So you went ahead and got yourself a fancy new BlackBerry Z10? The new mobile OS is certainly quite different compared to what we’ve used to, and impresses with its fluid performance, gesture-based user interface and a smorgasbord of new tricks. The interface does have a bit of a learning curve, but once you’ve figured it out, the gestures soon become second nature and might just have you swiping on any other smartphone you handle.

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Once you’re past the novelty aspect though, it’s time to delve deep in an attempt to squeeze the most out of this fancy new mobile OS. And this is exactly what this guide will help you accomplish — handholding you through BlackBerry 10’s myriad nooks and crannies for one purpose alone: converting you into a BB10 power user.

For the purpose of this guide, we’ll assume you’re already aware of the basic user interface and gestures. Also, since the Z10 is currently the only retail device running BlackBerry 10, all of these tips are applicable to that device only. However, most of these, with the probable exception of some of the keyboard tips, should theoretically work for the upcoming Q10 as well, along with other devices running the new OS and expected to arrive later this year.

General

Boot progress indicator

When the device is booting up, long press on the BlackBerry logo in the centre of the screen to display a progress indicator percentage.

Jump to a specific screen

Jump to a specific screen

Sure, the app choices are limited compared to what iOS and Android offer, but that said, BlackBerry 10 does provide a fair share. The OS lets you organize installed apps conveniently using folders, but even then, you’re bound to encounter a multitude of screens when you awaken your device from slumber each time. To jump to a specific screen, just tap on the relevant dot on the row at the bottom of the screen. You can also jump directly to the Hub and the Active Frames page from here.

Battery indicator

Battery indicator

BlackBerry 10 doesn’t provide a quick way to see the exact battery status, requiring you to dive deep into settings to take a look. Third-party battery apps like “Battery Lover” can help. Just install one of these and then minimize the app as an Active Frame to monitor remaining battery life as a percentage.

Capture a screenshot

Press the volume up and volume down keys simultaneously to capture a screenshot. The image gets saved automatically and you can access it in your image gallery or via the file manager.

Settings

Settings

The device settings pane can be accessed by swiping down from the top of the screen. While the “Settings” button takes you straight to the main device settings, “Rotation Lock” is just a toggle — letting you lock the screen orientation. The remaining four options in the drop-down settings pane are dual-purpose, acting as toggles if you tap on the icons and taking you to their respective configuration options if you tap on the text.

Prevent accidental unlocking

Prevent accidental unlocking

The Z10 can be unlocked just by swiping up from the BlackBerry logo at the bottom of the screen. However, you may want to disable this to prevent accidental unlocking. To do so, head to the device settings, choose “Display”, and then set the “Allow Gestures when Locked” option to off.

Parental controls

Parental controls

Your BB10 device comes with a handy set of parental controls built in, just in case you want to hand it over to your teen. The comprehensive list of settings can be accessed through “Security and Privacy” under device settings, and then tapping on “Parental Controls”.

App updates

App updates

To manually check for available app updates, launch BlackBerry World, and then tap on the “All” icon on bottom left, followed by “My World”. Then tap on “My Apps & Games”, and hit the three dots icon on bottom right to access the “Check for Updates” option.

Adjust call audio

Adjust call audio

To tweak call audio, open the Phone app, swipe down from the top of the screen to access settings, and then tap on “Call Audio”. You can now enable “Bass Boost” or “Treble Boost” as per your preferences.

Killing an unresponsive app

Killing an unresponsive app

Tapping on the “X” at the bottom of a minimized app closes it, but just in case you’re having trouble with a rogue app, long press on the aforementioned “X” to kill and clear the app from memory.

BlackBerry Hub

Restarting the Hub

The Hub is at the center of all proceedings on BlackBerry 10, aggregating all your messaging into one central place. In case you notice any issue with the Hub, you can easily restart it. To do this, swipe down diagonally from the top right of your phone’s screen five times in succession, and voilà, the Hub restarts.

Peek

Peek

To take a peek at the latest notification, swipe up from the bottom of the screen. This action will display unread notifications on the left of the screen. To jump straight to the Hub regardless of where you are, follow that swipe-up gesture with a swipe to the right without lifting your finger, sort of like an inverted L.

View upcoming appointments

Pull down anywhere while in the Hub to take a peek at your upcoming appointments.

Controlling Hub behavior and display

Controlling Hub behavior and display

To access Hub settings, tap on the three dots icon located at bottom left while in the Hub, and then tap on “Settings”. You can control Hub behavior from here and also add new accounts. To specify which of your configured accounts are included in the Hub, choose “Hub Management” in settings and then toggle them on or off. If you prefer conversation view for your messages, you can find this option under “Display and Actions”.

Keyboard and text input

Hiding and displaying the keyboard

Long press on the space bar or swipe down using two fingers on the keyboard to hide it. Similarly, a two-finger swipe up from the bottom of the screen reveals the keyboard.

Keyboard shortcuts

To delete a word immediately to the left of the cursor, swipe left on the keyboard. Swiping down from the top of the keyboard cycles through alphabets, numbers and characters. Double tapping the space bar generates a full stop and a space, while long pressing keys will display available extended characters.

