information (such as an alternate phone number for you). Under Options menu, Security item, make sure you have ‘Password’ set to ‘Enabled’ and an adequate ‘Security Timeout’ value specified. [Note: these settings may be changed/enforced via an IT policy] When the security timeout kicks in (or you manually lock your device), the owner info you specified will be displayed on the handheld screen. If someone finds your lost handheld, this can give them enough information (and possibly an incentive if you include the word ‘REWARD’) to return the device to you.

11) If you have password protected your Blackberry (you should!) in the previous tip: [Note: these settings may be changed/enforced via an IT policy] After five incorrect attempts at typing in your password, the password starts echoing (figuring you really need all the help you can get). After ten attempts, it performs a lobotomy on itself and almost all data is cleared. The Memo database, however, may be retained and visible. Note for older C++ Model users: This will wipe data AND applications requiring a complete reload!  Siemens SK6R users: Your handheld will need to be sent in for service!

12) To support more than one signature: Wipe out your auto-signature in the Redirector of the Desktop Manager software, or on the Blackberry itself if using handheld software v4.0+ (Messages/Options/Email Settings/Use Auto Signature), and just use 'AutoText' to configure alternate signatures.  See the next tip on using AutoText.

13) Use AutoText to help you compose messages with fewer key strokes:  From the home screen, go to Options, then AutoText. A lot of AutoText entries have already been created for you. You can modify or delete existing entries, and even add your own. Entire boiler-plate responses can be entered here! Custom signatures, favorite quote/taglines, etc. can be stored, and then recalled in a message just by typing a few characters (that you specify) and pressing the space key. If you every want to use those exact characters in a message (i.e. not have the text you type replaced with an AutoText entry), you can simply hold down the CAP key as you press the space key. If you forget to do this (or maybe you just didn’t know there was an AutoText entry defined with those characters), you can hit backspace and this will ‘undo’ the AutoText expansion/replacement. Some of the stock AutoText entries rely on special macros (which you can also use in your own entries). Some of these macros are not available on all handhelds.  See the ‘Composing a Message’ tips on down in the list for examples of stock AutoText entries that use these special macros.

14) On blackberry models that include a phone, you can turn off the display of phone call logs in the Message list area. In the Home screen (ribbon), using the trackwheel and click the phone, click the trackwheel again and select options, Then Call Logging. Note that even with Call Logging turned off, you can still use the ALT-p and ALT-v shortcuts mentioned below to see the phone log and voicemail messages when needed.

15) ALT-CAP-Backspace will reboot your Blackberry handheld.

Messages

While in the Messages list there are many shortcuts and often over-looked features that can aid you in reading, composing, and cleaning up your email (some of these work in tasks, memos, and appointments also).

Searching/Filtering/Marking:

ALT-i: show only incoming mail

ALT-o: show only outgoing mail (messages you have sent - i.e. checkmark icon)

ALT-p: show phone log messages (on handhelds that are also a phone)

ALT-s: show SMS messages (on handhelds that support SMS)

ALT-v: show Voicemail messages (on handhelds that are also a phone)

ALT-d: (iDEN only) show a direct connect log in the message list

ALT-m: show MMS messages (on handhelds that support MMS)

Note: The ALT shortcuts above are just saved searches. Some of them may not be applicable to your device. You can create your own, or edit existing ones. Please see the Saved Searches tip below.

