10 Things You Should Know About Using a BlackBerry!

Craig's 10 Things You Should Know About Using a BlackBerry
By Craig Johnston on 1 Jan 2009 12:31 pm EST

Around Christmas time many people receive a BlackBerry as a present. It is not surprising since it is the fastest selling smartphone these days. The BlackBerry is pretty user friendly and most things are self-explanatory, however I thought that there are at least 10 things you should know about that will make using your BlackBerry so much more enjoyable.

Since I do not have a BlackBerry Storm yet, I have not covered it here, however if you would like to learn more about your Storm, please read Gary Mazo's article here.

Craig's 10 Things You Should Know About Using a BlackBerry

Number 1: Your BlackBerry PIN Number

Every BlackBerry has a unique number called a PIN number. This number is part of the BlackBerry itself and cannot be changed, even if you switch the SIM card. When you receive your new BlackBerry, one of the first things you should so, is find out it's PIN number.

To do this, find the Options icon (depending on the theme you are using, this could be under a folder on the BlackBerrys home screen, or right on the home screen. Click on Options, and scroll down to Status and click that. On the Status screen you will see your PIN number.

Unbeknown to you as a BlackBerry user, every time something is sent or received on your BlackBerry, your BlackBerrys PIN number is used. Browsing the internet, sending and receiving emails, etc. Now as a BlackBerry user, you do not need to know this, however there are some advantages to knowing your BlackBerry PIN, and your friend's or colleges PINs.

If you know a friend or colleagues PIN number, you can actually compose a message to them, using their PIN number in the To field instead of their email address. When you send a message to someone's PIN number, the message goes straight from your BlackBerry to theirs instantly. If you send an email, that email must travel the path of any other email. Sending a PIN message, as it is called, is the fastest method of BlackBerry-to-BlackBerry communication. In addition, when a PIN message is delivered to the recipient's BlackBerry, you receive back a delivery confirmation in the form of a little "D" that appears next o the check mark.

PIN-to-PIN communication can be very useful in the corporate world too. Because sending a PIN message does not rely on your company's BlackBerry server, or email servers, so in the event of an outage, you can continue to communicate, as long as you know people's PIN numbers.

Number 2: Run the Setup Wizard

When you receive a new BlackBerry and turn it on for the first time, it runs through the Setup Wizard. Many of you may dismiss this wizard with the excitement of wanting to start using your new BlackBerry, however this can cost you wasted memory.

The Setup Wizard does many things, but the most important one is removing unwanted languages from your BlackBerry. A new BlackBerry normally comes pre-loaded with many different languages. Each language takes up memory on your BlackBerry. If you only want to type English on your BlackBerry, then make sure that you make that selection when running the Setup Wizard because the Setup Wizard will delete any languages that you do not want to use. This really does make more memory available on your BlackBerry for all of those important emails and applications. If you skip the Setup Wizard, all of those languages stay behind and rob you of useful memory.

Other than the memory saving feature of the Setup Wizard, it does have great Navigation and Typing Tutorials, and steps you through setting up your email.

Number 3: Use your Thumbs

One of the mistakes that people make when typing on a BlackBerry, is not using their thumbs. The BlackBerry is design to be typed on using both thumbs. Hunting and pecking with an index finger is a very inefficient way to use a BlackBerry and since the keyboard was not designed for this method of typing, your typing is very slow.

Number 4: Save time with AutoText

AutoText is a feature that is built into the BlackBerry. It is a mechanism that watches what you type, and then switches your word for a new one as soon as you hit space. For example, if you type acn instead of can, the BlackBerry replaces acn with can as soon as you hit space.

AutoText can actually speed up typing too because it will fill in special characters for you. For example, to type the word aren't, you type a r e n <alt-k> t. The alt-k gets you the apostrophe. Typing that apostrophe slows you down because you have to hit two keys at once. On a BlackBerry you simply type the word aren't without the apostrophe, and when you hit space, AutoText fills in the apostrophe for you.

There are even some special AutoText features that save even more typing. Let's say you want to quickly send an email to someone asking them to call you. You can type Please call me at mynumber <space>. AutoText will change the word mynumber to your actual BlackBerrys phone number. Another one is mypin. After you hit space, AutoText changes the word mypin to your BlackBerrys PIN number. One last one is myver. If anyone ever asks you what BlackBerry model and OS you are using, just type myver and hit space.

