PocketMac 101: for Mac + BlackBerry Users

CrackBerry.com's BlackBerry 101 Lecture Series
By Devin Kent on 6 Oct 2008 10:54 am
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If you're a Mac user new to BlackBerry, or a PC user coming over to the Other Side, one of the first things you'll notice is that the BlackBerry Desktop Software on your CD is Windows-only. And while our pal Al Sacco dropped word a couple weeks back that new BlackBerry Tools for Mac users are on the way (you can hopefully expect to see them in the first half of 2009), until then you'll have to rely on 3rd party software. PocketMac and Missing Sync are the two common choices.

Rather than port their desktop manager over to Mac OS X from the get go, RIM instead opted to license PocketMac and offer it to Mac users for free. In most ways it's a solid, intuitive program, but there are some important limitations and some gotchas to look out for, and some things that might trip up the new user, so today I'm going to walk you through the basics of using it.

Setup

The first step, of course, is to download the program. You can always grab the latest version from RIM's download page, or hop over to PocketMac's website and grab it there. Installation is mostly a matter of hitting next over and over until you're done, with two quick notes. First, you'll have to quit all applications during the installation and restart afterwards, and the installation can take a while, so set aside some time. Second, and more importantly, the first screen of the installer contains some very important information.

PocketMac

It's important to set your Mac and BlackBerry to the same time zone. On the Mac, this setting is in System Preferences, in the Date & Time pane, under the Time Zone tab. On the Berry, you can find it in your Options application in the Date/Time section. It's also very important to read through the list of known issues, as there are some limitations (such as with recurring calendar events) that you should know about.

After installation the program will be in your Applications folder, in the folder PocketMac SyncManager. When you first start it, you'll be presented with the rather minimalist main screen.

PocketMac

The .mac button will allow you to set up the program to sync with the .mac services, as well as the Mac and BlackBerry counterparts, but the real meat of the program is in the BlackBerry section. Click the BlackBerry icon to open it.

PocketMac

The status screen simply shows your BlackBerry and PIN as well as the status of PocketMac. The status actually always says "Available" and I've never seen it say anything else. This can be a bit aggravating at first because it seems like it's saying your BlackBerry is available, when in fact it might not even be plugged in. You'll know for sure that you're connected when you see your Berry's PIN in the Device section.

Syncing

The Contacts, Calendar, Tasks and Notes tabs all work exactly the same way so I won't be showing them all, but I'll walk through one of them to give you an idea.

PocketMac

The "Sync Contacts between the BlackBerry and Mac" checkbox just indicates that your contacts will be synced; if left unchecked, PocketMac won't touch either your Mac or BlackBerry. The checkboxes under it allow you to control exactly which applications it checks for syncing. PocketMac will happily keep as many applications synced as you happen to have, but be careful and back up your address books and calendars often. Even the best of syncing applications has the occasional trouble, and when you add multiple sources into the mix the potential for errors increases exponentially.

Moving on, you can also set some advanced preferences for each individual application.

PocketMac

This window allows you to sync only certain categories of contacts, choose whether or not to carry contact images over, and what type of syncing you'll perform. Two-way sync attempts to make the two (or more) sources match, or you can choose to have one overwrite the other. It's impossible to list all the permutations of syncing options if you have more than one application with contacts, but one of the least error-prone methods is to have a master list and sync only from that.

For instance, if you want your BlackBerry to be the master, change the advanced preferences of all your applications to be set to "Overwrite Mac." PocketMac will then overwrite your Mac applications with contacts from the BlackBerry's list. If, instead, you wanted Apple's Address Book to be the master, you would set its advanced preferences to "Overwrite device" and set everything else to "Overwrite Mac." That way, PocketMac will pull addresses from Address Book and put them on the BlackBerry, and any other applications will then take their addresses from the BlackBerry.

Of course, if you have only your BlackBerry and one other application, Address Book or Entourage for example, then the two-way sync is probably your best bet and you should have few problems. Either way, hit the sync button and you'll start syncing!

PocketMac

With syncing done, we move on to...

Managing applications

PocketMac allows you to install downloaded applications to your Berry. For over-the-air installations or tips on finding software, check out Lecture 9 . Many applications, however, come in ALX and COD files, which you can install on your Berry using PocketMac. Most of the time the files come in a ZIP archive, which Mac OS X handles natively, so just double-click them to unarchive them. In PocketMac, select Install Software to Device from the Utilities menu and navigate to the folder where you uncompressed the ZIP file containing your software and select the file ending in .cod (it will only let you select .cod files, so it shouldn't be hard to find). Hit the Open button and it will start transferring. Depending on the software, your phone might have to restart, but afterwards you'll see it on the home screen.

Uninstalling software is even easier. Simply select Uninstall Software from Device from the Utilities menu, and PocketMac will present you with a list of software it can remove.

PocketMac

Select the software you want to remove and press Uninstall. That's it! You can install and uninstall applications with the pros.

Other stuff
PocketMac also allows you to copy your Safari bookmarks over to your Berry with the installation of a custom application, although you can't access them from the Browser. Navigate over to the bookmarks tab and you'll see an option to install the application.

PocketMac

Click the install button, click Yes when it asks you if you want to install the software, and wait. The new icon should show up on your home screen shortly.

PocketMac

When you open it, you'll be presented with the bookmarks from your menu and from the bookmarks bar in Safari.

PocketMac

To browse the bookmarks, use the scroll ball to select one of the two and press the space button to open the folder and any other folders you have. To open a bookmark, press the menu button and select Open bookmark. Unfortunately, you can't set it to use any other browser but RIM's.

