In our year and change of operating BBGeeks, we’ve written a number of BlackBerry guides for all sorts of applications. Yet we haven’t touched on the most basic one: BlackBerry Messenger. Over Memorial Day weekend I rode the bus with my cousin from New York City to my parents’ place in Jersey. On the way she was furiously typing away at her BlackBerry. “Texting?” I asked, more in hopes of conversing than getting the answer I thought I knew anyway. “No,” she said, “it’s actually BlackBerry Messenger. You use it, right?” Of course, but not as furiously as her apparently. For the next 10 or so minutes she talked about how much better BBM is than texting. It was then that I knew I had to do a guide for it.
Setting up BlackBerry Messenger
The best part about BlackBerry Messenger is that it comes preloaded on your BlackBerry. All you have to do is find the icon for BBM. It will look different depending on the theme you use, but in general it should look like the BlackBerry logo inside a dialog bubble. Kinda like the image to the right. Unless you deleted BBM, your phone should have it already loaded. If not, there are a couple of things you can do. Normally I’d recommend going to http://www.blackberry.com/messenger/ to download it. Unfortunately, that site appears to have been removed. The other way to reload BBM is to connect your BlackBerry to a PC and run BlackBerry Desktop Manager. You’ll then run Application Loader, where you’ll check the box for BlackBerry Messenger, then hit Next until you get to Finish. The first time you run BlackBerry Messenger you’ll be prompted to enter your display name and a password. Simple enough. Just enter that and you’ll be ready to move onto adding contacts.
Adding contacts to BBM
What’s an instant messaging client without a bunch of contacts? BBM makes it easy to add other BlackBerry users to your contact list. Simply depress the Menu button and select Add Contact. A small dialog box will pop up prompting you for the contact information. Here you can enter either the user’s email address or PIN number. A quick note on adding contacts via email. While it has worked in almost all instances for me, there have ben a select few where I couldn’t do it that way. The only way I could add these rare contacts was through their PIN number. I have no explanation, but I’ve seen a few complaints on message boards of a similar issue. The contact stays as pending, even if he or she accepted the contact invite. If you need your PIN, or you need the PIN of someone you’re trying to add to BBM, you can read our quick tip on finding your BlackBerry PIN. Once you enter in the contact information and click in the trackball, you’ll see an Add a Message dialog box. It comes with a stock message to send along with your contact request. I always just stick with this one, but you might want to modify it depending on the contact. Click OK when you’re satisfied and you’ll get a confirmation notice. On the bottom of your contact list you’ll see a field for Pending, under which your contact will be listed. The contact will remain there until he or she accepts the request.
Did you know? Changing contact names
By default, your contact list will display the name selected by each contact. For example, if you add me it will say Joseph Pawlikowski. However, if you find my name grotesquely long you can change it to anything you want. Just highlight the contact and press Menu. There you’ll see an option to Rename Contact. Click that, and you can change it to whatever you’d like. I don’t want to go putting ideas in people’s heads, but this feature is quite useful if you want to mask your contacts and conversations. Hey, a conversation between me and “Josh” probably seems a bit more benign than one between me and Mindy. Just sayin’.
Like most instant messaging clients, you can create various groups for your contacts with BlackBerry Messenger. While in the main contact screen, hit the Menu button and then select Add Group. You’ll then name the group. To add contacts to that group, highlight the contact’s name and hit the Menu button. Select Move Contact. A dialog box will pop up listing all groups to which the contact does not currently belong. Select the appropriate one and click it. You can repeat this to move the same contact among groups. You can also move the contact back to your general contacts list if you want, by performing the same function. If you want to delete the group, you must first move all contacts out of the group, then hit the Menu button while highlighting the group, and select Delete Group. That option will not appear until the group is empty.
