BlackBerry Storm Tutorial: Typing, Part 1

Typing_drill_brief_aniTyping on the BlackBerry Storm touchscreen (clickscreen) can be frustrating unless you’re willing to practice and improve your skills.

If you ever learned to touch type on a computer keyboard (or old-fashioned typewriter), you know that investment in your time paid off handsomely.

Well, why not invest some time in becoming an efficient (and happy) typist on your Storm?

Part 1 of this multipart tutorial covers:

  • BlackBerry Storm keyboard types
  • How to hold your BlackBerry Storm while typing
  • How to touch and click while typing
  • A beginning typing drill

BlackBerry Storm Orientations (Views) and Keyboard Types

The BlackBerry Storm can be held in two basic orientations, or views: Portrait and Landscape.


Storm_LandscapeView The portrait view (left) is normally held with the front-panel keys at the bottom.

The landscape view (right), however, might be held with the front-panel keys at the left or the right–probably depending on whether you’re left- or right-handed.




The portrait view allows for two styles of keyboard: SureType (below left) and MultiTap (below right).

SureType_keyboard MultiTap_keyboard











The landscape view allows only the full QWERTY keyboard, shown below:QWERTY_keyboard

In this series of tutorials, I’m going to use the landscape view–and therefore the full QWERTY keyboard.

And since I’m right-handed, I’ll have the front-panel keys on the right side. If you’re left-handed, you’ve already lived a lifetime of having to adapt in a right-handed world, so I know you’ll have no problem making the mental conversion.

If you want to use the portrait view for typing, these drills should still be helpful.

Holding Your BlackBerry Storm While Typing

Ultimately, you’ll have to find a way to hold your Storm that works for you–much like we all hold pens and pencils somewhat differently from each other. But here are some important points to consider as you experiment to find your favorite hold:

  • Your hold must be secure–enough to keep from dropping your Storm.
  • Your thumbs should do the typing.
  • Your thumbs must be free to reach one half (the closer one) of the keyboard.
  • One thumb (the closer one) should be used to press the front-panel keys.
  • The left thumb should be used to press the lower-side convenience key (not necessarily for typing per se).
  • The right index finger should be used to press the upper-side convenience key (not necessarily for typing per se).

Relaxed Hold

The Storm should be held in a relaxed but secure manner. I use my index and ring fingers to gently squeeze the upper and lower edges of the Storm body. I keep my thumbs floating above the lower half of the screen where I can easily scroll the screen or touch/click the keyboard.


Thumbs in Typing Positions

It’s been recognized by virtually every Storm user that you get better results if you use your left thumb to touch/click the left half of the keyboard, and the right thumb to touch/click the right half of the keyboard.

The photos in this section aren’t as illustrative as I’d like–sorry. Below is my left thumb touching a key while my right thumb floats above the screen.


Below is my right thumb touching a key while my left thumb squeezes the case.


Below is my left thumb touching a key while my right thumb squeezes the case.


Below is my right thumb touching a key while my left thumb squeezes the case.


Once you’ve settled into a hold, you won’t be thinking about your finger positions as you type.

Thumbs Selecting Text

The Storm touchscreen allows you to use both thumbs at once to select a block of text.


Thumbs on Menu Key and Menu

I use my right thumb to press the Menu key, and my left thumb to touch/click the Menu selection. (Again, left handers might want to use the reverse orientation.)


Left Thumb on Lower Convenience Key

I use my left thumb to press the lower convenience key. I’ll explain later why you might want to do that.


Right Index Finger on Upper Convenience Key

I use my right index finger to press the upper convenience key. I’ll explain later why you might want to do that.


Touching and Clicking

I remember when the first Apple Macintosh came out. I had never seen or used a computer mouse. But my Mac friend said it was so intuitive that I didn’t need any directions. Just lay my hand on the mouse and go to work. Well, I was thoroughly humiliated because it just didn’t occur to me immediately to double-click, click-and-drag, etc. Those were very creative concepts that are now second-nature to computer users, but certainly required some initial explanation. I find that RIM, Verizon, etc. have not done an adequate job explaining the Storm touchscreen interface.

Definition of Terms

Let’s start by agreeing on some terms, some of which are used incorrectly in other web reviews of the Storm. To be clear, these are my own definitions, but I’ve researched and reflected on them to make them as reliable as possible.

