Geek Pro: Make the notifications on your BlackBerry work for you

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By Joseph Holder on 19 Apr 2011 05:32 pm EDT

Don't tell anybody, but I'm a bit of a geek. I frequently make technology perform in ways the average person would never consider. Others may ask why?, and my response is usually, "because I can." The true answer is that whatever supposedly "geeky" thing I'm doing also happens to be the most efficient and effective way of doing something; bonus points if I don't have to get off the couch. Though it may not look like it now, what I'm doing will save me time and headaches in the future. It's just a little difficult to say that without sounding like a snotty jerk.

Ringtones work for me; ever since my first wireless phone, I've used ‘em. I liked knowing who was calling just by listening. It's a fact of modern wireless life that some calls get answered faster than others. Now that I have a BlackBerry, the type of communiqués has increased exponentially. It's only natural that my "ringtones" use expanded as well. Using only an extra email account; message notifiers; and BeBuzz, I know what message is waiting for me without looking at the screen. The notification sounds and notifier LED are all I need to figure out whether that email is really important or not.

Step Zero: Don't get overwhelmed

Truth be told, I didn't put all of this together overnight; it's just how I've come to use notifications on my BlackBerry. It also took me a good while to get a handle on just what all these sounds and blinking lights meant. It's a bit of a learning curve, but take it at your own leisure.

Step One: Get another email address

Permit me a guess; you have one email address. One email address that gets all your email: the Facebook notifications, the special offers from that online camera store you visited that one time, the email from Uncle Mike asking you to feed his dogs while he's on vacation. In all that commotion, you never know what's going to pop up in your inbox. Each and every time your BlackBerry goes ding, it could an Important Message, or it could be another offer begging you to come back to Xbox Live.

Back when I first auditioned for the CrackBerry Idol contest, I would find myself impatiently waiting for the next email from CrackBerry. I was very excited about the contest, and was forced to wait patiently though each stage. Every time my BlackBerry chirped that a message had arrived, I would excitedly hope for a new missive from the folks in charge. Almost always, it was not. I got tired of not knowing what emails were landing in my inbox when the notification would sound. (Remember, bonus points if I don't have to get up from the couch.)

Since there's no charge, I created an email account for all my CrackBerry-related emails. Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and Hotmail are but three of the many, many choices for free email accounts, so I grabbed another for myself. Then, I made sure to use that address for CrackBerry and CrackBerry only. I wouldn't use this account to log in to any websites or sign up for any "special offers." In creating an account specific to CrackBerry, I could make my phone's LED strobe red, white, and blue and shout "CrackBerry dot com" when an email came through. I now have both a visual and audio cue that lets me know there's an important message waiting for me from or about CrackBerry.

Step Two: Set up your phone and message notification sounds

Sound Profile settings 

This is the one where you set up your BlackBerry to make a bunch of bleeps and chirps depending on what actually arrives on your BlackBerry. You can set up notification sounds (notifiers) for phone calls from contacts, new email - each account can make a different sound - messages, new text messages, even new Facebook and Twitter notifications. Any sound - be it ringtone or Black Eyed Peas song - can be used as a notification sound on your BlackBerry. 

Check out this guide to setting the sound and alert profiles on your BlackBerry.

It will take a bit of training, but you'll soon learn to recognize each sound as communiqués appear on your BlackBerry. This sound means a phone call from Amanda; this sound means a text message just came through. That sound means.... I'm not sure what that one is. Let me check my BlackBerry. Ah, it was BlackBerry Messenger. Incidentally, that's the best way to train yourself on the multitude of noises your BlackBerry can make.

Step Three: Let there be an LED 


Red flash, pause. Red flash, pause. Oh sure, your BlackBerry will tell you that something new has arrived. Red flash, pause. But what is it? Did Twitter just update? Is that a new text message? Red flash, pause. Visual Voice Mail? Red flash, pause.

Speaking personally, I hate that little red LED that lights up when something is new on your smartphone. It's just not enough information. That's why I love BeBuzz (née BerryBuzz). I have it customized to flash a different light pattern depending on what's actually new. Some might consider this over-geek, but I beg to differ.

Say I leave my BlackBerry sitting on my desk while I step out of the room. When I come back, the first thing I glace at is that notification LED. Depending on how it's blinking, I know what kind of messages or phone calls or emails are waiting for me. For some of my contacts, I know who is trying to communicate and how (phone, email, or SMS text).

All you'll need to do is to set up color and flash patterns for your various contacts and messages. It sounds daunting, and in a way it is. Choosing between all of color, pattern, and disco choices are sure to amuse a person for quite a time. In choosing a color pattern for my contacts, I like to set a basic color for the contact. The flashes for that person's text and that person's emails will have that same basic color with a different flash pattern. 