If you navigate to Options, AutoText you will be able to see all of the pre-loaded AutoText entries. There you will be able to add new ones. For example, why not get the BlackBerry to do all of the typing for you? Let's say you are a busy business person, who always wants to quickly follow up after a meeting. You could create a new Autotext entry like zzzz. You would then type in an entire email like "It was a pleasure meeting with you today. I will follow up with you shortly but please let me know if I can assist you with anything before then."

Now as you hop into the elevator, you compose a new email on your BlackBerry, type "Hi Kevin."

Zzzz <space>. That's it! The AutoText replaces your zzzz with your generic follow-up email.

Number 5: Typing Shortcuts

There are a few typing shortcuts that further speed your BlackBerry typing.

  • Press <space> twice to get a period plus a space.
  • Hold a letter to switch it to a capital letter.
    • The BlackBerry automatically capitalizes the first letter after a period so this would be used when typing a name in the middle of a sentence, etc.
  • When typing a web address, a space becomes a period
    • This only works on web pages and in BlackBerry applications where the developer has designated that field to be a web address field. For example, when typing in a web address into the BlackBerry Web Browser.
  • When typing an email, the first space becomes an @ and subsequent spaces become periods
    • This only works on web pages and in BlackBerry applications where the developer has designated that field to be an email field. For example when typing in someone's email address when adding them as a contact in your BlackBerry address book.

Number 6: Buy a Memory Card

Today's BlackBerrys are full of multimedia features like cameras and video cameras. The BlackBerry Media Player can play many audio and video formats as well as display pictures. To really benefit from these features I recommend buy a Memory Card.

If you do not have a memory card, you can fill up your BlackBerrys internal memory quickly as you take pictures or video. When a BlackBerry gets close to running out of memory, it starts deleting old emails, calendar entries, address book contacts, etc. This is its self-preservation mechanism. As your BlackBerry runs out of memory it also becomes sluggish and sometimes things stop working they way they were intended.

The best way to prevent this is to buy a memory card. ShopCrackBerry.com has many to choose from and you do not need to get the largest one you can find. Start with a 1GB memory card for $10.95. If you find you are filling it up quickly then you can purchase larger capacity cards.

When you insert a memory card into a BlackBerry, it sees it and will then save any pictures and video you take on your BlackBerry to that card, instead of the BlackBerrys internal memory.

Number 7: Use your BlackBerry as a Thumb Drive

If you have a memory card in your BlackBerry and you connect it to a computer with its USB cable (PC or Mac, Windows, Linux, or OSX), the BlackBerry pops up a message "Do you want to turn on Mass Storage Mode?". If you say yes, your computer will see the BlackBerry as a new drive letter. You will be able to drag and drop anything from your computer to and from the BlackBerry. This is a quick way to get media to your BlackBerry, but more importantly it allows you to carry around important documents with you all the time.

Number 8: Download and Install the BlackBerry Desktop Software

You can use your BlackBerry quite happily without needing to install any software on your computer, especially in a corporate environment. In a consumer environment however, it is very beneficial to install the BlackBerry software onto a computer. It allows you to easily move audio and video files onto your BlackBerry (even converts them to the correct format automatically) and synchronizes your address book and calendar.

If you are using Windows, start by downloading and installing your Device Software. Your Device Software is essentially the BlackBerry operating system. You will find this software on your carrier's web site. Make sure you download and install the device software for your BlackBerry model. If you are unsure of the model, click on Options, About to see it.

Once you have the device software installed, download and install the latest Desktop Software from the BlackBerry web site. As of today, the latest version is 4.7. I recommend downloading the Desktop Software that includes the Media Manager.

If you are an Apple Mac user, you can either use Parallels to make use of the Windows software, or you can download and install the PocketMac software from the BlackBerry web site. Remember to download both PocketMac and the updated PocketMac drivers. Both downloads are here.

You can also get PocketMac for free from the vendor here.

If you are a Linux user, there is software that allows some limited synchronizing with the BlackBerry. This article explains where to get it and how to get it to work.

Number 9: Install some Essential Software

To make your BlackBerry that much more useful, I recommend installing some essential software. Here are some of them.

  • Google Maps - FREE
  • Viigo - a FREE RSS Reader and much more
  • Vlingo - a FREE application that allows you to talk to your BlackBerry instead of typing
  • FaceBook - FaceBook on your BlackBerry, and its FREE
  • Pageonce - Manage your life on your BlackBerry
  • WorldMate Live - Perfect for the busy traveler
  • Games Galore - essential for some!!