PocketMac also has some options to copy your phone's emails to Apple's Mail or Entourage, and to forward any emails you receive on your computer straight to your BlackBerry's email, in the Email and Redelivery tabs, respectively. Additionally, you can put iTunes songs and iPhoto pictures onto your phone if you have a media card installed. Simply select the playlists from iTunes or the albums from iPhoto that you want to push. You can also scale photos appropriately, keep than organized by their original album, and even import pictures from your Berry's camera into iPhoto.

Finally, the Connection tab is for those who have set up their BlackBerry to require a password for use. Enter it into the text field and PocketMac will be able to sync with it. Some older models use a serial, rather than USB, cable to connect to your computer, and in this tab you can also set things up for that (although you'll have to refer to the documentation, as I was -- not unsurprisingly -- unable to get my hands on a serial BlackBerry).

That about wraps it up for PocketMac. As a last note, the application tends to get a little unstable if left open for too long, and will lock up if you try to do anything. If you've had it open for more than 10 minutes or so I would suggest closing and re-opening it to prevent any hangs. Other than that, have fun and happy syncing!

Topics: BlackBerry 101

20 comments

jamn

Me too. I spent most of my vacation installing, reinstalling and talking to very nice tech support people. I still don't have sync with my ical or address book. If AT&T didn't suck around here, I would get an iphone....

brgnewman

I hope that RIM steps up their mac support next year because I truly cannot stand PocketMac.

It worked fine for 2 months with my BB 8130, then I lost the ability to sync contacts with Address Book. I contacted support, tried reinstalling and tried a ton of stuff yet the contact sync never came back. Even after multiple device wipes and EVEN getting a new BB 8130.

I am using Missing Sync for Blackberry right now on my Mac and that program is superb. If I was RIM I would just abandon PocketMac and start supplying Mac users with Blackberrys a copy of Missing Sync :P

Jester23

Why would they not include a way to back up your Blackberry?

iceykola

they do include a way... just not for mac os... that OS that runs on 4% of the world's computers...

quorthonrhar

LOL, what a way of thinking. First of all, your calculation is not correct at all... and the second, even if it was 4%, it is 4% that runs virus free, errors free, not like shitty Windows that I left behind for good (and will never ever go back).

BTW, PocketMac is not the best solution, but Blackberry is working on Mac version of Blackberry Desktop Software and it will be available in first half of 2009.

Achronas

This program is okay, at best.

I can think of quite a bit of features that are key and are still left off.

I'm not very impressed.

boomer503

There is NO support for this product. I have emailed my fingers raw and never get any reply's back. It will not uninstall stuff that it installs and it crashes and reboots your BB when it does install something. Free... you get what you pay for. Man I wouldn't want this product on my site let alone talk it up. My rating... 5 mice (DEAD)

nicoburp

First days of my Blackberry I used this app to sync my contacts from my Mac to the phone. Worked great. I had all my contacts ready to go.

But then, after few weeks, I synchronized again and it was a HUGE mistake. Syncing contacts with photos? Bad, I even lost some contacts. Syncing calendar events? Yes but using Google calendar syncing OTA instead. iTunes and iPhoto sync? Always checked the box, never saw a sync.

So I delete this app, and I really hope that BB Desktop Manager will come to Mac for the nexts few months... So I can actually use my BB the same way other BB users do, meanings TRUE SYNC.

Advice: use it for contacts at first, then forget it.

dboutet

working with the install/uninstall feature on pocketmac is a migraine and a half, to say the least

LQM

I too thought I was getting away with something when I found PocketMac. I tried the free version that was offered at the time and went through a week of frustration trying to get it to sync correctly. I only sync my calendar and address book, so I thought it should work. Once finally getting it to work, it worked fine for the duration, until the next version came out. I read all the instructions for installing it and promptly set to sync-ing. What a mistake that was! The software, or the device, completely wiped out my Mac address book and copied my calendar to the device in triplicate. To add insult to injury, it would not give me back anything. It just continued to duplicate my calendar. The address book was a loss.

In sum, I'll wait for something better to come along, even if I have to pay for it. Thank goodness for .Mac iSync.

jamn

Hi
I too have been SUFFERING. I tried mobile me and trying to sync with my crappy Dell. What do i need to do to try .mac isync?

Thanks!!

Kevin G

Frankly, Pocketmac is one of the most buggy, tempermental pieces of software I have used. It connects when it feels like it, disconnects in the middle of a sync, can't determine duplicates worth jack and takes forever. But hey, its all we got for now. Anyone had any better experience with Missing sync?

Aaron A

I have tried Pocket Mac and have had the same frustrations as everyone else. I am currently using Missing Sync and though it doesn't do everything, what it does it does well. Short of a Mac version of BB Desktop, this is the best thing I have found.

New Fire Within

I usually use it to sync contacts to Entourage. Most of the time it's pretty good. The last few times it has been pretty glitch-y. It deleted a contact and would not sync several new ones I put in Entourage to my BB. I did a battery pull and that finally got it working after about 4 more tries.

I sync notes with Entourage. Never been one problem.

I sync 1 smart playlist from iTunes- my new podcasts. It's 50-50. Sometimes I get them and sometimes I don't.

Everything *usually* gets better after about 4-5 repeated syncs. But, I will never do calendar again.

It's free though!

BoldMike

I couldn't get to the link for this blog, but I have a Bold and although it synchs the address book and calendar, PocketMac crashes. Also it doesn't seem to synch sticky notes like it did on my curve.

tj_elward

i constantly have problems trying to get this to recognize my 8330

thebokonist

From the comments in the CIO Article:

"Up until the iphone, we didn't think we had to give a crap about mac users."
Haha, It couldn't be any more true.

Liza_d

This software is worthless.

Tori Lynn

I'm so seriously fed up with not being able to find the necessary software to freakin update my blackberry.
I'm going to have to have someone with a pc update it for me because there is nothing (besides pocketmac) available for me (a mac user).