Carrying a BlackBerry can open you to the world of the virtual workplace. You won’t miss an email, and you can perform plenty the same functions as you can on a laptop. The problem is that there are plenty of operations you can’t perform just from your BlackBerry. That is, when it’s out of the box. With the right combination of accessories and software, you can attain a fully mobile mode of working, without having to lug around your laptop. And isn’t that why you got a BlackBerry in the first place?
We’ll start with your hardware setup. This should be short, since the idea is to take everything with you, yet have it not be nearly as bulky as a laptop. Limiting accessories is key. The first one, though, is essential.
Freedom Universal Bluetooth Keyboard
We all know that BlackBerry Thumb can strike anyone at any time. Tap away for too long at those tiny keys, and you’ll be regretting it in no time. You could always work out your fingers to avoid the affliction, but that’s not always going to work.
So a Bluetooth keyboard is essential here. The Freedom model is particularly useful for our purposes, since it folds up to fit in your pocket. Opened it measures just 11.25 inches, so it’s about half that folded up. It has five rows and 65 keys, so it replicates a laptop keyboard well.
For a comprehensive review of this item, you can hit up BlackBerry Forums. The reviewer recommends you check with your BES administrator before buying one, though it looks like us BIS folks are in the clear.
The unit will cost you $99.95, a totally reasonable price for the convenience it brings along.
Maybe not essential, and I’m not going to recommend a specific brand, but if you’re going to be on the go, you might as well have some tunes for the ride. Standard computer speakers will do fine if you have a spare outlet. Otherwise, you might want to just invest in a good pair of headphones. They work a lot better in coffee shops and other popular places for mobile employees to work.
OtterBox Defender case
This one isn’t exactly essential, and it won’t make you any more mobile. In fact, the OtterBox is so bulky that it might even slow you down a tick. But for someone on the go, device protection is of the utmost importance. Wouldn’t you feel better knowing that if you happen to drop your BlackBerry, that you’ll hear nothing more than a dull thud and know that your device is okay?
This is the fun part. While having hardware like the Bluetooth keyboard might be the key that unlocks your virtual workstation, the applications you choose are like the steroids you inject into it. You’ll have to be careful here, as you need to have enough free memory to store all of these apps. You can check our our ways to clear up BlackBerry memory if you want to squeeze every last bit out of your storage space.
Chances are, you’re going to need word processing and spreadsheet software in order to function mobiley. Users on BES 4.1.5 and OS 4.5 (any day now, please) can take advantage of Documents On The Go. You have to make sure your company has the premium version, though. Otherwise you won’t be able to create new documents, which is kind of essential if you’re out of the office.
An alternative is eOffice, which works well for us BIS users. For $69.99, you have the ability to create and edit documents, attach them in emails…the whole shebang, including spell checker. It doesn’t have the capability to edit Power Point presentations like Documents On The Go, but it does allow you to view Power Point files, as well as PDFS and image files.
Even though you’re on the road, you might need to access files from your work computer or your central server from your BlackBerry. Having a document editor is great, but you’ve got to get the files from somewhere, and I’m sure your boss doesn’t appreciate you calling every 20 minutes to have someone email you a file.
For this, you can check out a service like PCMobilizr, which hooks you right up to your work computer from your BlackBerry. If you have work documents on a file server, SharePoint, or Exchange, you can access these files through Wicksoft. It integrates well with Documents On The Go and eOffice, so you’ll be able to edit the files you already have at work. Plus, you can sync your calendar and contacts. The only problem I see is that you can’t upload files back to the server. Gotta do that from home, I suppose.
Handling documents can take up a good deal of memory. If you’re dealing with a number of mobile documents, you might want to check out a program like Aerize Explorer a file zip and unzip program that also allows you to seamlessly move files and folders to and from an SD card.
From there, go nuts
Beyond those basics, you might need any number of applications to maintain your mobile lifestyle. For instance, if you need to call into meetings, you might find Ring2 Conferencing to be a useful application. You’ll also probably need at least one instant messaging program so that you can keep up with everyone cooped up in cubicles back at the office.
There are so many applications you can add to fully customize your BlackBerry virtual workstation. The only problem is the small bit of memory you’ve got with the current line of BlackBerry models. That should all change with the Bold, though, and its gig of onboard flash memory. Combine that with another eight gigs from an SD card, and you have one truly mobile workstation.
The only question left is that if you don’t see your boss for six months of the year, do you still have to send him a Christmas card?