In any technology realm, change is a constant. We see not only new software programs frequently, but we also see hardware upgrades seemingly every year. For instance, RIM has dropped a new major model in each of the past three years, and we’ll likely see a further Bold update, beyond the 9650, before 2010 is over. RIM has also been quick on the software upgrades, pushing out OS 4.5, then 5.0, and soon 6.0 in a relatively short span. Since just last June, RIM has issued a BlackBerry Messenger update. The only reason this was annoying in any way: we had recently assembled a guide to BlackBerry Messenger. With the new version out, it’s time to print an update.
Setting up BlackBerry Messenger
BlackBerry Messenger comes pre-installed on all BlackBerry devices, so once you get yours you’ll already have access to the popular messaging client. Just find the BBM icon and click into it. If it is your first time accessing BBM you’ll enter a display name and a password before entering the application. Then you’re ready to proceed. If you don’t have BBM on your BlackBerry for some reason, you can install from Desktop Manager. Just plug your BlackBerry into your computer and connect it to BlackBerry Desktop Manager. From there run Application Loader. Check the box for BBM, then hit Next and eventually Finish. The application will then be available for your BlackBerry. The difference between this guide and our previous version is the upgrade to BlackBerry Messenger 5.0. If you don’t have BBM 5.0, the upgrade is easy. To find out which version you have, go to Options, then Advanced Options, then Applications. The applications list will tell you which version you have. For users running OS 5.0, cut out the Advanced Options step. Once in the applications list, select Add-on or Core from the top menu. One of them will contain BBM. If your BBM version is lower than 5.0, head to the BlackBerry website to download a copy of the latest version.
Adding contacts to BBM
The ways in which you can add contacts to your BBM has expanded with the new version. You can still add them through email address or PIN, which is nice for those of us who don’t handle change well. For the rest, you have the option of adding contacts via a scannable 2D barcode. You can even add non-BlackBerry users to your list. To start, click the menu button and select Invite Contact. That will bring up a screen containing three options. The first one is the basic add contact form. Click on that and you can add a contact via PIN or email address. You can add a personalized message, or just leave the default one in tact. As you type you’ll see people on your contacts list appear. This can make it easier to add someone via email, since the address will come right from your contact listing. Otherwise just keep typing and hit OK when you’re done. If you entered a valid BlackBerry PIN or email address, the other party will receive the invitation. Once accepted, you’ll see him or her on your contacts list. The addition of a scannable barcode has made it easy to add a BBM contact when you see someone in the flesh. This seems great for meetings and conferences. Instead of fumbling for your PIN, you can just ask the person for their barcode. To find your barcode, click the menu button on the main BBM screen and select My Profile. Scroll all the way to the bottom and you’ll see a button that reads Display My Barcode. Clicking on that will bring up yours. Someone can then scan it and add you to their contacts. On the flip side, if you want to scan someone else’s barcode you can do that from the Invite screen. Once you select the barcode option you’ll see a primer screen that explains the barcode. Then it will launch your camera app. Scan the barcode, and BBM will add your new contact. Finally, you can add non-BlackBerry users to your BBM list. This probably comes as a relief to both BlackBerry users and non-BlackBerry users alike. Users can finally use BBM to communicate with non-Berry users, and non-users can finally stop hearing BlackBerry users crow about the superiority of BBM. The advantage for BlackBerry users is that it places the contact in your BBM contacts list, which many prefer. The SMS conversations are still managed the same way. You can send BBM contacts to other BBM users, and they can send them to you. Just hit menu and select Send to Messenger Contact. You can then select the appropriate contact, and you’ll send the contact information his or her way. He or she can do the same thing for you. And, of course, you can remove a contact by highlighting his name and selecting Delete Contact.
Managing your contacts list
Once you have added contacts to your BlackBerry Messenger, chances are you’ll want to keep them all in a neat order, so it’s easier to find them when you want to send a message. BBM offers you a few options that allow you to easily manage your contacts in a comfortable manner. Each BlackBerry user gets to set his or her own display name. When you send an invite to a potential BBM contact, he or she will see your chosen display name. After acceptance, however, the control goes to the user. For example, if my imaginary friend Katie Smith adds me to her contact list, and I have another Katie Smith on there, I can change her display name to KT. That doesn’t affect any user except me, but that’s all that matters. To change a contact’s display name, highlight the contact, press the menu button, and select Contact Profile. The next page will display said profile. It’s here that you can change the display name. On this screen you can also link BBM contacts to your BlackBerry contacts. When in the profile page, click menu and select Link to BlackBerry Contact. If the email address for the BBM contact matches one in your address book, Messenger will prompt you for that link. Otherwise it will let you choose an existing contact, or else create a new entry. Once you have everyone’s name set up to your liking, you might want to divide your contact list into groups. To do this click menu and select Add Category. You then name the category and select the contacts to place into it. If you want to later add a contact to an already existing category, select the contact, press menu, and choose Move Contact.
