Top tips on managing your BlackBerry address book contacts, phone profiles

Most modern mobile phones give owners a vast amount of freedom when it comes to personalizing call and message alert profiles.

But BlackBerry handhelds from Research In Motion (RIM) in particular are among the most customizable smartphones, letting users not only create their own custom ringtones and assign different tones to each and every contact in their address books, but also create their own phone profiles and tweak settings so, say, a call from the boss still rings through when the device is on vibrate.

In the past, we’ve largely focused our BlackBerry Tips of the Week on keyboard shortcuts, tips and tricks, free software downloads, and advice on everything from how to extend your battery life to getting the most from Bluetooth. This week, we’re offering up two tips–one simple, one more advanced–that will give you more control over your BlackBerry address book contacts and phone profiles.

Know Who’s Calling: Assign Specific Ringtones to Individuals

One of the most basic BlackBerry phone customization options available to users can also prove to be the most valuable. Setting custom ringtones for the contacts in your address book, or at least for those with whom you communicate frequently, can tell you who’s calling and eliminate the need to peek at your caller ID.

First, open your BlackBerry contacts by clicking on the Address Book icon on your home screen. From there, scroll down to the contact for which you wish to add a custom ringtone. With the contact’s name highlighted, hit your BlackBerry Menu key, located directly to the left of the trackball on 8xxx series devices, and scroll down to and click Add Custom Phone Tune. 

From the dropdown menu, choose the location within your phone’s memory where the default ringtones are stored–usually labeled Preloaded Ringtones–or the folder in your memory card where you keep your custom ringtones. (BlackBerry users can employ a variety of applications, including the BlackBerry Desktop Manager software, to create their own custom ringtones.)

Scroll through the list of available ringtones–default tones will be named “Ringer_ NAME_XX .mp3″–and click on the one you wish to associate with the previously selected contact. Hit OK when the confirmation dialogue box displays, and you’re all set. After assigning a custom tone to a contact, you can edit that tone by highlighting the contact’s name in your address book, hitting the BlackBerry Menu key and selecting Edit.

Then, scroll all the way to the bottom of the entry where the custom ringtone is listed, click on the name of the tone and navigate through the dropdown menu until you find the new tone you’d like.

Master Your Smartphone Call Notifications: Create New BlackBerry Profiles

RIM BlackBerry profiles allow you to customize the alerts you get when calls come in, new messages arrive and applications notifications are received. For example, you can use either the default “Vibrate”or “Quiet” profiles to silence your phone for a meeting.

Or utilize the “Loud” profile to ensure you don’t miss an important call while at a sporting event or other noisy locale. You can even employ a “Phone Only” profile so your device vibrates or rings only when a call is received and not when e-mail or text messages hit your inbox.

BlackBerry devices also allow you to create your own profiles to suit personal preferences and needs, as well as tweak the default profiles. So, for instance, you can create your own “E-Mail Only” profile and set the phone to only vibrate three times for each e-mail message you receive. Or you can tweak your Vibrate profile so that your BlackBerry rings only when, say, your wife or child calls.

To create a new profile for your BlackBerry, click the Profiles icon on your main icon screen. Then, scroll all the way down past the existing profiles to the Advanced option and click it. Within the current profiles list, hit your BlackBerry Menu key again, and choose New Profile . From there, name your custom profile at the top of the next screen and choose your notification types for each of the applications that use alerts, by scrolling down the list and clicking on the app or message inbox.

When you click on an application, “Phone,” for instance, you’ll then have the ability to set custom “In Holster” and “Out of Holster” notifications, such as whether not you want rings, vibrations or both. And you can also modify volume settings and the number of vibrations for each alert, as well as enable or disable the LED message indicator light.

After you’ve created a new profile, it will appear in the profiles list with a gold star over the icon.

Exceptions to the Rule: Customizing BlackBerry Profiles

As mentioned above, you can also customize BlackBerry profiles for specific contacts or groups of contacts. For example, if you’re expecting a phone call from a specific coworker, but you don’t want to be bothered with calls or message from anyone else, you can set an exception to your default “Silent”profile that will allow for calls or messages from that specific person while blocking all other vibrations and rings.

To get started, click on the Profiles icon on the BlackBerry icon screen and again hit Advanced . In the list of existing profiles, hit the BlackBerry Menu key and choose “New Exception.” 

Name the exception at the top of the next screen, and then scroll down to the “From” field and click the trackball. Next, a list of options appears, from which you should choose “Add Name” and then pick the appropriate contacts from the dropdown list. You can choose more than one name.

After specifying the contacts that you want included as part of the exception, highlight the “Use Profile”field and pick the profile you want applied those contacts. So if you want to receive calls from your significant other and child while the Vibrate profile is set, you should choose both of those names in the Add Name field and then set Use Profile to “Normal” or “Loud.” Then hit the Menu button again, save your changes when the dialogue box appears and you’re good to go.

(Note: If you have multiple profile exceptions that include the same contacts, you may need to deactivate one or all of the others for new exceptions to take effect.)

To delete a profile exception, simply click the Profiles icon on your BlackBerry icon screen, scroll all the way down, hit Advanced and then navigate down to your list of exceptions. Select the exception you wish to get rid of, hit the BlackBerry Menu key, choose “Delete,” and confirm that deletion in the next dialogue box.

© 2008 CXO Media Inc.

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