Blackberry Essential Apps: Part 5

Here is Part 5 of my Blackberry Essential applications. This is a longer list than usual but some of these apps are small utilities and dont require much description. Hope you find the list useful.

AutoStandby – I use my Blackberry alot, as you can imagine. One of the first things I did was buy a larger battery on eBay which gives me about 30% more life. Still wasnt enough. After purchasing this app which is deffinitely worth the $6 USD, I saw a greater improvement than the larger battery. Although the app has had some glitches in my experience, this one I can’t live without.

BerryBuzz – I picked this one up last week as I have wanted the functionality this app offers since I got my Bold. With this app you can change the colour of the alert LED depending on what caused the alert. Now without even taking my BB out of standby I can tell if I have a new email (and from which account), a SMS, Calendar entry etc. Here are some screens, all settings are done via standard options screen.

BBFileScout – This is BY FAR the best file manager program out on the Blackberry. I have tried half a dozen of them and none met my expectations until just the other week I found this gold mine. This is as close to Windows Explorer or Finder as you can get. When you click on a file, FileScout is smart enough to recognize the file type and open it with the appropriate application. Clicking a .doc file will open it in Docs to Go. What a concept! I cant believe other so called file managers havent included this feature. FileScout also includes zip support, text file viewing and more. This is absolutely essential. The author hopes to keep this app free and asks that you make a small donation on his website.

Tetris – This is a free Tetris clone made by a member of the Crackberry community, Papped. It has music from the original game and is great for when you have a few minutes to kill. Works like tetris! Donations are accepted and encouraged on his homepage.

QSMS – This little app is great, it creates a hotkey fot the letter Q to bring up the ‘Compose SMS’ screen. Invaluble.

QuickPull – The application simulates a battery pull on your device without you actually having to remove the battery. If you are having software or hardware/gps issues you can run this to reset the device. This simulates a battery pull which is different then a reboot – Alt + Right Shift + Del.

Capture It – This is a handy program if you ever want to take screenshots of your Blackberry. Many of the default applications have a ‘Capture It’ menu option to take a screenshot which is put in your media folder. For other apps, you can set one of your side keys to ‘Capture It’ which will launch the program whos only purpose is to take a screen capture.

Howto Screencast: Convert downloaded videos for Blackberry

I have created a 4 minute screencast showing how to convert videos and movies so they will play on the Blackberry Bold, Curve 8900 and the Storm.

I reference Lifehacker and the post Top 10 Free Video Converters. You can find a list of software there. I myself prefer Clone2Go Free version which is demonstrated in the screencast. Hope this helps!

Essential BlackBerry Applications: Part 4 – The REXwireless Suite

It has been some time since my last post in the series, Essential BlackBerry Bold Applications. I have another post of apps planned soon after this one, there have been a bunch of great releases lately that I am excited to share. This post will be dedicated to a suite of apps from the same developer, REXwireless.

I first heard about REXwireless while browsing the Crackberry forums. A few users were talking about productivity applications and highly recommended the applications from REXwireless. After checking out their website and finding there was a fully functional free trial, I thought it couldnt hurt to try the software myself and see if I was missing anything. I am glad I did. I will explain each of the products and how they are more useful than the stock RIM apps.

Todo Matrix: This is an advanced to do list application, greatly expanding on the capabilities of what the regular RIM Todo application does. Todo Matrix allows and requires organizing your todo items into categories and sub categories (called drawers). You can easily view items from each category or subcategory, view tasks by due date, overdue, priority etc.

Todo Matrix greatly extends the available status’ available in the stock application. You can place tasks on hold as well as a number of other useful selections and set up to 3 alerts for each task. What I enjoy best about Todo Matrix is that it handles large numbers of tasks efficiently. I no longer just put my high priority tasks in the Todo app and check it every couple days. I put everything I need to get done including reminders about little things that I typically forget about (dishes, recycling, etc). I then check my tasks much more frequently throughout the day and get more done.

Another very nice feature that both Idea and Todo Matrix support is data injection. This feature adds a menu item to your web browser, email, calendar, sms messages etc and allows you to send your selected data, page url, etc automatically to Idea or Todo Matrix without the copy/paste and task switching. This has become a very useful feature as you can easily create a note or todo task containing the information contained in an email or webpage.

Todo Matrix has many advanced features, my favourite being a great search mechanism and the ability to sync and edit tasks on the web via REX Desktop. It also includes task handling methodologies from Stephen Covey and David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’. You can view the list of features here as well as find a trial on their website.