Touch: To simply touch, but not click, the screen. However, if you allow your touch to persist for a relatively short time, the touchscreen interprets that as something else–see the next term…

Hover: To touch the screen and remain touching the same point for a short time. How long? That is set in Options > Screen/Keyboard > Hover Period=100-1000 milliseconds (that’s 0.1 to 1.0 seconds).

Click: To press the screen with your fingertip until it “clicks,” then release the screen (it also “clicks” on the release).

Swipe: To touch then drag your finger across the screen.

Highlight: To touch an item on the screen so that it changes color (typically to a blue glow or blue color fill) and remains colored after you release your touch.

Select: To “activate” something represented on the screen by either touching, swiping, highlighting, or clicking.

Touching and Clicking the Keyboard

As simple as it sounds, I have found that it takes some experimentation and practice to become proficient at typing on the keyboard (let alone performing other touchscreen actions).

Let’s start with a brief explanation of how the Storm touchscreen works. Technically, it’s a capacitive touchscreen that is sensitive to touch–but only the touch of skin, not fingernail, stylus, pencil point or eraser, etc. (It is actually sensitive to the touch of the skin of some fruits and vegetables I tried. But I don’t recommend typing with a potato or banana.)

The thumbs seem to me to be the only practical choice of fingers with which to type on the Storm. But there’s more…how exactly to touch with the thumbs? For me, it depends. There are basically two parts of my thumb that I have chosen to touch and click with. It’s easier to show through pictures than words alone:









  • I use the edge of the tip of my thumb (the blue spot on the left photo) for more precise control, such as highlighting a key on the keyboard, or selecting a line in a screen of text.
  • I use the center of the tip of my thumb (the second blue spot on the right photo) for touching large icons, or widely-space screen items, where precise control is not needed. This is about the same part of my thumb I use to press the Menu and Escape (”real”) buttons.

Finally, Let’s Do Some Typing

I believe the best way for you to develop your techniques for holding the Storm and typing is to practice through simple, repetitive typing drills. Let’s start with the classic “quick brown fox” drill (a sentence that uses all 26 letters of the English alphabet).

Choose a hold on your Storm. I hope you’ll start with my recommended hold and only change if you find something that definitely works better for you.

Let’s use the BlackBerry MemoPad application for this drill. From the Home Screen, do: Applications > MemoPad. (You may have to swipe and scroll the Home Screen icons to locate the Applications icon. Don’t choose the Application Center icon–that’s different.)

In MemoPad, click Add Memo. You should get an empty memo area, and the QWERTY keyboard should appear (see the screenshot below at the end of this section). Click in the Title area. For Title type Quick brown fox typing drill. (Don’t worry yet about upper/lower case or subtle details yet. Let’s just do some typing that helps you discover techniques that work for you.)

Click anywhere in the empty body part of the memo area. Practice typing the “quick brown fox” phrase, over and over, taking care to type slowly, carefully, and at a constant rate. It will feel painfully slow at this early stage. And you will make lots of mistakes. Trust that it will get better.

Practice this discipline:

  • Get a get hold on your Storm, and try not to let it vary much
  • Type slowly, carefully, and at a constant rate
  • Use your left thumb for keys on the left side of the keyboard
  • Use your right thumb for keys on the right side of the keyboard
  • Correct mistakes as you make them–not worrying about speed. Slow down to minimize mistakes.
  • Type this phrase over and over:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

Here’s how your screen should look:


Keep practicing with this drill until you start feeling more comfortable with your hold and thumb-typing technique.


In Part 1 of this tutorial…

  • You looked at how to hold the Storm to make it easier to type effectively and efficiently.
  • You learned some terminology that will make future parts of this tutorial series easier to understand.
  • You looked at how you might touch and click the screen using your thumb tips.
  • You began a simple typing drill to start developing your own technique for holding and typing on your Storm.

As you discover and refine your hold and touch on your Storm, then you can begin to learn more sophisticated tips and tricks without having to be so conscious of what your fingers are doing. There’s still some hard work ahead, but you will become a proficient typist on your BlackBerry Storm before long.


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About the author

This entry was contributed by Kelly Carter
84 entries have been written by this author.

33 comments on this post

Paul says:
Dec 20, 2008 - 08:12:04

A general question: How much of your blog is written on Blackberry devices? I am hoping quite a bit, so you can give some feedback on how that works for you. Specifically, is the Pearl comparable to the Curve for that use?