Conversing with contacts
Once you’ve set up your contact list, you can finally get to the good part: sending and receiving messages. This is done in the most obvious manner: click the trackball when you’ve highlighted the contact. That will bring you to a conversation screen. The folks at RIM were kind enough to give the basic instruction to Start typing here for new conversations. Just do that, then click the trackball when you’re ready to send. Once you click the trackball, the menu will pop up and you’ll see a number of options. You can just click the trackball again to send the message. You can also check the spelling of the message, send a file, send a voice note, edit AutoText, and clear the field (or clear your conversation history with this contact). There’s an option to Ping Contact as well. This essentially send him or her a message that says PING!. No, seriously.
Send File/Send Voice Note If you want to send a file to a BBM contact, start up a conversation with them, hit the Menu button, and click Send File. A dialog box will appear with options to select a file from device memory or media card. Click through and find the appropriate file and click it. This one click will send the file, so make sure you’ve got the right one. Your contact will receive a message with the file name and size, and will have the option to view, save, or cancel. To send a voice note, start up a conversation, hit Menu, and select Send Voice Note. Make sure you’re ready to talk right away, because it will start recording immediately. There’s a time limit, too, so be sure you keep the voice not concise. You’ll see a progress bar letting you know how close to 100 percent full your message is. Your contact will receive a message with the file name voicenote.amr plus the file size. They’ll have the option to play it, save it, or cancel.
Once you send the message (or PING!), it will appear in the message area. Next to each message will be a check mark along with either the letter D or R. D means delivered — basically a confirmation message that the message went through the servers and was delivered to the contact. R means read — that the contact has seen the message on his or her BBM. So when someone says “oh, I didn’t get that IM,” you can say, “Well, it shows on my BBM that you saw the message.” Oooh. Burn. Finally, you can add other users to the conversation. When in the conversation screen hit the Menu button and click Invite. This will bring you to a dialog box containing your contacts. Scroll through and select the appropriate one, and he or she will be added to your conversation. You can do this for as many contacts as you’d like. This will essentially act as a chat room — a throwback to the old AOL days.
Whenever I use a BlackBerry application I make sure to explore every facet of it. This includes looking through the entire menu, especially the Options part. In BBM there are two other relevant menu items: My Status and Edit My Info. First, My Status, Here you can define yourself as available or unavailable, by selecting the appropriate radio button. Additionally, you can add a status message, much like GChat, AIM, MSN, and other popular IM clients. Your contacts can then see that message. It’s probably more useful for when you’re not available (to explain why you’re not available and when you will be again), but hey, everyone likes expressing themselves via short messages these days. If a contact is unavailable, you’ll see an option in the Menu for Set Alert. This will send you a message when the selected contact becomes available. Once he or she is, you’ll see a dialog box saying so, and will give you the option to send him or her a message. Next up is Edit My Info. This one is rather straightforward. It simply allows you to change your display name. So if I, for some reason, want to shorten mine to Joe Pawlikowski, I can go in there and do it up. Just edit your name and click OK. Nope, nothing much to see here. Finally, we have the Options menu. There are four settings you can change. First is Vibrate When Receiving a Ping. I tend to keep this set to Yes, but it should be noted that your phone will only vibrate when one of your contacts selects Ping Contact. If you want BBM messages to vibrate or make a tone, you’ll have to edit your message settings in Profiles. Next is Ask Password Question When Adding Contacts. 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. I’ve never used this myself, but it could be useful if you’re sending out an invitation to someone you’re not sure about. Why you would do that in the first place, I don’t know. Can someone who has used this function explain in the comments? The last two options are Allow Forwarding of Requests and Show Conversations in Message List. They’re pretty self-explanatory. The former will allow you to forward contact requests to other contacts. The latter shows your current conversations along with your contacts list. It makes it easier to keep track of open conversations that way.
We’ve tried to make this this most comprehensive BlackBerry Messenger guide out there. Yet even though we explored the depths of BBM, we’re sure we’ve missed something. If you have anything to add, leave it in the comments and we’ll revise this guide a bit later.