If you're one of the millions of mobile businesspersons who use -- and rely upon -- a BlackBerry smartphone from Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion (RIM), you might not be getting the most out of your handheld device.

Oh sure, you take advantage of its reliable "push e-mail," phone, document viewing and perhaps GPS functionality, but there are a handful of keyboard shortcuts and other assorted tips that can help save you time and aggravation.

“When you think about the fact that people often use their BlackBerry for brief and intermittent tasks throughout the day, it’s easy to understand why they want it to be super-intuitive -- after all, technology should make your life simpler,” says Mark Guibert, vice president of corporate marketing at RIM. “Some of the most commonly used BlackBerry shortcuts are the ones that make it easier to type messages faster or help you find information quicker.”

Richard Shim, research manager for personal computing at IDC, a Framingham, Mass.-based market research firm, says BlackBerrys are productivity tools, and anything you can do to enhance productivity is a benefit to the user. “Navigation, for example, is important on a device with a small screen, so shortcuts that help you navigate easier are a plus.” “Similarly, e-mail on small keyboard could also be a challenge so any shortcut you can build in is a bonus.”

The following are a few good shortcuts to consider. Unless otherwise specified, these tips should work with all newer BlackBerry models (8700, 8800 series) but might also work with older handsets, too. When in doubt, check your handset's documentation or RIM's website.

Easily lock the BlackBerry

How many times has your BlackBerry accidentally called someone when slipped into your pocket or purse (or worse, at 1 a.m.)? While we'd still like to see an iPod-like switch on top of the BlackBerry to lock its keyboard, try this as a next-best-thing. A small Stand-By button lies at the top of the handset (near the power button). It might look like a speaker with a slash through it. Hold it down for a second and it will say "Entering Standby Mode," and your screen will go dark. Essentially this locks your keyboard until you press the Stand-By button again, and yes you will still get incoming phone calls and e-mails.

Speed dial

If there's a business contact, family member, or friend you call regularly, you can assign them a speed-dial letter, which is a breeze to use. On QWERTY- and SureType-based BlackBerrys, simply hold down a button from the main screen, such as F, and you will see a pop-up window that says "Assign a Speed Dial to the F key?" After you select "Yes," it opens your address book to select the contact you wish to assign to that letter (such as home for "H"). If you want to call into your voice mail, the fastest way to do it is to hold down the 1 key.

E-mail reading shortcuts

Navigating through all your e-mail can be a time-consuming process. Ever stepped off a long flight, turned your BlackBerry on, and found 75 messages in your inbox? Here are a few cool shortcuts:

  • When inside an e-mail, click the N button to go to the "next" message. This is much faster than exiting the e-mail and then scrolling down to open the next one. Press the P button to go to the "previous" e-mail.
  • To jump down a page in a long e-mail, press the Space (spacebar) button. To move up a page, press Shift button and the spacebar at any time. If you're at the end of a lengthy message and want to quickly go back to the top -- don't scroll all the way up -- instead press the T button to move your cursor back to the "top" of the screen.
  • When reading an e-mail, reply to the message quickly by pressing the R key, reply to all by pressing the L or forward the message by pressing the F key.

Faster e-mail addresses

If you're manually typing in an email address -- such as one that's being read to you over the phone -- you don't need to enter the symbols area to type "@" and "." as in mary@smith.com. Instead, when typing an e-mail address into the To, Cc or Bcc field, simply press the spacebar where the "@" and "." symbols should go and your BlackBerry will automatically place those common symbol there. On a related note, anytime you want to type a period when drafting an e-mail, you can do it quicker but tapping the spacebar twice.

Switch between applications quickly

“One of my favorites is the ALT-ESCAPE shortcut for switching applications,” adds RIM’s Guibert. “Try sharing that shortcut with a BlackBerry user for the first time and you’ll gain a friend for life."

Delete e-mails quickly

You've got an inbox full of read messages on your BlackBerry, dating back a week or two. Time for some spring cleaning? There's a speedy way to do this opposed to clicking on the first e-mail message, holding down the Shift button, and then scrolling to the last one in order to highlight them all. Instead, select a date field, visible in between your emails, such as "Sun, Jan 27, 2008" and then choose the option to "Delete Prior." As you might guess, all e-mails sent prior to this date will be deleted from the BlackBerry.