Dec 21, 2008 - 04:12:41

As I responded to you via email, I don’t do ANY writing for my blog on my BlackBerry. I use the built-in WordPress WYSIWYG editor of my web site (blog), or sometimes I use Microsoft Live Writer, which allows me to work on articles offline then publish them later.

For someone who needs/wants to do intensive typing on a BlackBerry, I recommend the Curve or Bold. Which you choose depends on which your carrier offers and how much money you want to spend. Either is terrific for fast, efficient typing.

Paul says:
Dec 21, 2008 - 01:12:47

Kelly, thanks for the double response, this was my first visit here, and I was caught by surprise by your responsiveness. You really are passionate about your blog, a very good thing to be, and it is appreciated. Better information is found here than any other BB site I have seen yet. Your tutorials are top notch, maybe you can license to RIM?

Anyway, when I finally do decide/get my device, I think I will dedicate a bit of my blog to being posted by BB. I did that in France last year using an old iPaq and the free wifi at McDonalds, and it worked out OK, with some shortcomings.

john s says:
Jan 10, 2009 - 11:01:07

I was debating on returning my storm until reading this. My issues were how I held the storm.


Jan 10, 2009 - 10:01:22

john s,
Thanks for letting me know the article made a difference. I haven’t received much feedback since writing the first two tutorials.

Don F says:
Jan 13, 2009 - 05:01:39

Thanks for a great tutorial. I have had my Storm for about a month, which makes thirty days of pure frustration, particularly as I am used to a MAC and an iTouch. Although normally a touch-typist, I have been attacking the keyboard head on with a single finger, which completely covered the key for which I was aiming and resulted, more often then not, in a “t” when I had hoped for an “r.” In just a few minutes of thoughtful user-friendliness, you have improved my keyboard productivity by 2-3X with more improvement to come as I practice. I may keep this thing–and master it–yet.

Jan 13, 2009 - 05:01:25

It really means a lot to me to get that kind of feedback, since I’ve received so little feedback from readers on the helpfulness (or not) of these tutorials. That motivates me to get the rest of the tutorial (at least one more part, if not more) completed. If you learn anything you think I should share with others in the tutorial series, please let me know.

Mike W says:
Jan 22, 2009 - 03:01:09

Hi Kelly – thanks for the great tutorial. One further piece of advice if you could. I hate to say it, but I’m still just a cellphone user. I’ve been holding off getting a blackberry, waiting for the Storm. Yesterday, I had literally my first 10 minutes of experience typing on a Curve, and also on a Storm. I’ve never used one before. In 10 minutes, I was using the Curve very easily, and typing fast, almost completely error free. After 10 minutes with the Storm, I was simply frustrated. And I wanted so much to like it!

So the question: Given the distinct different first impressions I had, can I overcome this and get good at the Storm? Or is it always going to be “less” friendly than the Curve? For once I’d like to be somewhat “future capable”, and for my carrier, the Storm allows international use, where the Curve doesn’t – that’s some of the factor in my decision. I’m a businessman who travels. I’m a comfortable, fast typist on the PC. My BB use is likely to be mostly e-mails, probably seldom longer than this one.

Thanks for the tutorials – in either case, I’ll be back and looking for more!


Jan 22, 2009 - 08:01:59

You asked the right person, because you and I sound very much alike with respect to our needs in a BlackBerry. I know you would be very happy with the Curve–no doubt at all. The Storm is never going to match the Curve for its ease in typing and efficiency of use. I do LOVE the big screen of the Storm. I’ve been forcing myself to use the Storm since November 21, and I have come to like it more and more. One problem is that it’s still buggy, although that hasn’t been a serious problem for me, just a very occasional annoyance. If international use is important to you, then the Storm does offer a big advantage there.

The best advice I can leave you with is to stick it out with the Storm for a while, be patient with it, and continue practicing to get better with it. (I need to get out more tutorials!) Keep up with software upgrades. Look for 3rd-party apps that make it even more useful (hopefully you’ll learn about some here on Stay in touch and let me know how your journey is progressing.

Kristin says:
Jan 26, 2009 - 06:01:19

Hi Kelly,

Thanks for the tutorial. I’ve had my Storm for just over a week now and I’m finding it easier as I use it. Thanks for the tutorial, though and site in general.