ALT-u: Press this key combination to toggle a single message as Read or Unread. Note that there is currently no way to filter the message list to show only unread messages. You can press the ‘u’ key to jump to the next unread message (see Navigating below).

h: toggle Hide Filed Messages setting on/off

i: file currently highlighted message(s)

s: go to the Search screen

v: show Saved Messages

Navigating:

Escape: close message listing and return to home screen (ribbon)

Backspace\DEL:  Delete the currently selected message(s)

Spacebar: page down

CAP + Spacebar: page up

t: go to top of the message listing

b: go to bottom of the message listing

c: Compose a new message

u: go to the next unread message
 
e: go to the next delivery error message

n: jump to next day of messages

p: jump to previous day of messages

r: reply to the currently selected message

l: reply-all to the currently selected message

f: forward the currently selected message

j: go to the previous message in the thread (of the currently selected message)

k: go to the next message in the thread (of the currently selected message)

Saved Searches:

Many people love to use the search hotkeys listed above (i.e. ALT-i), but few realize that these are just saved searches. These existing saved searches can be edited, and new one can be created, by following these steps:

1) If not already in Messages, click Messages from the home screen.
2) Click the trackwheel and then select 'Search' from the menu.
3) If you are creating a new saved search from scratch, skip this step and move on to step #4. To edit an existing search, click the trackwheel and select 'Recall' from the menu. Select the saved search in the list, click the trackwheel and select 'Edit Search' from the list (note that here is where you can delete a saved search also). 
4) Fill in, or change all the desired search critera.
5) Click the trackwheel and select 'Save' from the menu. This is the final step if you are editing an existing saved search.
6) If you are creating a new search, you will need to give your search a title and optional specify a shortcut key. Once you have done this, click the trackwheel and again select 'Save' from the menu.

To get you started, I'll describe one of my first custom searches: I compose lots of messages every day on my Blackberry handheld. Often I have to stop short of sending a message, so I save it as a draft message that I can go back and finish later. Unfortunately many new messages may come in before I get a chance to go back and finish those draft messages. To make sure no draft message gets forgotten, I created a custom saved search to find them. To duplicate this, follow the steps listed above for creating a new saved search. At step #4, scroll down to the 'Show' field. Press the space key to cycle through the available values. Stop when you see 'Draft Only'.  This will be the only thing we change now (you can go back and refine it later if you like). Now continue on to step #5 to save the search. In step #6 I gave this saved search a title of Draft Messages and assigned the 'd' shortcut key to it  (so it can be invoked via ALT-d). This shortcut key assignment works fine for me as I use a VZW 8703e, but if you use a Blackberry handheld that supports direct connect calls (i.e. Nextel) , you will need to pick another letter. Once you click Save for the final time in step #6, the saved search will be executed. If at any time you want to interrupt this seach (or any search), press the escape key.

Specifying where messages are deleted:


With email reconciliation enabled, many people prefer to be prompted as to whether deleted messages are removed on the handheld only, or from both the handheld and their mailbox. To configure the handheld to prompt you as to which action to take when you delete a message:

1) If not already in Messages, click Messages from the home screen.
2) Click the trackwheel and then select 'Options' from the menu.
3) ** Scroll down and click on 'Email Reconciliation' with the trackwheel. [Note: You many need to skip this step if your Blackberry has older firmware]
4) Make sure ‘Wireless Reconcile’ is set to ‘On’.
5) Change the option ‘Delete On’ to be ‘Prompt’.

Deleting multiple messages at once:

1) Hold down the CAP key and use the trackwheel to scroll up or down to select messages. Click the trackwheel and select 'Delete Messages'.

2) Highlight a date (i.e. Tue, July 20, 2004) in the message list; hit the trackwheel and select 'delete prior'. All messages prior to that date will be deleted. Important Note: If you have your Blackberry configured to automatically delete messages from your mailbox on the server when you delete them from the Blackberry, using this trick will NOT cause the messages to be removed from your mailbox on the server. So this is a good way to clean out the messages on your blackberry without worrying about having them deleted on the mail server.

Combine these with a searching/filtering tip to make it even more useful. Example:  To delete the last 5 outgoing messages (sent messages with a checkmark), press 'ALT' then the letter 'o' (for outgoing) this will show all of your sent messages. Then per the above tip, use the CAP key to select the last five messages. Click the trackwheel and select 'Delete Messages'.