There isn’t much to your BBM profile, so it’s worth a few seconds to check out once you’re up and running. Atop the screen is your display name, which you can change at any time. Your friends and co-workers might get annoyed, though, if you change yours on, say, a weekly basis. Next, you can set your status, either available or busy, and add a status message. The status message should be familiar to anyone who used AOL Instant Messenger or ICQ back in the day. It’s basically a little sentence that all of your contacts can see. There’s also a box that lets you broadcast the song you’re currently listening to, in case you want to show your cultured musical tastes to everyone. You can also check a box that makes your location and timezone available to contacts. For your status message and display name, here’s a way to insert symbols. You can also use the Fancy Characters app, which is very popular in the BBGeeks Store. This is also the screen where you can find your PIN and your scannable barcode. You can find your PIN a bit easier, though, by typing mypin and then pressing space in any message screen.
Conversing with contacts
Geeze, so finally we’re to the good part, where you actually type messages to the people on your contacts list. This is pretty straight forward, though there are a few advanced features we’ll cover in just a minute. But first, the basics of a conversation. To initiate a conversation, just click on the contact’s name. You can then type a message, which the contact will eventually receive. Next to your sent message you’ll see a checkmark. When there is a little D next to it, it means that the message was delivered to the recipient. When you see an R next to it, it means the contact has read the message. If, for some reason, you want to set a subject to the chat — perhaps to help you remember later what it was all about — click menu and select Set Chat Subject. Then enter the text and click OK. If you want to add a smiley face or other emoticon to your chat, hit menu and select Add Smiley. It’s one way to add emotion to the mostly emotionless text medium. Your conversations will remain open until you close them. To close a conversation, click menu on the conversation and select End Chat. The advantage of having an open chat is that you can switch from one open conversation to another within the chat. Just hit menu while you’re in a conversation and select Switch Chat. You’ll then see a list of open conversations. You can also copy or email your chats for safe keeping. If you want to email yourself or someone else a copy of your BBM conversation, hit menu and select Email Chat. You can also copy to the clipboard, perhaps to paste into a document, by selecting Copy Chat. If you’d like to ping a contact, which will send a PING message and make their device vibrate, select Ping Contact from the contact menu. That’s easy enough. But you can do so much more with BBM.
Broadcast message and conferencing
Sometimes you need to get in contact with more than one person. Whether you need to send a mass message or have a brief conversation with multiple people, BBM has a solution. If you want to send a message to multiple contacts, click menu and select Broadcast Message. You’ll then see a screen where you can type the message and select the recipients. By default you’ll see all of your contacts, and if you want to send the message to everyone check the Select All option. You can also choose to check individual contacts. If you want to send a message to all members of one group, select that group from the Category heading. Once you’ve selected the proper contacts and have typed your message, just hit Send and you’re done. If you want to have a chat with more than one contact, BBM provides a conference option. If you want to start a new conference, highlight one of the members you want to invite, hit menu, and select Invite To Conference. You’ll then see a list of your contacts pop up, with the highlighted contact already checked. Check off anyone else you want to invite, and then scroll to the bottom and press OK to continue. All of the checked contacts will receive the invite to the conference. You can also add contacts to currently open conversations. When you’re in the conversation, click menu and, as before, select Invite To Conference. You’ll then see a list of your contacts, minus the one in the current conversation. Check the ones you’d like to add and then click OK.
Move contacts to the home screen
Some messenger contacts you’ll contact more than others. That’s the nature of these things. You might want easier access to some of these contacts. BBM provides a vehicle for this, allowing you to add contacts to the home screen. Just scroll over the contact’s name, press menu, and select Show On Home Screen. That will add the contact’s avatar to your instant messaging folder. From there you can click on the contact and BBM will bring up either an open conversation, if you have one, or otherwise a new chat. You can move the icon around just like any other icon, so you can place it in an easier to find place. You can also remove the icon from your home screen by going back to the contact, hitting menu, and selecting Remove From Home Screen.