Spellings and dictionary

Spellings and dictionary

To correct a misspelled word, tap on the red-underlined word and choose the appropriate option from the menu that pops up. You can use the same menu to add a word into your personal dictionary. To add or remove words from the personal dictionary manually, tap on settings after swiping down on any home screen, choose “Language and Input”, scroll down to “Spell Check” and tap on it. You’ll now see the button to edit your personal dictionary.

Word substitution

Word substitution

To create a custom word substitution list, choose “Automated Assistance” from within Language and Input settings, and then tap on “Word Substitution”. Here you can toggle this function on or off, modify the default word substitution list, and also add your own by tapping on “Add Shortcut” at the bottom.

Word prediction

Word prediction

One of the neat features boasted by BlackBerry 10’s virtual keyboard is word predictions that appear right on the keys. However, if you prefer something more conventional, you can set it so the word suggestions appear on top of the keyboard in a separate, single row. To do this, dive into settings, choose “Language and Input”, then tap on “On-screen Keyboard” and select “In-Column” from the Text Prediction Display settings. This option is available as two different settings — letting you specify your preferences separately for portrait and landscape modes.

Email

Attaching a file

Attaching a file

To attach a file to your email, you’ll need to hide the keyboard in the compose window first. To do this, long press on the space bar or swipe down using two fingers on the keyboard. You’ll then see the “Attach” button at the bottom.

Formatting your emails

Formatting your emails

Similar to the above, you’ll need to hide the keyboard in the email compose window to find the format key. This lets you change the font style and color, add bullets and numbering, etc.

Note: The “Attach” and “Format” options can also be found in the menu by tapping the three dots icon, along with an option to add a BCC recipient to your email.

Contacts

Marking favorite contacts

Marking favorite contacts

For easy accessibility, you can mark commonly-used contacts as favorites. For this, go to the Contacts app, open the contact you want to mark as favorite, and then locate the “Add to Favorites” option in the context menu that pops up when you tap on the three dots at bottom right. Favorite contacts are listed at the top of your contacts list.

Adding speed dials

To add speed dials, long press the desired contact from your call list, and choose “Add Speed Dial” from the action menu that appears on the right.

Filter contacts by account

Filter contacts by account

To specify which accounts feed contacts into your Contacts app, open it and access its settings by swiping down from the top of the screen. Now you can see a list of your configured accounts and you can toggle them on or off as desired.

View contacts by account

View contacts by account

To view contacts from a specific account, tap on “All” at bottom left or swipe from left to right while in the Contacts app. Now you can choose the account you wish to see contacts from.

View social updates from contacts

View social updates

Under contacts settings, you’ll also find an option to “Find More Contact Details”. Enable this to view social updates from contacts under the corresponding Updates tab.

Browser

Enable Flash

Enable Flash

The native BlackBerry 10 browser supports Flash, but it’s disabled by default. To enable it, open the browser and choose “Settings” from the menu after tapping on the three dots icon. The required setting can be found under “Display and Actions”.

Changing the default search engine

Changing the default search engine

Type your search query directly into the URL bar and hit “Go” on the keyboard to display search results. You can change the search engine by tapping on the icon on the top right. Choose from Bing, Google or Yahoo from the drop-down that appears.

Enable private browsing

Enable private browsing

Just in case you want to cover your tracks, you can enable private browsing mode in the browser. Head to the browser settings and locate the corresponding option under “Privacy and Security”.

Gmail web app

Gmail web app

BB10 is quite adept at managing email (it’s a BlackBerry after all), but some Gmail users may miss specific functionality such as label support. Well, Google has just updated its Gmail mobile web app and it may be just what you need. To use it, you’ll have to sign in to your Gmail account using the native browser on your BlackBerry 10 device (remember to keep the “Stay signed in” option checked), click on the overflow (three dots) icon on bottom right, and then choose “Add to Home Screen.” You can create home screen shortcuts to any of your favorite websites using the same technique.

Camera

Access the camera from the lock screen

To quickly access the camera from the lock screen, long press on the camera icon till it starts.

Using volume buttons to take pictures

There’s no dedicated hardware button, or even a software shutter key to capture pictures — you can shoot just by tapping on the screen while in the camera app. In case you’re not a fan of this method, you can also use either volume key to click snaps.

Focus indicators

Wait for the onscreen focus indicators to turn green to make sure you get sharp pictures. You can also move the focus indicators with your finger to change the point of focus.

Pinch to zoom

You can use the standard pinch-to-zoom gesture to zoom in and out while in the camera viewfinder mode.

Get a quick preview of your last captured shot

To get a peek at your last captured shot (or the last one in your camera album), drag the thumbnail in the camera interface. The image enlarges as you drag, and you return to viewfinder mode as soon as you release your finger.

Wrap-up

The above is by no means a comprehensive list. However, if you master these, you can safely consider yourself a BlackBerry 10 power user — which is what we set out to do in the first place. If you do find a worthy tip that we haven’t listed, do let us know. We’re sure upcoming OS updates will bring in even more features and improvements, so keep watching this space for more!


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Ex-Contributing Editor

Tinkerer and lover of all things gadgety, Deepak has been covering personal technology and reviewing gizmos for almost fourteen years. After stints at Digit Magazine, T3 India and Engadget, he's now trying to carve a corner for himself on the interwebs. Smartphones and tablets are his favorite toys and he's played with most platforms out there to stretch them to their limits and figure out what they can really do.