While in a Message

Navigating:

Enter or spacebar: scroll down a page/screen at a time

ALT-enter or CAP + Spacebar: scroll back a page/screen at a time

b: scroll to end of page

t: scroll to top of page

u: jump to closest unread message

n: jump to next message

p: jump to previous message

Escape: close message and return to message listing

Backspace\DEL: Delete the currently opened mesage

r: reply to this message

l: reply-all to this message

f: forward this message

s: search for a word in the message

i: file current message

q: toggle between friendly name and SMTP address for a selected address in the header (like 'Show Address' and 'Show Name')

Selecting Text (OS v2.1+)

There are a few ways to select text:

1) Press the CAP key and then scroll the trackwheel to select. If you release the CAP key and scroll the trackwheel you will select entire lines. Press the CAP key again at any time to start selecting by character again.

2) Hold down ALT key + CLICK the trackwheel (click it don't hold it down), release the trackwheel and then use it to scroll whole lines. You can press and hold the ALT key at anytime to start selecting by character again.

3) Click the trackwheel and pick 'SELECT' from the menu. Scroll the trackwheel to select entire line. Click scroll wheel again and select copy.

Cut/Copy: After selecting text, click the trackwheel and select 'Cut Selection' or 'Copy Selection'

Paste: Click the trackwheel, and then select 'Paste Selection'.

NUM/CAP Lock

Turn on NUM lock:  Press CAP + ALT
Turn off NUM lock: Press ALT or CAP
Turn on CAP lock:  Press ALT + CAP
Turn off CAP lock: Press CAP

Composing a Message

1) Press and hold a letter to capitalize it (with Key Rate enabled).

2) Press the SPACE key twice to insert a period and capitalize the next letter.

3) Press the SPACE key to insert the '@' and '.' characters in an Email field. The first time the space key is pressed while in an email field, an '@' character will be inserted, any subsequent uses of the space key will insert a period. Thus if the email address is: "first.last@domain.com" you will need to type the first period. To prevent this character substitution, hold down the CAP key as you press the space key, or press the backspace key after the fact to undo (this behavior is identical to that of using AutoText).

4) Press and hold a letter key and roll the trackwheel to scroll through international/accent characters, equation symbols and other marks.

5) You can insert certain information about your blackberry into email messages. For instance, typing "mynumber" (without the quotes) and pressing space will insert your Blackberry's phone number (If your blackberry is also a phone). Likewise typing "myPIN" (without the quotes) and pressing space will insert your Blackberry's PIN. For iDEN phones (Nextel/Telus), you can type "mydcid" (without the quotes) and press space to insert your DIRECT CONNECT number. These are simply AutoText entries that use macros. You can edit these or roll your own using the same macros. Example: I create Autotext entries for 'mycell' and 'myphone' to be the same as 'mynumber'.   

Calendar 

(with "Enable Quick Entry" set to 'No')

n: Go to the next day, week or months (depending on view)
p: Go to the previous day, week or month (depending on view)
t:  Go to "Today" in the Calendar screen.
g: Go to a specific date in the Calendar screen.
a: Switch to Agenda view.
d: Switch to Day view.
w: Switch to Week view.

Meeting Requests

This tip is more a reminder for how to create Meeting Requests for conference calls in Outlook so that when recipients open the Meeting Request on their Blackberry, they can make the call (complete with conference/pass code) without manually dialing any numbers. In the location field use an x or ext between the number and the pass code.  Tag the # key on the end if needed.

18665555555x12345#
   or
18665555555ext12345#

You can pad it out with spaces as much as you like and it still works:

+1 (866) 555-5555 x12345#
+1 (866) 555-5555    x    12345#
+1 (866) 555-5555 ext12345#
+1 (866) 555-5555    ext    12345#

Now when a phone number in one of the above formats is clicked on the Blackberry, the number will be dialed and a popup will be presented to send the pass code.

Battery

The largest draw on a battery is the transmitter.  A few things that drain the battery:

1) Frequent phone use.