You can “flip” the phone either left or right landscape so it’s compatible for lefties, too, although I’m mostly right.

The couple things that annoy me:
1. having to shift each time if I want to enter more than one number in a text field.
2. sometimes the “helpful” fill in isn’t so helpful. Is there a way to turn this off?
for example, I wanted to type “landy” but the storm would change it to “Mandy” Grrr.

The first night I had my storm, I wanted to throw it across the room, but the next time it was much easier and now it’s very easy. I was able to write a 3 line email to my dad on Friday without too much annoyance. It can still be frustrating, but coming from my very tiny-lettered Samsung, it’s much more convenient. And, as you say, Practice, practice, practice.


Jan 26, 2009 - 08:01:31

You’re not alone with your initial frustration with the Storm. That’s one reason I’ve been working on these tutorials: with just a little info and practice, you can overcome the frustration. I wish more Storm first-timers could get the info they need more quickly, and fewer would get returned or exchanged.

Tommy T says:
Jan 29, 2009 - 11:01:19

TY TY TY…..all of this was very helpful, as the Blackberry came with VERY limited training. Verizon (in my opinion) should do what they do at the Mac store, and have walk-in tutorials/on-line tutorials, etc.

Jan 29, 2009 - 02:01:24

I’m glad you found the tutorial(s) helpful. I’d like to do more–I just need more time!

Felix says:
Jan 31, 2009 - 03:01:59

I just have two days using the Storm after more than three 3 years using the Pearl. With that Pearl little keyboard I typed really fast. Part I and II typing tutorials have helped me a lot to clarify doubts about typing in the Storm. I am starting to enjoy the Storm. Thks so much!!!

Felix says:
Jan 31, 2009 - 03:01:50

I have another question. I believe that the iPod has a little magnigying glass feature that can help while you are typing. Does the Storm bring a feature like that? thks.

Jan 31, 2009 - 05:01:22

I still love the Pearl keyboard–you and I are alike in that. I’m glad you’re getting better with the Storm keyboard. It does take some getting used to. Thanks for the feedback.

Jan 31, 2009 - 05:01:55

The closest thing I know of on the Storm to the iPhone magnifying glass is this: As I described in the typing tutorial #2, you can touch the screen, hold your finger in contact with the screen for a moment, and you’ll see the cursor change to a hollow box. You can now slide your finger to move the hollow box to where your spelling error is, then you can fix it. It takes practice, but that technique is useful. Maybe in a future Storm OS release, they’ll adopt something more like the iPhone magnifying glass. I haven’t used that on the iPhone to know how well it works.

Joe says:
Mar 5, 2009 - 05:03:03

Very helpful tutorial. i just made a huge transition from a flip phone to this monster (had to do it for work; they are forcing me into the 2000’s kicking and screaming, lol). Your tutorial made it much easier. Any more help you can give will be greatly appreciated.

Mar 5, 2009 - 09:03:21

I’ve gotten sidetracked from my Storm tutorials. You might get quicker help if you just ask specific questions. I’m glad to help if/when I can. Thanks for the feedback and kind words.

Cin says:
Mar 6, 2009 - 02:03:15

Thanks so much for all your work. I have had my Storm since they came out in December and I love it except for a few quirks that i was hoping they had done something about with the upgrade but noooo.

So maybe you know a trick that I have not found yet. When typing a phone number in a message or entering address in forms I there anyway to put the number lock on?

It always goes back to letters requiring me to switch for EVERY character I need that is numeric.

An ABSOLUTE MUST for the Storm is TalkLoc. The phone isn’t worth talking on without it.
Also on my 3rd Storm as people just Love to steal them. I just installed Roblock on my phone. Will let you know how it does although I hope I don’t loose another one as the insurance is done replacing them for another year ;(.
At 9.95 for Roblock I am making the investment before this one walks out the door.

Keep up the good work. Your tutorials are great and very thorough.

Mar 6, 2009 - 04:03:12

I think it’s covered in one of my tutorials, but to get number lock, click and hold the key labeled !?123 for a moment, and you’ll see a little lock symbol appear on the key, and the number keyboard will appear. It will stay in that number lock till you click the !?123 key again. It works great.

I don’t know about TalkLoc, so I’ll have to look into that. Thanks for the recommendation.