Idea Matrix: This app is very similar to Todo Matrix except it is used for advanced note taking. This has replaced the standard Memopad app for me. It allows categories in the same way as Todo Matrix.

Idea Matrix supports an advanced search function that shows seach matches on the fly as you enter in search phrases. This is an amazing feature that really helps when you start managing a large number of notes. I use a whole section dedicated to keeping a list of peoples names that I am likely to forget. It is awesome that I am able to search these!

Notes can also have alerts associated with them and can be password protected which I found useful for my banking information, which I always like to have in my PDA but am always cautious with. Idea Matrix can also be syncronized to the web and edited with REX Desktop.

Alert Matrix: This becomes essential as the number of incoming emails/sms messages increases to the point where your Blackberry is buzzing or flashing red every 5 minutes. You know those days where you are just tired and turn your Blackberry onto Quiet Profile and turn it upside down? Yeah well if you set up Alert Matrix then you can save yourself from some of those times.

With Alert Matrix you can make profiles for your contacts so that emails/messages from certain people or that satisfy your filters can get a special ring, vibrate or led alert. For those times like where I mentioned above you can also enable filters for the particularly annoying people that send you massive ammounts of email. Alert Matrix will intercept the email and disable the alert before your berry notifies you. FABULOUS. It is also possible to have high priority alerts that can cause your berry to beep/ring whatever even when you have it set to Quiet Profile.

REX Connect: This is a small but useful app. I dont know of any other Blackberry developers other than REX Wireless that offer so many high quality apps. REX Connect gives you menu options to send the contents from Emails, memos, calendar entries, clipboard, address book entries and all the other REX Wireless apps to other applications. The following diagram illustrates:

For example, in my calendar I can select a Meeting entry, press menu and select REX Connect. This opens a small dialog which I can select any of the applications in the above picture. If I choose SMS my contacts pop up and I choose a friend to send a SMS with the calendar entry. REX Connect populates the text message area with the information from the calendar entry, allows me to edit it and send it.

SMS from REX Connect

This is another app that you really need to use before you can imagine how useful it might become. Thankfully REX Wireless offers full trials on all their software. They have a detailed website including tons of information about each application including screencasts, white papers on task management and more. From the dealings that I have had with them thus far, their support staff are top notch also.

Conclusion: I have spent alot of time introducing these apps from REXwireless but you really need to give them a try for yourself. They may not seem as intuitive as many other Blackberry apps are at first but once you memorize the shortcuts you will be thankful for the advanced functionality these programs offer.

If you sign up for the trial versions of Idea and/or Todo Matrix be sure you try out the REX Desktop which is a web interface to your data. Nice to be able to quickly copy/paste and enter large pieces of data especially for Idea Matrix.

Bundle and education discounts are available for all of the above mentioned software. I strongly recommend all of these applications if you are looking for more functionality and increased productivity on your Blackberry. Check out the REX Wireless software over at their website for more details.

Essential Blackberry Applications: Part 3

BlackBerry Essential Apps — Tags: — Mark @ 2:27 pm

Here comes part 3 of my essential Blackberry apps list. Yes, I am an App whore. Yes, I love my Blackberry. No, I do not want an iPhone (I use copy/paste, lol).

  • Poynt (Free) – Poynt offers 411 service, movie times and directions. I have only tested the service in Canada which works fantastic. I imagine it works in other countries also but you will have to check. The local business listing is fantastic. A couple days ago I needed to do some last minute Christmas shopping for my wife. I used Poynt (which can use your GPS to determine your location and proximity to businesses) to search for the local store which I needed to order the gifts from. It was the first result of the query. I scrolled to it, pressed menu and there is a call number option which connected me to the business. Fantastic! No messing with GOOG-411 or Berry411 which did not work properly when I tried it.The movie times also worked just as good. Poynt searches your area for local cinemas and can show you movie show times after selecting the theatre. Cant recommend this one enough. UI fantastic, fresh and works better than expected.
  • BBNotePad (Free) – I have alot of files I need to share between my PC’s and Blackberry. Many of them are plain old text files. As the name suggests, BBNotePad is a regular text file editor for Blackberry. It is a simple application and works just as you would want it to including search support. I prefer using this to Memopad as I can save my Txt files to my media card and easily transfer it to other machines or as an email attachment.
  • Opera Mini (Free) – Everyone knows about this one but I had to add it. The only thing I wish I could do is make it my default browser or use it to load Blackberry applications (but I know this is out of Opera’s hands). One thing I recently learned is Opera Mini receives all of your requested web content back through a proxy server that filters your pages and internet so they are better suited for your mobile device. Very cool.
  • Qik (Free) – Qik is a fun service that allows you to stream live video straight from your device to the internet. I dont know how useful this is for me but never the less it is fun. With Qik you can create apage which contains an embedded video which always displays the latest video you stream. Users can also view all your public videos from you profile page on Qik’s website. This will be fun the next time I see a crazy mullet.
  • MidpSSH (Free) – This SSH client may not be as useful as some of my other recommendations for most people but I couldn’t leave it out. This program allows me to SSH to remote servers just like I would Putty from my desktop. I can send any command I would from my desktop except its just harder to read! Fantastic app if I have to restart Vmware or Apache or whatever on the go.

