Earlier this year, Research in Motion, the makers of Blackberry, released a new operating system for their devices.* You may have been prompted to upgrade your current Blackberry to the new operating system, or you may have received a new Blackberry with the new system already installed. Either way, you are sure to notice that it is drastically different and requires some getting used to. In this blog, we hope to help you find some of the useful features you may have missed and learn how to overcome some of the common complaints. If you do not currently have the new operating system and want it, please talk to your HouseCall Systems Administrator. It is not advisable to upgrade all devices.
The Home Screen
The new home screen looks somewhat similar, but you will find that you can interact with it in a very different way. They designed it to work well with touch screen devices, so you might find it very reminiscent of an iPhone or Android.
There are 5 home screens available: All, Frequent, Favorites, Media, and Downloads. You get to different screens by scrolling to the left or right, or by swiping left or right on a touch screen. To see more than the top six applications, just keep scrolling down or swipe the title of the screen up. If you have accidentally scrolled over to another screen and just want to get back to your email quickly, you can hit the End Call button twice to return to the first application on the All screen.
You will also discover that, rather than just provide information as before, the new home screen is far more interactive and allows you to change things quickly, as well.
Clicking on the notification area, which displays the alerts for new messages and appointments, will display a list of the messages it is alerting you to for easier access.
Clicking on the top bar which displays the time and network coverage, will get you quick access to turn connections to the different kinds of networks on and off and set the alarm clock and several other options.
Clicking on the icon at the top left which tells you which sound profile it is active will allow you to quickly change to a different profile. And can’t we all appreciate a faster way to make the Blackberry go silent?
By default, when you start typing anything, the Blackberry will start searching for what you are typing. This can make it very quick and easy to find a certain contact or appointment, or an email containing certain information, or a setting you are looking for on your Blackberry. You can even search the internet this way.
If you just wanted to make a phone call, finsish dialing the number and hit the Send Call button or scroll down to select the number on the screen.
If you do not like this feature or want to be able to use keyboard shortcuts, you can disable it running by default and access it through the magnifiying glass icon at the top of the screen. From anywhere on the home screen, hit the Menu button (the one with the Blackberry symbol of a cluster of dots) and choose Options. Here, you can switch between Universal Search and Application Shortcuts. You can also change your wallpaper, the number of icons that show up on the home screen before you have to scroll down, and where applications you download are put by default. These are some of the most useful and common personal preferences all together in one screen.
When you look at the five home screens, you may wonder if there is a difference between Frequent and Favorites, and there is. Favorites is customizable. It will automatically fill with applications you use frequently, but you can set it allow easy access to applications, contacts, and websites you use.
To add an application to Favorites, just select it on the home screen, hit the Menu button, and choose Mark as Favorite.
To add a website to the home screen, open the website, hit the Menu key, and choose Add to Home Screen. Note, that you will have to open the website to do this. You cannot send a link to the home screen until you have opened the site in the browser.
To add a contact to the home screen, select it in the Address Book, hit the Menu button and choose Add to Home Screen.
This will open a screen that allows you to name it and choose where you want to put the shortcut to that contact. If Mark as Favorite is checked, it will go on the Favorites screen. Otherwise, it will just show like any application.
Now, you have easy access to all of these resources from the Favorites screen. When you roll the cursor over the icon, text will appear above it, to let you know which shortcut or application it is, but wouldn’t it be better if there was a picture?
Add Pictures to Contacts
For that reason, or just because it is fun or because helps your organization, you can add pictures to any of your contacts. You can either add the picture to the contact in Outlook, or straight through the Blackberry. On the Blackberry, open the contact, choose Edit from the menu, and click on the picture icon.
This will open a screen that allows you to either choose from pictures already on your Blackberry, or choose Camera to take a picture.
Another great feature of the new operating system, is the addition of tabbed browsing. Now you can have more than one website open at a time. Just open a website and then click on the button showing two boxes in the top right corner to add another tab or choose between the tabs you currently have open.
One of the changes which you will run into often is the new way Blackberry handles text and links in emails. The new method allows for smoother scrolling through emails, especially ones with graphics, and gives better control when selecting text. Now, to select text, you hit the Menu button and choose Select. You can also hit Alt+Space, to enter text selection mode.
This changes your cursor to the same kind you are used to seeing in on a computer and lets you use the trackpad or touch screen to immediately move the cursor to the text you want to select. Click at the beginning of the text and again at the end to select.
Once you have made a selection, a screen will automatically pop up to allow you to choose what you want to do with the selected text.
Navigating with the Trackpad:
As mentioned before, the new operating system was designed for touch-screen Blackberries. It is also available for trackpad only devices, but the navigation can be a little tricky. When switching between home screens or days on a calendar or from one email to the next on a touch-screen, you would swipe your finger across the screen to the left or right. With a track pad, the motion is the same, but you only have about a quarter inch of space to do it. This often translates into scrolling at just the right speed. It can help to swipe across the trackpad and the surrounding keys together to get the right movement. Most importantly, just know that it takes a little practice to learn, but it is possible and your Blackberry isn’t broken. It is just different.
If you have one of the new touch-screen Blackberries, you will notice the downfall every iPhone and Android user is well aware of: touch-screens kill battery life. Different phone manufacturers handle the issue in different ways, but it is an unavoidable fact that it takes a lot of energy to make a touch-screen work. There are a few tricks you can use to minimize the drain on the battery, though.
First, don’t use the touch screen when it isn’t helpful. The new Blackberry comes with a full keyboard and trackpad and call buttons, so you don’t need to use the touch screen for everything. This makes navigation much easier, since you can choose the best option for what you want to do. Touching the screen would be much easier to open an application, while the trackpad may be easier for you to use to select text or scroll precisely through an email. It also saves battery life to type on physical keys instead of a touch-screen interface. You also don’t want to be using the touch screen when you don’t mean to. Be sure to always lock the screen before putting the Blackberry in your pocket, purse, or briefcase. The battery can be drained just by bumping against your wallet, if it isn’t locked.
Since the touch-screen will always take a lot of your battery power, you can reduce the drain in other areas to make up for it. The next biggest drain on the battery is searching for service the Blackberry can’t find. If you are in an area with no cell signal, turn off the Mobile Network. If you are in an area with no WiFi, turn off WiFi. If you are not using a Bluetooth device, turn off the Bluetooth. (It is good security policy to turn off Bluetooth when not in use, as well, since Bluetooth can be used for file sharing.) Remember, it is now easy to get to these settings by just clicking at the top of the home screen.
If you are in an area with WiFi, it will use less battery than the Mobile Network. If you have wireless internet in your office or at your home, setting that up on your Blackberry can really help battery life. (Please note that you may be disconnected from HousePublic if you leave your office for another part of the House Office buildings. Your HouseCall Systems Administrator can explain further.)
Lastly, if you aren’t going to need loud notification of your incoming emails and appointment reminders, you can turn the sound to silent. Vibrate uses less battery than Loud and Silent and Phone Calls Only use far less battery than the others.
Hopefully, this will keep your Blackberry going and help you use the new features. If you have any questions, just let us know.
*RIM has released Blackberry OS 6 and OS 7. The main difference is that OS 7 is designed solely for touch screen devices. The two operating systems will look and act the same for the user, so they are being discussed without distinction here.