Number 10: Personalize your BlackBerry

You can make your BlackBerry truly your BlackBerry by completely personalizing it. You can start by simply changing the ringtone, or maybe the wallpaper, or go all the way and install new themes. BlackBerry themes change all aspects of your BlackBerry including the fonts, wallpaper, icons, and screen layout. There are many web sites that offer ringtones, wallpapers, and themes, but why not start right in the CrackBerry,com by following the links below:

That's it! 10 Things You Should Know About Using a BlackBerry! Now go use it! And don't worry, if you get addicted, and that does happen, you can check out Kevin's CrackBerry Book to get your BlackBerry use under control. 

Reader comments

10 Things You Should Know About Using a BlackBerry!


I love using auto text, and using my Bold as a thumb drive!!!! Now if I could figure out how to put apps on my sd card....I'd have less memory issues.

Good deal!!

Happy New Year!!

That software only lets you install apps FROM the Sd Card not TO the Sd card, the apps are still installed on the device memory, worst app ever those guys should be sued over.

i love the new tip about "myver". i've never heard that before.

p.s. I didn't know colleges had PIN numbers.(there are a few typos in the article) i think its supposed to say colleagues right? ; )

I'm still seeing "colleges" in the last line of the third paragraph about device PINs...

Craig delivers good info once again. I must say I know this stuff but is always nice to have a good refresher 101 class. Thanks again for your time to help out CB.


Was a good read, even more so since I'm looking into going Blackberry (I'm a Windows Mobile guy right now, but its a bit old now...both hardware and OS).

Thanks Craig. I was aware of most of these tips, but learned several new things as well. I'm sure many CB'rs will benefit from this. Happy New Year!

Loved your discussion of PIN - more, more !

Not buying into Viigo recommendation. I feel its basically over-bloated and lame. I realize these are just my subjective comments about Viigo. Maybe I'm just the Steppenwolf type. I installed him yesterday on my Storm (VZN, and noticed an immediate sluggishness throughout. What role do so many input channels play in this sluggishness ? I would think somebody of your stature should do a segment on active channel apps like WSJ, AP, and Weatherbug and their effect on Storm performance (an article analogous to yours today on PIN).

Thanks for your article today !

Just a reminder that Viigo on the Storm is still in Alpha, and it is known to be a little sluggish on that device. We expect the next Storm compliant release to be out in the next few weeks, and we've done a number of things to take advantage of both the interesting features and the known peculiarities of the Storm. In addition, later releases of the Storm OS by the way, also go along way to improving both the performance and memory management of all Storm apps.

I don't want to leak too much :-) ... but ... in addition to performance, in the next release, we have added some new one-touch buttons that let you perform a number of interesting new "actions" on an article ... all with a single click. These features will not only be available on the Storm, but will be available across all platforms.

Today, hundreds of thousands of people are running Viigo's beta across the entire BlackBerry universe, and interestingly enough, (like most BlackBerry app developers) we encounter different challenges on each device and OS combination. We do get, and appreciate, lots of feedback ... we're still hard at work, trying to make it better.

Mark Ruddock

I've been using my Berry a year now and this is the first time I learned the shortcuts shown in #4. (tele #, OS,Pin#)
Thank you.

I have a few friends that got Blackberries for Christmas and they are all coming to me for advice, I just forwarded this page to all of them, excellent read. I know that the 101 section can be found with a little searching, but I am beginning to think that there should be a dedicated link for it on the home page,, Just a thought, ;-)

I absolutely love how CB has all of the preexisting 101s to help us newbs out and still makes new useful articles like this for us too.

Thanks so much for this article. I'm a novice BB user and I didn't know any of that stuff about autotext or faster typing, so I really appreciate the heads up.

Can't really believe that PageOnce was on this list. They clearly do not state that there is a cost of the service. They state in their forum that they were going to correct this and it has been over a month. Plus read the Privacy Policy. No guarantee of protecting your data.

I have a question.
What do you do with your PIN # if you get a new BB as a gift?

Do you keep your PIN number from the old phone and use it on the new phone?


Do you accept the PIN number on the new phone and discard the PIN from the old phone?

The BlackBerry PIN should not be confused with the SIM PIN lock. They are 2 different things. The BlackBerry PIN number is a hexadecimal number that is burned into the ROM of the device and not something you type in.