2) Being in fringe or no coverage areas will eat up your battery as it attempts to transmit. If you're in an area that is out of range, turn your handheld's radio off manually or use Options / Auto On Off to conserve battery life.

3)  Third party applications that must communicate frequently to maintain state (like some IM clients).

Heavy use of the backlight will also drain your battery.

Note: Extended/high capacity batteries can be purchased for some of the blackberry handhelds.   

For the older C++ models that use AA batteries: Generally speaking (you can get higher rated ones) rechargeable batteries only last about half as long as standard alkaline battery. Energizer e2 Photo Lithium batteries tend to last the longest. However, they are more expensive and when they finally start to go, have another on hand because they drain quickly at that point.

Geek Tips (All models)

1) Rather than looking at the bars, you can change the display of the 'signal strength' to read in real numbers. While at the home screen (ribbon), hold down the ALT key while you type NMLL. The bars should change to read numbers. For the 'signal strength', if you are in the 100 area (that means -100 dBm), you will be transmitting at maximum power, and since coverage is hit and miss at this weak a signal, you may end up transmitting many times before the packets make it through. This might help explain any poorer than normal battery life. I consider anything at -90 to -50 excellent. To get the bars back: While at the home screen (ribbon), hold down the ALT key while you type NMLL again.

2) Hold down the ALT key -AND- the CAP key at the same time, then press the letter 'h'. This brings up the "Help Me!" screen that lists version, app version, pin, imei, uptime, signal strength, battery level, file free, and file total.

3) Hold down the ALT while you type LGLG. This brings up the event log where you can clear events (frees some memory), view them or copy the contents to mail to someone. You can also change the level of logging here.

Old Geek Tips (older C++ models only)

1) ON any C++ model (i.e. 85x and 95x models), hold down the ALT (Orange) key and type "DBON" to display battery and signal strength as numbers. ALT+DBOFF returns to bars. Note: Although this trick does not work on the new Java-based models, both values are displayed in Options, Status on those models.

2) Hold down the orange ALT (orange) key -AND- the CAP key at the same time, then the letter 'b'. This will show you the 'Device Status' screen with extended battery info and other stuff. This tip should work from any screen.

3) Hold down the ALT (orange) key -AND- the CAP key at the same time, then the letter 'r'. This will show you the 'Radio Status' screen. Clicking on some of the info opens up news windows. Pressing the letter 'p' while on the 'Radio Status' screen sends a packet to the network which will send your Blackberry an acknowledgement in return. This is useful if you are in a weak signal area and want to stop your Blackberry from searching for other sites. You can do this and your Blackberry might stay there long enough to let you send that message that you might normally be in a too weak of an area to send. Also, pressing the letter "b" on this screen will get you the same 'Device Status' screen as tip #2 above. This tip should also work from any screen.

4) On a Blackberry that uses the Mobitex network (950 and 957 models) you may be able to switch towers. Go into the Radio Info screen as explained in tip #3. Type in REJ (which stands for Reject current tower). You won't see anything typed in, and sometimes this requires more than one try.

Carrier Tips/Codes

Verizon:
Call ##000000 - CDMA Service Program Edit Screen

Call *228 (option 2) - Update PRL OTA (Preferred Roaming List  - Over The Air).  The way to go.
Call *22899 - Activate phone and update PRL OTA. No additional prompts. VZW customer support use to recommend this, but now it seems to not be a good option for phones.
 
The Preferred Roaming List (PRL) is a list that a CDMA device (your Blackberry handheld in this case) uses when it attempts to locate and connect to cellular systems/towers. Your handheld can find and use a system not listed in the PRL, but it will try to use what is in the PRL first. Other connection issues aside, this can be a problem with data devices as when roaming you want to use a carrier that your provider has a data roaming (not just voice) agreement with [Note: similar issues exist with GSM/GPRS carriers and their roaming partners]. Because of issues like this it is often recommended that Verizon Wireless customers (and customers of other CDMA carriers) perform a PRL OTA update every couple of months; as the PRL is updated periodically to reflect new or updated information for other carriers which your provider has roaming agreements with, additional carrier frequencies being used in an area, and new cell towers (and new transmittion sites on exiting towers) added within your carriers own network.

