Changes I Made to My BlackBerry to Make It Easier to Use

When I buy new gadgets and gizmos, I read the how-to booklets and also look for more tips on the Web. I purchased the BlackBerry 8820 over a year ago, and in addition to setting up my laptop to use it as a modem (tether), here are some other things I learned and changes I’ve made to increase my productivity.

(I’ve added links to videos that will help you too. See bottom of post.)

My tips booklet below, Up to Speed with Your BlackBerry, has been updated for later models.
Note: This graphic is not the 8820 but it's close. The top Mute key is my On/Off switch. My Mute key is on the right (it also puts the unit in standby mode). Use this image as a general guide. Source:

Changed the order of the icons on the home screen. I wanted quicker access to the items I use most often so I moved the icons around. I also hid the ones I don’t use. You’ve probably already figured out how to do this for the icons already on the home screen (use the trackball to select the icon you want to move, click the Menu key, choose Move (or Hide), move the icon to the desired location with the trackball and click it to finish. On some units, you might have to hold down the ALT key and click Menu key).

I wanted to move Options out of Settings so I selected it and moved the icon as I described above. Once the Options icon was on top of the Up icon, I clicked the trackball to enter. With it now out on the home screen, I moved it.

Made it easier to change to Vibrate mode. If I need to put my phone in Vibrate mode quickly, I can. I moved the Profiles icon to the first row (use the same method as I explained above in the previous point).

Changed the Convenience Key. By default, the button on the left side of my unit (Convenience Key) was a shortcut to Push to Talk (PTT), which gives a cell phone walkie-talkie capabilities. I didn’t need this, so I changed the Convenience Key to open Alarm. I want quick access to this because I use my PDA as an alarm clock when I travel, and I also use it for important reminders (the reminder sounds even when the phone is off). To change this, go to Settings, Options, Screen/Keyboard, Convenience Key Opens. Now select whatever is there and click the trackball to open the choices.

Set up a few speed dial numbers. For the few people I call regularly, I assigned letters to their phone number so I can call them with one click. You can hold down a letter key and assign a speed dial number, but I wanted to see the list as I was adding to it so I could keep the process more organized. Roll trackball over Phone icon, click to enter, move the cursor to the top so no name is selected, click the Menu key , Add Speed Dial, View Speed Dial List, scroll to the alpha key you want to assign to and click (e.g., H for husband), Menu key, New Speed Dial, find and click contact to add, click which number to add.

  • Call someone on the Speed Dial list: hold down the letter you assigned their number to until the phone starts to dial.
  • Delete someone on the Speed Dial List: Repeat the steps above to delete. Simply find them in the Speed Dial List, click Menu key, Delete.
  • Move someone to a new location on the Speed Dial List: Repeat the steps in the previous point but choose Move instead of Delete. Use the trackball to move the number to a different alpha key and click to enter.

Set it up to automatically BCC sent messages. My BlackBerry doesn’t save sent messages so when I created each email account, I set up Auto BCC (I didn’t see this option when I created the account, but once it was set up, I went back in to edit/add). With Auto BCC, each message I send is also automatically sent to a designated Outlook email account  as a blind copy (this email account is not set up on my BlackBerry).

When I’m back in Outlook, the BCC messages come in, and an Outlook rule automatically moves them to my Sent folder (exception to the rule: when my name is on the To line, the messages stay in the Inbox), and marks it as read. My rule looks for the words “Sent via BlackBerry” in the body of the message. If I hadn’t made that exception to the rule, messages people send me from their BlackBerry would go to the Sent folder if they have “Sent via BlackBerry” in the body. (If you don’t use Outlook rules, this will not make sense.)

Dressed up my email signature using AutoText. I created an AutoText entry that automatically replaces the letters “psdu” with my signature text below.

Sent via BlackBerry. Excuse brevity and any typos.

Peggy Duncan
404-492-8197 Eastern

To create AutoText, go into Settings, Options, AutoText. Click your Menu key, New. Then under Replace, I typed psdu. Under With, I typed the signature text above. When finished, click the Menu key, Save.

Later, to add the signature at the end of my message, I space down and type psdu, then hit the Spacebar once.