There you have it. That is my official “Best Blackberry Bold Apps”. I will make another post with my runners up and other apps that I keep installed.

Essential Blackberry Applications: Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of my BlackBerry application list. I have included Twitter links so you can follow the progress and updates of the apps you decide to use. I also added my Twitter feed to the left of the blog. You are also welcome to follow me.

  • BerryStore (Twitter) (Free) – I wish I would have found this app a few days ago. This app is fantastic as it has a nice interface to find, rate and download Blackberry apps straight from the program. Many of my essential apps can be downloaded directly from BerryStore.Dont let the name deter you, the vast majority of programs included in ‘”the store” are completely free. Download this right away.
  • Vlingo (Twitter) (Free) – Vlingo is voice recognition and command software for the Blackberry. You assign the left or right convenience button to ‘record’ and speak instructions to the device. This includes sending emails (including transcribing the subject and message text), voice dialing, adding to-do tasks, texting, launching programs and more.This was one app that made me say “holy crap this is amazing”. There is no training the recognition software, there is no cost and it works pretty awesome. The actual app is very professionally done. A++ on this one.*Note* – This can be downloaded via BerryStore
  • jmIRC (Free and Opensource) – This one took a while to find as it seems there are a few IRC clients out for BlackBerry that all seem to stem from one original project. Although the codebase hasn’t been touched in years, this IRC client offers much of the expected functionality of a basic IRC client.I told one of my friends (who has an iPhone) tonight how cool it was for me to be able to connect to Freenode.net from my mobile. Apparently it isn’t that exciting and I am a “Super Geek” but I am still very excited about it. Now I can participate in programming
  • Viigo (Twitter) (Free) I mentioned in my last post that I was disappointed with Google’s Mobile version of Reader. It is pretty terrible and makes me want to cry. Viigo comes to the rescue! Sign up for a free account and you can download this app and you have a very nice UI in which to view weather and all kinds of new sources including custom RSS feeds INCLUDING support to load and update all your Google Reader subscriptions. This allows me to add a RSS feed to Google Reader and the next time I launch Viigo the feed I just added will be available. Very handy feature.The application has a disabled menu item called Audio & Podcasts. It appears and has been said that the program will soon support the ability to download Podcasts via RSS feed. I am anxiously awaiting this as I currently use uTorrent to download the current Hanselminutes to my PC and manually transfer it over to my PDA (Now BlackBerry).*Note* – This can be downloaded via BerryStore
  • XBerry Live (Twitter) (Free) – I found this app trolling through BlackberryForums. This is an exceptional app that makes use of the private Xbox Live API. The app is brand new and sports an interface to match Xbox’s new branding with current gamertags, avatars and the everything. Using this app you can view your Xbox Live friends online status, see which game they are playing and even launch your browser to send them messages via the web. Fantastic app!*Note* – This can be downloaded via BerryStore

Still got a bunch more. Stay tuned.

Essential Blackberry Applications: Part 1

BlackBerry Essential Apps — Tags: , — Mark @ 6:32 pm

I just purchased my first Blackberry, the Bold. As a techie I have scoured the Internet looking for custom apps, tweaks and just about everything I can do to tinker with my new pda/phone. I have gone through a dozen IM programs and a dozen others looking for high quality and useful apps for my new Blackberry. Here is my list of essential apps.