In a corporate environment, you could employ in-house software or off-the-shelf software to keep everyone's PINs up to date (this can be done with a simple, but highly effective, Channel that is a web page with important people's PINs).

In the consumer space, you would need to update your contact info on your device, and email your friends the vcard (you can do this right on the BB itself), and if you are using BlackBerry Messenger, the Desktop Manager's Device Switch Wizard brings all of your buddies over to the new device.

My scenario:

I upgraded from a 7105t to a 8320. After I switched my SIM card from the old BB to the new BB, my BB 8320 asked if I wanted to keep the old PIN from my BB 7105t.

Not knowing what to do, I accepted the NEW PIN number for the 8320.

I'm planning on upgrading to the 8900, and I'm pretty sure that it will ask if I want to keep the same PIN number or accept the new PIN.

So what I'm asking again, do I keep the same PIN number or accept the new PIN number in the newer BB?

What's the Pro's and Con's?

Your BlackBerry's PIN is burned into the device and each BlackBerry has its own PIN.
You cannot move a PIN from the old one to the new one.
Your new device has it's own PIN.

You are either mixing this up with the SIM card PIN lock, or you are on a BES and your Desktop Manager is asking whether you'd like to switch from your old BlackBerry to your new one.
It is not asking if you want to keep using the old BlackBerry's PIN on the new BlackBerry since that is impossible to achieve.

Well I don't know about this statement on our BB Storms this did not work..."If you know a friend or colleagues PIN number, you can actually compose a message to them, using their PIN number in the To field instead of their email address. " Please can someone test this also....thanks

When you choose to Compose a message, you can compose an email, compose an SMS, compose an MMS, or compose a PIN.

Choose compose PIN.

It's a PIN, not PIN Number. Saying PIN Number is like saying Personal Identification Number Number. You would never say that, or would you?

Thank you for that correction. Same with VIN.
VIN number is also redundant!!

btw, Verizon, passwords involve letters, ergo passWORD.
Four numbers is a PIN, not a password.

English. It's not just for English teachers.

as a noob i need all the info that i can get. one thing that would be nice is if the crackberry ran low on memory it would utilize the media card. or have an option to configure the device to access a portion or all of the card as memory. now that would put the crackberry into power use as you could have larger more powerful applications or operating systems.

thanks again for everything and have a great new year!!!

Right now that is not an option, however from experience I can tell you that if you insert a MicroSD card, and set the camera and DocumentsToGo to use it, all that is in main memory is the BlackBerry OS, your email, calendar, contacts, and memo pad data, plus any third party application code (most third party apps can also be configured to store their data on the MicroSD).

Go to Options, Status, click the Menu button and choose Database Sizes. Normally email takes up the most space, so setting it to auto delete after 30 days is a great idea.

So you shouldn't really run out of memory quickly.

i also tried the shortcut mynumber and it didn't work

i realised the handset had not auto detected my number from the sim card

this can be fixed by doing the following
options>advanced options>SIM card>phone number
enter your mobile number here and this will then work

Great article with lots of great information information, I think that an editor editor should check check the copy copy. PIN means personal identification N-U-M-B-E-R. There is absolutely no need to say NUMBER number.

Fantastic article!!

When I travel to specific isolate places without 3G network connection, I still use google maps but saved as images so I have always access to it.

Blackberry is useful in many ways.

Totally cool if it would work for my bb. Hopefully it"s a simple fix, but when I try to use vlingo it just seems to be continually listening and the says request time out...been fiddling with the darn thing for hours now. Please shed some light if you can.

Kevin, Just a thought. This should be added to the Newbies section. I contains some valuable and helpful tips.

This is why I'm so glad I joined CB. Great info for a newbie like myself. I did have a question about setting up Database Sizes.

I'm a huge fan of auto text as well, I have multiple signatures saved as well as certain phrases that I use quite often. I can have a whole sentence in no time at all.

Please help me. I am trying to sync my blackberry BOLD with my laptop. I used to have the curve and I had that. Now i got the bold and i just unlocked it with t-mobile but I cant seem to figure out what to do to get it working. Do you have a link or the steps to do that??
Thanks man I would really appreciate it!!

Excellent article!

I always went for the "free" phone when time to upgrade. This time I treated myself and got the STORM. This article has been extremely beneficial as I learn on the fly!

I have an old corporate BB 7290 that was set-up with At&T. My personal cell carrier is also AT&T. For kicks & giggles I placed my personal Sim in the BB to see if it would work. Voice worked fine but my ala carte web access would not work.

