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BlackBerry Tips

by Lisa Duke

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BlackBerry Tips: Dialing by Name, Disabling the Short List, Keyboard Shortcuts, Camera Phone Zoom, and Extending Battery Life

BlackBerry users love their smartphones, but often aren’t sure how to get the most out of them. Here are are a few great tips (courtesy of a presentation at WES 2008) to help you get more out of you BlackBerry on a daily basis:

1. Dialing with letters instead of numbers.
This is a common challenge. A user has dialed a phone number, only to be put in the dreaded dial-by-name directory. Don’t hang up! Just hold down the ALT key while pushing the letters on the keyboard and the smartphone will translate between those letters and the numbers that correspond on a desk style phone (they don’t call the BlackBerry a “smart phone” for no reason!).

2. Turn off the short list.
When using the new Sprint Curve, you may have noticed sometimes on a certain screen you get a long menu and sometimes you get a short menu. This is a feature of the 4.2 and higher handheld software, which comes standard on the newer phones like World Phone, Curve and Pearl. The short list is a sort of “context sensitive” feature. If you get the short list, it means nothing that you’ve highlighted is actionable.

If the short list is confusing, tell the device to display the full list every time. Go to Options (the wrench picture), then Screen/Keyboard. At the bottom is the Menu area and the Menu Style field. Change the settings to Full Menu to get the long menu every time.

3. Keyboard shortcuts.
On a BlackBerry with a full QWERTY keyboard, you can use several keyboard shortcuts to process emails faster. From inside an email, pushing the “R” key and holding it down will cause the software to pop up a reply email for the response.

If replying to all is preferred, the “L” key will pop up the reply with all the recipients of the original message pre-filled. “F” will forward a message, and “C” will compose a message. Remember, for all these shortcuts, push the key and continue holding until the action is taken.

4. Camera phone zoom.
On a device with a built in camera, the camera can zoom in and out. From inside the camera, just roll the trackball up or push the “+” on the volume control on the right side to zoom in, then roll down or push “-“ to zoom out.

5. Extending the battery.
Battery life can become an issue with heavy BlackBerry usage. Here are a few battery saving tips:

  • Use the auto on/off feature to turn the device off at night
  • Turn the wireless radio off (this will disable the phone and data services though)
  • Turn off Bluetooth and WiFi (if you have WiFi) when you aren’t using them
  • Reduce the number of notifications
  • Go to Options (the wrench), then select Screen, then Keyboard, and then Backlight to reduce the brightness of the screen
  • Put the device in a holster when not in use, which puts it into standby mode
  • Push down the “mute” key on the top of the device to manually put it in standby.


For other BlackBerry tips, check the RIM site at or call STS at 678 638 6688.

If you use Lotus Notes, you will also want to check out the Notes Tips article.

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