Bumped up security with a code and owner notice. No butt dialing for me. Before I can use my BlackBerry, I have to unlock it and enter a 4-digit password. Go into Settings, Options, Security Options, General Settings. I chose Enable Password, Lock Upon Holstering. You should make the changes that fit your needs and add a password when prompted. (I created a password that can be entered with one thumb and limited the number of tries I can use to access it.) To enter the password, just start typing it from the home screen.

My name, phone number, and email address show first on my home screen before I enter my password. To set this up, go into Settings, Options, Owner, and make desired changes.

Selected a default email address for messages. I set my unit up to receive email from several of my accounts, but I want my main email address to be the default for new messages. To change, go to Options, Advanced Options, Default Services, select the email address you want as the default, Menu key, Change Option, click the trackball to choose, Escape key, and Save. (See end of this article for link to a video on setting up email accounts.)

Changed my calendar defaults and learned some shortcuts. I like looking at details on my calendar at a glance. I changed the default view to Agenda (from inside the calendar, click Menu, Options, Initial View). Look around to see if there are any other options you’d like to change). For example, I changed to calendar items never get deleted (the default is to delete everything older than 60 days).

The following are some more tips to use from inside the calendar.

  • Move to the next day/week/month – SPACE
    (CAP or NUM (this is Shift) +SPACE moves backward).
  • Go to the current date, t.
  • Go to a specific date, g.
  • Create a new appointment, c.
  • Change the view, d for day, w for week, m for month).

Learned some email shortcuts. You probably already know shortcuts such as holding a letter key down until it’s capitalized. Another of my favorites is inserting the @ sign when I’m typing an email address (in an email field) by pressing the SPACE key. And when I’m typing a message, I love it that I can insert a period followed by a space by hitting SPACE twice (the next letter will be capitalized).

When I’m composing a message, I can:

  • Cut, Copy, Paste. Select text by holding down NUM and use the trackball to scroll across the text. To cut, ALT+DEL. To copy, ALT+click trackball. To paste, NUM+click trackball.

From list of messages, I can:

  • Create a new message, c. (If I’m on the home screen, I triple-click the email icon.)
  • Go back to the home screen, ESC key.
  • Move through a message (or a list of messages) one screen at a time, SPACE
    (CAP or NUM (this is Shift) +SPACE moves backward).
  • Go to the nearest unread message, u.
  • Delete several messages at once, hold down NUM and scroll over messages, DEL (to delete all messages at once, see below “Learned how to monitor email…”).
  • Review all past calls I’ve made (Call Log), ALT, O (not zero). Only works from Messages list.
  • Search through messages, s.

When I’m inside of a message and need to:

  • Reply, r.
  • Forward, f.
  • Reply to All, L (don’t do unless All need to know!).
  • Go to the next message based on receive date, n
    (if you’re inside the first message in Inbox,
    this takes you back to Inbox).
  • Go to previous message based on receive date, p.
  • Go to top of message (or the Inbox), t (or b for bottom).
  • File a message, I.
  • See a sender’s email address, highlight the name, q.
  • Go to the nearest unread message, u.
  • Select text by holding down the NUM (or Shift) key and
    scroll (this works with email, calendar, contacts, tasks).
  • Insert the current date, type l (an L) d, SPACE key.
  • Insert the current time, type l (an L) t, SPACE key.
  • Type accented letter, type the letter, scroll trackball left or right
  • Type numbers in a paragraph, hold down ALT and type.
    Or to turn on NUM LOCK: ALT, NUM, type. To turn off, NUM.
  • Add an apostrophe in a word such as didn’t, type didnt and AutoText corrects it.
  • Cut, Copy, Paste: select text by holding down NUM and using the trackball to scroll across the text. To cut, ALT+DEL. To copy, ALT+click trackball. To paste, NUM+click trackball.

Added special terms to the Custom Dictionary. There are several terms specific to my business and industry that showed up as errors in spell check.

To add words to the Custom Dictionary at once, go to Options, Spell Check, scroll down and click Custom Dictionary, Menu key, New, type the word, click trackball to enter. To edit a word later, select it and click the trackball.