Using these two methods, I know instantly - without looking at the screen - who is calling or what account just got a new email. Admittedly, that might not sound like much of a benefit; but think about a scenario. You're on the road driving, when the generic "ding" sounds. Is it a new email about photography supplies or is it work with an updated schedule? Frustrated, you turn off the sound. Soon, that maddening red light starts blinking, blinking, blinking. Don't you wish you knew who or what was causing that red blink, pause. Red blink, pause. Red blink, pause.....

So do you feel geekier smarter?

This was my first time writing a Cool Geeky Tricks you can do with your BlackBerry-type article. Should we write more? Sound off in the comments.

Reader comments

Geek Pro: Make the notifications on your BlackBerry work for you


I tried doing that in the past, but my phone is somewhat surgically attached to me. Whatever the reason for its blinking, I will attend to. I can't see the phone blink and not do something! lol

I'm right there with ya, i have BerryBuzz and everything set up so i know what every single alert is without even picking up my phone.... but ... i can't even bear the thought of ignoring or missing whatever it is causing the alert :x Hell it even bothers me when someone else leaves an alert just sitting there....

I found some of my beloved notification sounds missing when I upgraded to OS6. (Cricket, which I'd used for years, was gone!). Any way to add sounds to the selections available in the native bb notifications options? I also use beeberry.

I discovered BerryBuzz when I had my first BB last year. It changed my BB and I never deleted this app. This is the most useful app I know. I can't deal without it !! Just a look to my BB and I know what kind of notification I have (pink, white, turquoise or green/orange for emails, disco pink forsms, disco rainbow for call/missed call, disco blue for facebook, disco green for SocialScope, etc.). I just have to open my BB folio case and see how my Torch light is flashing and I know. Last BeBuzz update (v. 4) is great : we can custom disco lights !

Go on writing cool geeky articles ;)

This was a awesome article! I to have my ring tones set to everything. Note to self need to get berry buzz. Yes setting up all that stuff is time consuming but, well worth it at the end. Keep writing these Geeky articles I love them!

Can't live without this app, I have almost everything you can be notified by set to a color on my Bold... btw how did you get ur gmail to look like that.??? and where can I get that ringtone lol

Ha Ha this defines us crackberries from the rest ! When I hear this " Lightspeed " notifier i know there must be a fellow crackberry nearby. Infinite combo with The tone and visual notifier and BeBuzz is certainly one app I have no hesitation of paying for it and its updates to fully utilise my BB.

I use the identical technique on my Blackberrys. It is so nice knowing that it is just a tweet or Facebook post that I can ignore while at work or wait for a break;. I have special ringtones set up for both daughters and the wife so I immediately know when one is trying to contact me. It is a blessing. Great video and yes, keep posting these articles. One other advantage that BeBuzz has that wasn't mentioned: Once you have everything set up just how you want it, you can backup the settings and restore if needed. That is a HUGE time saver compared with trying to remember exactly what all the different LED notifications were in case of a crash. BeBuzz is my favorite app and the FIRST app that gets loaded when setting up a new BlackBerry.

What happens if you get a tweet then get an email which have different LED light notifications set up? Would it alternate back and forth between the two LED light patterns?

For facebook, i actually just made rules that all facebook notifications be delivered on a separate folder and NOT on ym inbox so i don't get notifications for them! I'm husing hotmail btw

also, the facebook folder gets cleaned every few days so no worries there

BeBuzz is aboslutely Amazing! I hope once they got the notifications then really going for the PlayBook thay BellShare makes an BeBuzz PB App!!! Then u could have the corner of the screen glowing different colours. That would be Bad Ass!

Very well done Joseph! Great for newbies and the llike. I really liked the way you did the video and narration. Good job and would welcome more. ;)

Do you know about Gmail email "aliases"?
>Gmail doesn't offer traditional aliases, but you can receive messages sent to
> For example, messages sent to
> are delivered to
>You can set up filters to automatically direct these messages to Trash,
>apply a label or star, skip the inbox, or forward to another email account.

Couldn't you use one Gmail account. Then at every site for which you want a unique notification, use the address:,, etc and setup your notifications from this?

The other twist on this idea would be to instead setup rules to choose which things to NOT notify you about. For example, I have a gmail address I use for a couple of tech mailing lists I am on. I can view them from my BB if I want, but I do not turn on notifications for this address because it gets thousands of emails a day.

BTW Joseph - great article and video! That IS you saying "" isn't it? If you're not in broadcasting - you should be!