  • TwitterBerry (Twitter) (Free) – Great minimalist Twitter client. UI is the best of the alternatives (TinyTwitter, BlackBird) and the most responsive. Now that Twitter no longer is offering SMS service to the UK or in my case Canada, Twitter on the BlackBerry is essential. TwitPic support is built in (although I was having some issues with it) and I cant figure out how to add new people to follow but overall it works great.Update: I have found a new Twitter / Facebook status application that has replace TwitterBerry for me. It is called SocialScope and it is in an opt-in beta program right now. You can sign up at their site here.
  • KeePassBB (Free & Opensource) – I am a die hard user of KeePass which is a program which manages all your passwords. I use a different password that is randomly generated for every account that I use. My Keepass database has over 300 entries in it. Up until this weekend, I did not even have my Gmail account password memorized because with Keepass it can automatically enter it into websites for you or you just copy and paste the password.If I wasn’t able to get the passwords from my Keepass database the Blackberry would have almost been worthless to me. Luckily there is an open source project that brings Keepass to the Blackberry. It is functional, the UI needs some work but the author said he accepts patches and I looked at the code and it appears to be easy to follow. Maybe soon I will jump on into mobile development?Anyways, I synchronize my Keepass db from my Pc using a program called Syncback SE. This I use almost daily to synchronize data between my PC and USB key or my PC and Laptop, now between my Blackberry and desktop. I also use a Free Syncplicity account to store online copies but unfortunately they do not have software for the mobile. They DO however have a mobile website so you can access your files from your Blackberry web browser if you forgot to Sync a file.
  • Google Mobile Apps (Free) – Google provides a suite of Blackberry software for many of its products including Gmail, Calendar, Reader, Maps, Notes, News, Photos and Synchronization.
    • Gmail – Great interface for email, better than Blackberry’s email program but it doesn’t download emails nearly as quickly. For this reason I have both Gmail and Blackberry BIS hooked up to my Gmail account. This Gmail program allows me to use Gmail drafts, sent messages, contacts, etc
    • Reader – It sucks really which is disappointing considering how much I use Google Reader. I cant mark uninteresting posts without actually going into them and read items don’t seem to synchronize properly with regular Google Reader. Sharing and Starring seems to work fine though.
    • Calendar – Very basic but functional. Kind of sucks actually. See next entry.
    • Maps – This is where the Google Mobile Suite shines. Works just like the regular online version but makes use of your GPS as your current location. I have Mountain Equipment Coop in my Blackberry contact list with the full address. I go into Blackberry contacts, click menu –> Show on Google Maps and it shows me a map of the address. I can get the exact same directions as the full web version offers by entering the address of start and destination or by making bookmarks. Very handy.
    • Docs – A slim/read only version of Google Docs. Decent enough to view them.
    • Photos – View Picasa pictures from mobile account
    • Notebook – A nice way to quickly take notes and store them online if you need a reminder to check such a link on your desktop pc. Or to transfer a long url to Blackberry/PC.
    • Sync for Mobile – This synchronizes your calendar and contacts with the Google version. This is great for when you make changes on Google Calendar and want those changes to be on your handheld.*Note* Must visit with default Blackberry Browser to install.
  • SyncMyCal ($30 USD) – This is actually a desktop app but a requirement for me. As you can tell by the Keepass entry, I like to have things Synced which means the freshest and latest copies of my files on all my devices. This includes my contact list, my calendar and my task list. The Blackberry software synchronizes with my Outlook 2007 very well.I use SyncMyCal to Synchronize my Outlook 2007 with my Google Calendar and Contacts. This allows me to edit calendar entries and contacts on my Outlook which is must faster than using the Google equivalent. I also prefer to view my calendar in Outlook when I am on my home PC. Google versions are for when I am on my laptop or a public machine. SyncMyCal allows me to do this 3 way syncronization Outlook <—> Google <—> Blackberry which is so far working extraordinarily well. Hopefully no problems.*Note* A word of warning for those who decide to go with it. Make sure you set your options to Google precedence or be prepared to lose your Google contact list and calendar.
  • JiveTalk (aka BeeJive) ($30 USD) – This isnt cheap for IM but so far appears to be worth it. No longer do I need to be checking Google Talk or Microsoft Live Messenger for contacts, this program integrates them into one nice concise list with user avatars and chat protocol icons on the right. You can add custom alerts and change the colour of the Blackberry top right LED so you know that you have received a instant message instead of a email.*Note* As of December 2008 a beta version is available which integrates JiveTalk into the BlackBerry Messages Application. Essential. Obtain the beta at JiveTalk Blog. To be continued (I’m not even half done yet) ….
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