Sorry your Storms are getting stolen–that’s ridiculous.

Stacey says:
Apr 5, 2009 - 11:04:27


I had my Storm setup with the multitap keyboard in portrait mode, but it was doing a sort of predictive text with the 12 keys. I accidently hit enable multitap while I was in blackberry messenger and now I can’t figure out how to get it back! I can get to the suretype setup but I hate that. So I was wondering if you know how to get back the suretype technology in the multitap setup. It was ideal for sending texts in portrait mode.


Apr 6, 2009 - 10:04:43

From the Home Screen, do Options > Screen/Keyboard, and change the setting for Portrait View Keyboard. That should do it.

Tom OC CA says:
Apr 9, 2009 - 03:04:57

Hello Kelly just finished your tutorial. I have had m
my B
B storm for 2weeks and looking forward to
the second section. I switched from a flip phone where testing was difficult using the
numeric keys with the old fashion letter assignments.
Since I never used a keyboard button phone so I think the touch screen is terrific.
Being a guy the touchscreen is easy use since I do not have
fake nails as my wife cannot make the touchscreen work at all.
I guess it is poetic justice since women talk faster and men are more visually stimulated. Way 2 go BB.
I cannot wait for your tutorial on manipulating this response screen on the BB storm.

Tom OC CA says:
Apr 9, 2009 - 03:04:59

I am in California. And Doing both replies from my BB storm.

Apr 9, 2009 - 03:04:28

Enjoyed your responses above.

sarah says:
Apr 21, 2009 - 11:04:40

I just have a quick question? I have the storm And I’m pretty good at the typing,love it to death with all the features. But why does mine freeze whenever I use the video camera? I have to keep popping the battery out. The storm is very durable as I already dropped it 3 times and got water damage (it slowly came back to life). But now my phone is as good as new, just that it freezes on me. It has been doing that since I got it.

Apr 26, 2009 - 07:04:10

I think it’s a bug in the Storm OS. I’ve seen it, too. Reportedly, Verizon will be releasing an upgrade to the OS that fixes many problems. I’ve been playing with an unofficial release of it and it does fix many things. However, I think I’m still seeing problems with the video camera (I don’t use it a lot, so I can’t say much with authority). Try hanging on till a new OS is released.

Shirlie says:
Aug 12, 2009 - 04:08:16

Thank you so much for posting this!! I just got my storm yesterday and was seriously going to return it. Your tutorial helped me alot!!

Aug 12, 2009 - 05:08:08

Thanks for the feedback. You’re not the first to leave that kind of comment at the Storm.

sonya says:
Aug 19, 2009 - 12:08:02

i dont want my storm to put a period EVERY time i space TWO times…..i want to be able to space without it automatically putting a period just because it thinks i typed a sentence… do i get it to not AUTOMATICALLY put a period???

Aug 19, 2009 - 09:08:37

As far as I know you can’t turn off that automatic feature. One way you can “undo” the conversion of two spaces into a period, or “undo” the capitalization of a letter, or “undo” an autocorrection is to backspace right after it happens, then re-type the space or letter and it will do what you want. To prevent two (or multiple) spaces from automatically creating a period, press (don’t hold) the shift key each time before pressing the next space key. It will only type a space. Once you quit preceding a space with a shift, it will put a period at the end of the last sentence.

I see from your typed question you don’t like capitalizing the first word of a sentence, or your name, or the letter “I.” Whatever makes you happy. But the BlackBerry is simply following the rules of English. It’s not trying to make you look “not cool.” It would even have fixed your misspelling “capitilize” (to be “capitalize”). If you let your BlackBerry do the work for you, it can actually help your writing be and look better. It’s a “smartphone,” so it does smart things. It’s not perfect, but it can help.

Anyhow, I hope my tips are OK for you.

Satish says:
Sep 7, 2009 - 08:09:59

Two problems with my BlackBerry Storm:

1. I am just not able to retain the Multitap option in ‘portrait view’. Soeach time I need to find a contact in my Address Book I have to scroll from top to bottom. I just don’t like SureType but each time I set ‘MultiTap’ and ‘Save’ it…it goes right back.

2. Is there a simple way I can ‘Add’ a phone number of an incoming call or text message to a person’s profile if it already exists in my Contact List? The only way seems to be: write doen on a piece of paper and the Edit Contact Details….

New Delhi, India

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