Nextel:
After entering the 'Help Me!' screen (See Geek Tips). You can enter trace mode by typing: ZAML

Mailbox Clean Up

[Note: This section was written specifically for Blackberry handheld owners that use Outlook to access an Exchange server and have a BES account - others may still find some of the info useful]

If your mailbox has size limits (Email quotas), you may be prohibited from sending (and in some organizations even receiving) any new email until you reduce the amount of email already present in your mailbox. Not being able to send an important email because your mailbox is full can be frustrating to say the least. Cleaning up your mailbox is generally much easier on a PC (where you may have better searching, sorting and archival tools), but you can do a lot of it from the Blackberry.

Delete message that are no longer needed. These messages must not only be deleted on your handheld, but from your mailbox as well. To make sure you are deleting the messages on your mailbox, please review the ‘Specifying where messages are deleted’ aforementioned tip.  After deleting the messages, you can click the trackwheel and chose ‘Reconcile Now’ to speed up the process if needed, but please use this option sparingly as frequent use can degrade server performance. After deleting the messages, you may still need to remove them from your Deleted Items folder.

To Purge/Empty Deleted Items:

1) Go into Messages from the home screen.
2) Click the trackwheel and then select 'Options' from the menu.
3) ** Scroll down and click on 'Email Reconciliation' with the trackwheel. [Note: You many need to skip this step if your Blackberry has older firmware]
4) Click the trackwheel again, and select 'Purge Deleted Items' from menu.

Give this process a little time before trying to send another message. Remember that any item in your mailbox goes against your limit. If you still find that you are over your limit, you might have other items such as Tasks, Calendar, Contacts, etc. that you can delete.

Notes On Wireless Reconciliation

If messages deleted on the desktop are not deleted on the handheld, it can often be caused by one of following (assuming wireless email reconciliation is enabled on the BES and handheld):

1) The messages have been moved to a PST or manually "hard deleted" in Outlook. A "hard delete" is done by holding down the shift key as you delete a message. Messages deleted in this manner bypass the "Deleted Items" folder. Messages must go to the "Deleted Items" folder AND stay there long enough for reconciliation to occur. Which brings up #2...

2) Messages must stay in the "Deleted Items" folder long enough for wireless email reconciliation to occur. This can take some time. Outlook 2003+ in cached mode will add an additional slight delay to this as well. Wireless email reconciliation will not occur if messages are deleted and then the "Deleted Items" folder is immediately emptied (either by manually doing so or if "Empty the Deleted Items folder upon exiting" is checked in Outlook/Tools/Options/Other and the customer exits Outlook right after deleting messages).

BES batch processing delays that may affect how quickly reconciliation is performed: The wireless email reconciliation feature implemented between a handheld and a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), processes requests in batches. As messages are handled (read, deleted, moved, etc.), these modifications are queued up and sent to the BES for batch processing. Batching delays the wireless synchronization of folders and message status while the information is being queued and the batches are being created. The batching process is designed to regulate the amount of wireless traffic the BES has to process so that it does not become inundated with requests that the worker threads need to process. Heavy wireless traffic from wireless email reconciliation, as well as other wireless features, can cause the performance of the BES to degrade and may result in noticeable delays in reconciliation.


You can find more general usage tips in the User's Guide.

Gerald W. Gaston
 

Footnotes:
** Older versions of the handheld software may not have the sub-menu option mentioned (i.e. 'Email Reconciliation'). Simply skip over this step if possible or consult the documentation for your handheld.

Copyright 2004-2007 Gerald's Tools