Eight little-known Blackberry keyboard shortcuts you’ll like a lot

When it comes to the BlackBerry we’ve covered all our bases.

Over the past several weeks we’ve offered you the scoop on five free BlackBerry apps for fun…and work, some of the very best BlackBerry tips n’ tricks including a couple from RIM co-founder Mike Lazaridis himself, and a list of our favourite BlackBerry software downloads – most of which are free.

If this seems like an embarrassment of BlackBerry riches, wait until you slurp up today’s special on little known BlackBerry shortcuts.

Whether you’re entirely new to the BlackBerry scene or you’ve been sporting a ‘Berry on your belt since the beginnings of push e-mail, we’re sure you’ll find this list of shortcuts well worth a read.

When you’re finished, all you’ll need is a shortcut to help you remember all these shortcuts. Unfortunately, you’re on your own with that one…for now, at least.

(Note: Most of these BlackBerry keyboard shortcuts work only with devices that feature full QWERTY keyboards.)

Change BlackBerry Text Input Language on the Fly

All you multilingual BlackBerry users will appreciate this one. Switching text input languages on your BlackBerry at any point is a simple as simultaneously clicking two buttons.

While on your home screen, just hit the ALT button and Enter key at the same time, use your trackball to scroll to the new language you’d like to use, then click the trackball to confirm the new selection.

The first time you use this shortcut, you’ll see a dialogue box that asks you to confirm the change, and you can choose not to show the message again the next time you switch languages using this method.

In order to switch back and forth between languages on your BlackBerry, you’ll need multiple language packs installed on your device.

For more on BlackBerry language packs, visit RIM’s website.

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Type Device PIN and/or Model and OS Version With Six Quick Clicks

Unless you’ve memorized your BlackBerry PIN number–which, we might add, is not a bad idea–you need to visit your BlackBerry Help Me! or Status screen every time you want to share those PIN digits.

There’s a shortcut to access the Help Me! screen–just click ALT, Shift and the letter H–but you need to close out of or save any messages you might be working on in order to employ that home screen shortcut.

However, there are also shortcuts–really they’re built-in functions of BlackBerry AutoText–that allow you to find and enter your BlackBerry PIN, as well as your device model and handheld operating system (OS) version, without ever leaving a message.

To automatically enter in your BlackBerry PIN while in an SMS test or e-mail message, simply type MYPIN and hit the Space key. To auto-enter your device model and handheld OS version, just type MYVER–as in “My Version”–and again click the Space button.

Browse BlackBerry Address Book Contacts While on a Call

We’ve all been there before: You’re on the phone and need to get a phone number or e-mail address, but don’t want to have to hang up and interrupt the conversation to get the contact information. No worries. This shortcut will ensure you’re ready next time.

There are a few ways to access your BlackBerry address book while on the phone, but none quicker than this shortcut. While on a call, simply click the green Send key to open up the phone application and call log. When your call log is on screen, hold down Send again for a couple of seconds until the address book information appears.

After opening the address book, you can choose to put the current call on hold and dial an additional number or you can copy various address information for later use.

(Note: BlackBerrys operating on GSM/EDGE/GPRS cellular networks cannot simultaneously send and receive voice and data, so users won’t be able to, say, send an e-mail while on a phone call. Though, RIM’s new 3G BlackBerry Bold device, which runs on GSM/HSDPA/UMTS networks, will be able to transfer voice and data the same time.)

Add Extensions to Phone Numbers via BlackBerry

If you’re a business BlackBerry user, there’s a good chance that many of the phone numbers you’re dialing on a regular basis also require you to enter an extension to reach the appropriate party. Even if you use you BlackBerry as a personal device, you’re no doubt calling office or corporate phone numbers on occasion.

Thanks to this shortcut, saving and dialing phone numbers with extensions is just as simple as dialing straight-forward digits.

To automatically add an extension to a phone number, type in the appropriate ten digits and then hit the ALT and X keys, followed by the numbers in the extension. Then click the Send button and your BlackBerry will dial the phone number that you entered. When the call is connected, you device will wait a few seconds and then automatically enter in the extension.

You can also save phone extensions within your address book. To do so, simply open your Address Book application, scroll to the entry you wish to edit, click your BlackBerry Menu key and hit Edit. Once you’ve opened an address book entry, scroll to the end of the number for which you want to add an extension, and follow the process described above.

View E-Mail Address of Contacts From Within Messages

Depending on your e-mail address settings–and the BlackBerry handheld OS version you’re running–you very likely see only a message sender’s name when you receive and open a new e-mail or SMS text in your BlackBerry inbox. That’s not ideal if you need the actual e-mail address and not just the name associated with it.

To determine a message sender’s e-mail address, simply open the message and scroll to the very top where the recipient and sender information is listed. Then highlight the sender’s name and hit the Q key to switch back and forth between e-mail address and name.

(Note: Some newer versions of the BlackBerry handheld OS–we’re using v4.5.0.52–will automatically display a dialogue box with both the message sender’s name and e-mail address when you scroll over the From field in a message, so this shortcut will likely become obsolete in the future.)

Make the Most of BlackBerry Copy and Paste Options

One of the most valuable and underrated shortcuts within the BlackBerry OS is the copy and paste function. In fact, copy and paste is one of the few missing features that’s currently keeping the uber popular iPhone 3G smartphone from becoming truly “intelligent”–and it’s also one of the most-requested iPhone 3G features.

RIM knows how often its customers need copy and paste functionality, so it not only made sure every single new BlackBerry has the feature, but also created a few different methods for accessing it.

While in a message or text file, you can copy text in two different ways. First, you can simply hold the Shift button while scrolling the trackball over the text you wish to copy, and then hit the BlackBerry Menu key and choose Copy from the associated dropdown menu.

You can also copy text by hitting ALT and clicking the track ball before scrolling over the text you wish to copy and then hitting Menu and choosing Copy.

To paste text once it’s copied, you can either click Menu again and choose Paste, or you can simply hit Shift and click the trackball wherever you want the text to appear.

Find Specific Web Page Addresses and URLs in BlackBerry Browser

Experienced BlackBerry browser users are probably well aware of the fact that Web page addresses are not displayed at the top of their mobile screens like they are in desktop browsers. This is for good reason, as the tiny screens found on BlackBerry devices are too small to fit all the information that a full-sized Web browser can, and the BlackBerry browser is optimized to show only essential information.

However, it’s sometimes necessary to access a website’s URL or determine the URLs of a set of links on a page. Thanks to these shortcuts, finding a given Web page’s address, or determining specific link addresses, is as simple as a single keyboard click.

While on a Web page, just click your BlackBerry’s P key at any time to see that specific page’s Web address and title. A dialogue box will then appear asking if you want to copy the address or send it via e-mail, SMS, MMS or PIN message.

To determine the URL of specific links on a Web page, simply scroll over the links so that they’re highlighted, and click the L key. Again, you’ll be prompted with the option to send the address or return to the page from which you came.

What do you think? Did you learn a new shortcut or two? If so, which one? And if not, can you share an advanced BlackBerry keyboard shortcut that you find particularly valuable?

Also, don’t forget to check out our list of basic BlackBerry shortcuts from Aflac’s mobile maven Margaret Genet if you haven’t already. Lists of additional keyboard shortcuts for specific BlackBerry device models are available on RIM’s website, along with interactive video demonstrations.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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