Sending pictures, voice notes, files, and location
As with other instant messaging platforms, you can send media via BBM. It’s actually quite simple, and you can create new media to send as well as choosing files from your BlackBerry device memory or external media card. You can do this by clicking menu in a conversation and selecting one of the send options: Send Picture, Send Voice Note, Send File, or Send Location. After selecting Send Picture you’ll see a dialog box that opens up the picture folders on your device memory and your media card, along with all subfolders therein. You can select from among those, or you can choose the Camera option. That allows you to snap a new picture, which you will then send to the contact. Make sure you have selected the right one, though, since there is no confirmation dialog. To send a voice note, just click the option. A dialog will pop up prompting you to record the note. Hit Start when you’re ready and Stop when you’re done. That will let you know the file size, and give you the option to play it back, send it, or cancel. I always recommend playing back your voice notes now that you have the option. You never know just how you’ll sound. This is a big upgrade over the previous BBM. Back in the day you had to be prepared to start talking as soon as you hit record. Now you can start and stop at will. When you select Send File, you’ll get a prompt for various file types. You can select picture or voice note, which will bring up the above described screens. You can also choose to send a BlackBerry Contact or Messenger contact. If you select Messenger contacts you’ll get the familiar contacts dialog box. Check off the ones you want to send and select OK. If you select BlackBerry Contact you’ll see your address book. Click on the contact you want to send and there it goes. If you choose File you’ll see a dialog box that allows you to explore your media card or device memory for files. Click the appropriate folders to dive deeper, and use the escape button to move back up a level. Once you select the appropriate file you’ll see a dialog box asking if you’d like to add a description. Select Yes and you can type a little note. Select No and the file will just send. Finally, if you have a GPS-enabled BlackBerry you can send your location by selecting Send Location. There is no prompt here. Once you choose to send it, the process starts.
Creating and managing groups
One distinction to make in BBM is the difference between groups and categories. Categories are local folders that allow you to better organize your contacts. Groups are part of BBM. You have to invite people to groups, and there are administrators and everything. In other words, it’s not just some local organizational designation. To create a new group select, simply, Create New Group from the menu. You’ll then get a screen that allows you to name the group and add a description. You can add an icon, too. Below that you’ll see the option to allow non-administrators add new members to the group. Select Yes if this is an open group, No if you want tight control over it. Finally, you can show the group icon on the home screen, just as you can do with individual contacts. Once you’re done, scroll to the bottom and OK it. You’ll then see your group’s home page. To add new members, hit menu and select Invite New Member. That will bring up the regular add contact screen. It works in the same manner. The last option, however, is to add a contact from BBM. That’s probably the easiest method. That will send them an invite, which they can accept and then join the group. The advantage of having a group is the communal media and chats. You can chat with all members of the group at once, or leave a message for everyone to read later. By default chat messages stay for three days. By clicking menu and selecting Chat Options you can change that to anywhere from one day to forever. You can also share pictures by clicking on Pictures and selecting Share Picture. That entails the same method as sending a file, except instead of sending to one contact it will upload for the whole group. You can choose to notify the whole group when you tag a picture as favorite. Pictures stay on the server for 28 days, but you can save them to your device if you’d like to keep them. Lists might be the most productive aspect of a group. To create a new group, click into the category and click on Start New List. You can name the list, and then add new items to it. You can name the item, assign it to a category, and assign it to a group member. There are also controls to set the priority level, create a due date, and change the status (pending/complete). The list even comes with a small message board of its own, which you can access by clicking Discuss List from the main list screen. You can also create calendar events for your group. On the main group screen select calendar and then select New Shared Appointment. There you can create a calendar entry just like you normally would. You have the choice to send it to the group via the BlackBerry Group itself, or from one of your email addresses. You can then view the group’s calendar, or even view all calendars from this screen. Finally, there are some bookkeeping aspects you can customize. Going to the Group Details section reveals the option to save group message history, send notifications upon tagging of pictures as favorite, destination for saved pictures, and turning on and off notifications. It also allows you to decide whether you allow group notifications to appear in your main messages list. You can also set an administrator password, which you can give out to group members. That will allow them to act as administrators as well. Under Administration select Set Administrator password. Enter it twice, and then you can hand it out as you wish.
As you can see, there’s plenty to do with BBM already. Yet we haven’t touched on anything in the options menu. Before we close out, let’s take a look at these. The first section consists of chat options. You can choose to use enter to send your chats, to show chats in your messages app, to group sequential messages in chat, and to show display names in chat. You can also choose the conversation style (bubbles is default, but you can also use standard or stripes), and how to sort your chats (alphabetical by default). Below that, you can choose to replace caller ID photos with BBM avatars. In the next section you can backup and restore your contacts list. Then it’s onto recent updates, which lets you choose what and what not to display. Then it’s down to the miscellaneous section, where you can turn off the vibration option when you receive a Ping, save your message history, or auto-accept voice notes. And at last, there’s the security question on invitation option. This allows you to send along a question with your contact invitation. You’ll also set an answer when you send the invitation. The contact must then answer the question in order to accept the invitation.
That’s all, folks?
I think we covered even more ground than we did in our first run-through. As always, use the comments to point out things we missed, add your own tips, and ask any questions you might have. Happy BBMing.