How to get more out of your BlackBerry

Top tips from CIOs themselves…

Top tips from CIOs themselves…

Want to make your BlackBerry even more useful? Andy McCue provides some top tips for the executive-device addict.

It's winking at you with its little flashing light. 'Pick me up and play with me', it's saying. You try to resist but you can't. It could be a really important email…

Admit it - you're addicted to your BlackBerry.

The BlackBerry is undoubtedly a valuable tool for today's executives but it's all too easy to be swamped by the constant flow of emails and become yet another so-called CrackBerry addict.

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Luckily there are loads of shortcuts and tips for getting more out of the BlackBerry. An Ipsos study - albeit sponsored by BlackBerry-maker RIM - found users can save up to an hour per day by converting downtime into more useful productive time. It also discovered 70 per cent of customers use applications beyond email on their BlackBerry.

Here highlights some of the most effective advice for dealing with the habit - including recommendations from CrackBerry-wielding CIOs themselves.

Keyboard shortcuts
The BlackBerry's Qwerty keyboard is loved by many - but it is quite tiny and for those with fat sausage fingers some tasks can become quite frustrating. That's why keyboard shortcuts help. Try some of these out:

  • Uppercase: Press and hold down a letter to capitalise it.
  • Switch between applications: Press ALT and then the Escape key for a full menu. Then release the ALT key to select the relevant application.
  • Favourites: In the web browser press 'K' to get your bookmark list.
  • Scrolling up and down pages: Press space bar for 'page down'. Hold Shift and press Space Bar for 'page up'. Hit 'T' to move to the top of the screen or 'B' for the bottom of the screen. (On the Pearl's SureType keyboard this is replaced by pressing the '1' and '7' keys respectively).
  • Viewing pictures: In the media player press 'R' to rotate a picture, 'I' to zoom in and 'O' to zoom out.

Gavin Whatrup, group IT director at Creston, explains his favourite shortcuts: "Whilst in the Inbox, press L for 'compose message' - it saves a couple of key strokes - and reassign the shortcut keys on the side [for the BlackBerry Pearl]. Mine are set to camera (left) and calculator (right)."

Apple's App Store - which allows users to download all manner of applications - has iPhone converts frothing at the mouth. But there are also plenty of applications out there for BlackBerry users to download.

BlackBerry-maker RIM says it has more than 855 independent software vendor partners developing thousands of both entertaining and useful applications, which can be found here or by clicking on the 'Help' icon on the home screen of the BlackBerry device.

Managing calls is a big issue for many users. For just under £30 the BlackBerry Call Screener app by Antair ensures the device can be left switched on without interruptions from unwanted calls. Users can set up a 'white list' of accepted callers, with all others blocked and sent directly to voicemail.

Google has plenty of offerings for the BlackBerry too. Google Maps for BlackBerry provides location-based info and services and Google Earth satellite imagery. There's even the option of step-by-step sat-nav-style directions for drivers or pedestrians.

Creston's Gavin Whatrup says: "Google Maps is a remarkably useful tool, both for work and leisure."

Telmap is another mapping app for the BlackBerry but it is a paid-for sat-nav service - unlike Google's free offering.

Google has also just launched Mobile App for the BlackBerry, which gives access to its web search as well as the Google Apps suite. Google has more information here.

eOffice, a document editor which integrates with Google Docs and Spreadsheets, is useful for road warriors. It allows BlackBerry users to open and edit Google Apps files and save ones created on the BlackBerry to the user's Google account. eOffice's Microsoft Office integration is also handy for corporate users.

BlackBerry users don't have to give up their favourite web apps, either. Facebook - which had more than 1.5 million downloads in the eight months since its launch last year - and Flickr are available for the BlackBerry, as is the free Viigo RSS app which offers access to all manner of news, blogs and weather.

For an executive's downtime, the £1.99 Easy Tip app instantly calculates restaurant tips and your share of the bill, and the £19.95 Ascendo Fitness health assistant app allows users to track nutrition and exercise and set personal goals.

Of course, using all these apps is going to sap your BlackBerry's battery. A couple of quick tips for managing your power requirements include disabling any unused connectivity options, carrying a spare battery and reducing the backlight screen brightness.

Or you could simply switch it off now and again.

As Graham Benson, IT director at M and M Direct, says: "My best advice is to leave it at home and only use it when you are out of the office - you can then fully concentrate on what you are doing when you are away from your desk at meetings etc rather than partially concentrating and reading your emails on your BlackBerry."

Have we missed a great app or a mind-blowing shortcut? Post a comment below to let us know.