Used it to monitor email instead of trying to manage it. I don’t try to manage my life on a phone. I do my serious email stuff when I’m back at my laptop in Outlook. I just use the BlackBerry to monitor email in case something critical comes through while I’m out and about.

Once I review all messages and answer only the ones that need an immediate response (e.g., a journalist on a deadline), I delete all messages in the Inbox at once (type t to go to the top of the message list/select topmost date, click Menu key, Delete Prior. All messages prior to the date I selected will be deleted. Because I want all messages deleted, I select the topmost date).

I can delete everything because my email messages are not synched with Outlook and they’ll come to my Inbox when I’m back on my laptop (if you’re not on a server, email messages can’t be synched). You can also delete one message at a time by selecting it and DEL.

Made it easier to delete stuff. I turned off Confirm Delete, and I now keep messages forever until I choose to delete. To make these changes, click to open Messages, click the Menu key, scroll Options, General Options.

Loosened it with a quick reboot. Sometimes for some unknown reason, email stops coming into my BlackBerry. Rebooting it fixed the problem, ALT-CAP-Backspace (the DEL key is my Backspace). Sometimes you may have to remove the battery for a few seconds (no, you won’t lose your data).

Learned how to send a contact’s vCard via email. When I had my iPAQ, I could beam a contact to another iPAQ. To email a contact’s information to someone, find the contact in your address book list (don’t open it), click the Menu key, Send As Attachment, send email as you normally would (first send it to yourself so you’ll see what happens).

Add custom phone tune for a particular person. I assigned a distinctive ringer for someone. Find them in the address book (don’t open it), click the Menu key, scroll to find Add Custom Phone Tune.

Learned how to send an SMS (text message). You can send a text message of 160 or less characters with SMS (Short Messaging Service) to a contact’s cell phone or Google® Voice number.

If you’re inside the address book, select a contact who has a cell phone or Google Voice number (don’t open it), click the Menu key, SMS Text, click the trackball to open. With the mobile number highlighted, click the trackball, compose message, click Menu, Send.

If you need to send a text to someone who is not in your contacts, from the home screen, dial the number, click the Menu key, select SMS Text, click the trackball, compose message, click the Menu key, Send.

I rarely use this because I prefer having a paper trail of what I do and would rather do email with Auto BCC).

Figured out how to get somewhere before I needed to. The GPS feature with AT&T Navigator works great. I was recently trying to find a business and wanted to make sure I was going the right way. I did a quick search in the Navigator and it talked me right to the door. And when during a trip to Chicago, I needed to find a FedX Kinko’s, I opened the Navigator and clicked to Search for one. Within seconds, I was on my way. To get started with GPS, click the icon on the home screen, sign up for the service, and learn how to use it before you need it.

You should explore more keyboard shortcuts in the Help menu on your unit. There are lots of goodies in there. And here are some how-to videos you might find helpful.

Video series that helps you get started with your BlackBerry

How to set up email accounts on the BlackBerry

How to add new contacts to the BlackBerry address book (I add my contacts when I’m in Outlook and sync to BlackBerry)

How to set up appointments and to-do lists with the BlackBerry

How to surf the Web on the BlackBerry

How to install an application onto the BlackBerry

More shortcuts for the 8820

How to Tweet from Your BlackBerry

So how about you? Have you discovered shortcuts or tips that make using your Blackberry easier? Leave a comment and let us know.


Related Posts

Tether Your BlackBerry to Your Laptop and Use as a Modem
Cure BlackBerry Addiction
Cure Email Addiction: 15 Things to Try

14 thoughts on “Changes I Made to My BlackBerry to Make It Easier to Use

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  3. Pingback: ECMTA/PESA Summit 2009 Peggy Duncan « My Blog
    1. Try this. Click to Forward, copy just the part of the body you want to send. Then Select All, Delete to delete the entire body), paste back what you wanted to send. (If you need to, read through other tips to see how to Copy, etc.)

  4. Hi Samantha, I don’t know about the newer model, but I’d be willing to bet that most of these tips still work. I’ve moved on the iPhone and haven’t looked back!

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