Thoughts shy of having to buy a $30 data plan?

wow this open my eyes to alot of things i didnt know..thanks lol...and google maps is pretty cool..

Thanks for this great article. Very helpful for a new BB owner.

My question is about the desktop software. What does it sync to? I installed the desktop manager from the CD that came with the phone but can't figure out how to get to whatever organizer it's supposed to use. For example, how do I enter an appointment or contact on the desktop, instead of the phone itself?

Thanks in advance for your help.

can anyone comment as to whether or not sending a pin message uses my cell carriers tower. More specifically, if my wife and I (both BB users) were in a different country could we pin message each other without getting tagged by verizon with roaming fees? or what if there are no towers around, can you still pin another BB user within a given range?

Thanks, I've had my BB for about 6 months and never fully understood the mass storage mode until coming across this post. Learning something new everytime I visit CB.

great info! i'm totally using auto text to shorten oft used text dialogue-what a time saver!

btw, vlingo doesn't seem to support Storm yet. downloaded it but can't get past the accept terms and conditions page, cuz i am unable to select "yes, i accept" on the screen :(

Thanks for some great advice. As a new Blackberry user there was some great information in your post that really helps me in learning how to use my new device.

Thanks again.

You said "this article" explains where to get software for synchronizing your BB to Linux, and how to get it to work. I'm wondering what article you are referring to?

It seems like you meant to put a link there, but forgot? I use Linux and would love to know the software you are talking about! :)

I'm not due for an upgrade until July when I'll be getting a BBold. I'll remember to come and revisit these tips! Thanks!

I'm not due for an upgrade until July when I'll be getting a BBold. I'll remember to come and revisit these tips! Thanks!

Very usefull had a 8800 for a year didn't know about half of these. I moved over to windows mobile, then to the iphone, now I'm waiting for my new bold to come in will be using all of these tipss!

Just ordered my first BB today. I'm glad I read this article BEFORE I start playing with the phone. Thanks Craig.

I just upgraded to the curve and I love it. My sisters have a bb so they introduced me to this site, glad they did. Can anyone tell me if you can make your text messages and email messages have their own ringtone. Right now I have to keep looking at the bb to see if the red light is blinking.

WOW! I was already a huge fan of Crackberry, but now... People make fun of me because I always say that my BB 8310 makes me smile. When I discovered everything this little article had to offer, I actually giggled! (Which is okay 'cause I'm a woman!)

Thanks Craig! You're awesome!

Hey, i just got my first blackberry (tour) and its amazing!! My question is that i have downloaded a couple apps and they seem to be pulling memory from the internal mem of the BB which is only 100 MB or so. How do I change this and pull from the 2 gig card that came with the phone?


I just read this post (yeah, I know - a little slow in doing so) - and you did an AWESOME job! Thank you SO much!

Have just finished reading the best ten comandments (next to God's) ever.....thank you so much for this. I went into auto text and had the time of my life.....I know, sad life, I am now a total crackberry....thank you Craig x

Thanks for the nice tips. But you can change the part of Mac. Mac now has its own Desktop Manager for Blackberry, so Pocketmac isn't needed anymore.

I have a friend who has an app or something like so he can know de moment I open a message sent through BBM. Does anyone knows how to disable so I can remain my privacy? :)

Ok please tell me what this guy is talking about....... the number 1 thing u need to know about ur blackberry is that the back key does not close out programs. u must always close ur apps or ur phone will have 20-30 apps running all at the same time example u can have the navigation camera address book web and calculator all opened at the same time.. this will make you phone run slow and freeze up not to mention drain the battery. its jus like a computer u cant have to many programs running. the back key is like the Minimize key on the computer does not close programs jus minimize it..... so thats the most important thing not using ur thumbs lol where do we find ppl like this

i bought a new set of bold 9780,i would like to know that if i can use the nimbuzz software with the wifi conection without using data plan.can anybody help me

except pageonce, no other app mentioned in this article is available for the new bold 9900. there is no google maps also there for the new bold. please please tell me some good apps for the new bold.

I need some help...
My boyfriend says that he has really bad reception where he is and he isn't getting my bbm unless he drives for a signal, but it shows that my messages are delivered and read. (D and R) Is there anyway that the symbol R can be on the messages if he isn't opening them? Is there a glitch or is he just lying through his teeth.