Blackberry home
Built-in programs
Add-on programs

Desktop integration (sync)

As I run Windows as little as possible, this was a bit trickier. My daily machine is a Mac powerbook, so I had to do some digging. I found PocketMac for Blackberry, which does almost everything you'll need. The only thing it lacks is an application loader. In the RIM world (pardon the Sci-fi reference), the sync code is different than the program that loads programs onto the handheld. PocketMac only solves the former; their tech support assures me that a loader is in the works but no ETA is available. I had to borrow a Windows box, load the RIM desktop softare, and load code from there.

Also, early versions of the pocketmac software had data corruption bugs that bit me. This is rather annoying since:

  1. The version sent to me at purchase was both outdated and known-buggy
  2. Tech support didn't answer my anguished emails, even though the fix was already released.
I ended up hand-editing the ics files in ~/Library/Calendars, but I'm still pissed at PocketMac. Having said that, the bugfixed versions seem to be stable now.

PocketMac syncs to iCal, and as of version 3.083 or so, it now handles cross time-zone events correctly.

If you run Windows, none of this is an issue. If you run Linux, I know of no sync software.

Note that I tried the RIM desktop software in emulation, Virtual PC 6.1 under OSX 10.3.5. No joy - Googling revealed that no one has made this work. I would suspect the same to be true of VMWare on Linux.

I've still got major problems with PocketMac - incorrect syncs, duplicate data, misleading dialog boxes. At the moment its my only solution, but I'm looking for something better. Hand-editing iCalendar files is lame.

Another sync solution

Looks like Epicad is introducing SyncAgain as a competitor to PocketMac. Only for BES users as of 1/7/05, but worth keeping an eye one.

Third party software

In general, software is much more scarce for Blackberry than for Palm. You can get the SDK, but installed apps require an signing, and that costs $100/year from RIM. Personally, I see this as a pointless barrier to entry to amateur programmers. My two cents.

Utility programs

Berry 411

The most useful app I've found so far is called Berry 411. It lets you search Google (though the display of the results is lousy, since it uses the Nextel browser), yellow and white pages, and movies. All of this is based on 3 predefined locations: Work, Home, and Other.

This rocks. Wonderful for travel. I use to find stores, coffee, movie listings, and restaurants. You can even call phone numbers by clicking on them in the web page.

Charityware, and a must-have.


BBtoday is a really handy program for OS4. It's simply a startup screen showing the date, battery and signal strength, message count, to-do items for today, weather, and the daily schedule. Free, donate if you like it. Highly recommended.


To me, one of the most important apps on my Palm is called Strip, which is a great freeware program to store passwords, PIN codes and such in an encrypted database. I have too many passwords to remember, and this means I don't worry if the handheld gets lost, stolen or misplaced. In the Blackberry world, the replacement I found is called CryptMagic. Twenty bucks, almost as good as strip. As of version 2, it has categories and is sped up considerably. Not great, but workable.

Alternately, V4 of the OS now contains Password Keeper, which is free and will probably eat CryptMagic's lunch.

TaskPad Pro

I went looking for a to-list replacement with categories and found TaskPad Pro. Ten bucks. Also includes a free web interface, where you can log onto a website and enter or change items. This is nice, because the Blackberry program is very hard to use. It does have categories, and a self-contained sync with the website. Still evaluating this one. Unfortunately, it won't sync with PocketMac or iCal, so I may end up not using it.

After updating to OS4, I'd say skip TaskPad - the improved task list suffices.


Given the walled garden of the Nextel web, this is a nice find. It's a wide-open web browser called WebViewer. Forty bucks, limited time trial available. Seems to work well, not fast due to the Nextel network. I've exhausted the trial offer and am considering buying it; $40 just seems a little steep. As far as I can tell, this is the only such product in this category, which may explain the cost.

Note that you do not need WebViewer if you have a BES with MDS capability and a carrier that provisions you to use it. More on the data page.

Idokorro Mobile SSH

Yep, it's not a real geek toy without SSH. I got spoiled by TuSSH on the UX50; that enabled 80x25 SSH for free. Mobile SSH is a solution to the telnet/ssh problem, at a cost. The lower display resolution of the Blackberry limits its usefulness, and the $200 price tag puts it out of range for all but serious-use types. The trial allows 20 connections, so I'm hoarding those for really bad situations.


With OS4 and its MIDP/2.0 support, we now have the less-spiffy but better-priced MIDPSSH. Free is a good price, wouldn't you agree? Works on some Java-based cell phones, too.


We're looking into one-time-password solutions, and a big player in that field is SecurID. Normally, they give you a small widget for this, but there are also software-based solutions for Palm and, you guessed it, Blackberry. I may be checking this out if we go this route. Note that this is free software.


Still need to look into this. There is, of course, DopeWars, though I haven't tried it yet.

Instant Messenger

I decided to try instant messenger apps, and ended glad that I did so. After reading and googling, I tried VeriChat and IM+ for Blackberry. Both function, but VeriChat wins hands-down. Easier to use, looks like desktop software, clean and usable interface, very nice. IM+ has this utterly counterintuitive interface that has to be experienced; it blows.

Both handle multiple networks (MSN, AOL, ICQ, Yahoo); I only use MSN and AOL. After trying both, I went ahead and bought VeriChat (25 + 20/year, not cheap).

One huge problem that I'm having with Verichat is actually a known bug on Nextel Blackberries - after a while, it gets an error whenever you try to open a TCP/IP connection. Since IM opens lots of connections, running Verichat guarantees that you'll have to reboot your phone at least daily. This sucks bigtime, and has basically stopped me running it for now.

Update 1/5/05

AOL was fixed; I had typo'd the password. D'oh!


For an RSS newsreader, the only one I've been able to find is NewsBerry, $9 until 11/7/04, $20 thereafter. Testing it now, seems to work.

Buggy. Try Bloglines Mobile instead.