BlackBerry Storm Tutorial: Typing, Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at very basic skills of holding the Storm, and touching and clicking the screen. Through a simple typing drill, we hopefully found our “feel” for typing on the Storm. Real-world typing requires a few more skills that we need to master, including:

  • Switching between letters, numbers, and symbols
  • Capitalizing, typing alternate characters
  • Detecting and correcting spelling errors

Convenience Keys

In Part 1, I promised to revisit how you can set your Left and Right Convenience Keys in a way that you might find helpful. You may already have preferences for these settings that work better for you, but I still want to share what I find useful:

  • Left Convenience Key: Application Switcher
  • Right Convenience Key: Virtual Keyboard (or more descriptively, Keyboard Show/Hide)

To change the convenience key settings, do Options > Screen/Keyboard.


The left convenience key setting is something I recommend for all BlackBerry models, and not just typing convenience. By default, it is set to Voice Dialing. The problem with that setting is that it’s so easy to accidentally trigger it when you’re handling the phone.

Another reason I recommend this setting is this: When typing on a BlackBerry, you are likely composing a message or a document to send to one of your contacts. When doing that, it is common that you might need to frequently visit another application (”app”) to temporarily switch to another message or document, a web page, your Address Book, etc. to get some information you need for the message you’re composing. The Application Switcher lets you do that (switch to an app already open, or switch to the Home Screen to open any app you need).

The animation below shows how the convenience key can be used to show/hide the Application Switcher.


The right convenience key recommendation to Show/Hide Keyboard is definitely intended for the convenience of typing. As you may have learned already, the keyboard sometimes pops up at times the BlackBerry “thinks” you need it. Usually, it’s correct; sometimes it’s not. When the keyboard is shown, you can’t see but a fraction of the screen, so sometimes you want to hide the keyboard for better visibility. And when you’re ready to get back to typing, you’re a single button push away from regaining the keyboard. (Yes, sometimes there is an icon on the screen that requires only one click, but other times you have to use the Menu key, which is slower.)

The animation below shows how the convenience key can be used to show/hide the Virtual Keyboard.


Now might be a good time to refer back to Part 1 of this tutorial series to try out the convenience key settings to see if you find them as useful as I do.

Keyboard Modes: Letters, Numbers, Symbols

The keyboard has three modes. In Letters mode, you get the full-QWERTY keyboard. In the Numbers (activated by the !?123 key) mode, you get digits and several punctuation marks and special characters. In Symbols (activated by the sym key) mode, you get a number of special characters.

The animation below shows the three keyboard modes.


Keyboard Locks

NumbersLock You can lock the keyboard in Numbers mode (NumLock) by clicking and holding the !?123 key. Note the small lock icon that appears at the top left corner of the key. Clicking the key again releases the lock.


ShiftLock You can lock the Letters keyboard in Upper Case (CapsLock) by clicking and holding the aA^ key.


Capitalization, Upper Case

A letter can by capitalized by first pressing the shift (aA^) key then the letter key. Or, simply by clicking and holding down the letter key until it is automatically capitalized (as illustrated in the animated screenshot below)


Alternate Characters

Some letters have alternate characters. Touch (don’t click) and hold the touch on a key. If the letter has alternate characters (not all do), a list of them will appear for you to select from.


End Sentence with a Period using Space

A quick way to end a sentence is to click the Space key twice. This will generate a period and a space to separate sentences. This is a must-know trick–learn it!

Spelling Errors

Inevitably, we all make spelling errors and need to know how the Storm can help us with that.

First, you must know that the Storm has two built-in dictionaries:

  1. A standard (and permanent) dictionary
  2. A custom (and editable) dictionary

While you are typing, the Storm is monitoring your spelling and trying to help you. If it thinks you are about to commit a spelling error, it will warn you with a suggested correction that you can accept or ignore. In the animation below, I mistakenly type screem instead of screen. The Storm spell-checker (after consulting its two dictionaries) suggests the correct spelling, and I click the suggestion to accept it:


Spelling errors are indicated by a word being underlined with a dashed line. If you click the word (don’t try to touch/select it–just click right on the word), the Storm will suggest all words it “thinks” could be correct choices:


Be aware that the Storm can be set to auto-correct (default option), and it may occasionally “backfire” and cause problems. You will have to decide for yourself which Spell Check options (under Options > Spell Check) you want:


If the spell checker overrides your spelling and changes it, simply click Backspace and your original spelling will be restored.

Custom Dictionary

The Custom Dictionary comes empty when your Storm is new. Over time, you’ll want to add words to it. The animation below shows an especially difficult-to-type word being added to the dictionary:


In the animation above, the spell-checker did not recognize the word, so suggested a couple of spellings. Instead, I pressed the Menu key and selected Add To Dictionary. The Custom Dictionary is found by doing Options > Spell Check.

Cursor Control

Whether you need to correct errors or simply want to revise your text, you need to know how to move the cursor around inside the message you’re typing.

You’re going to like this trick!

In the animation below, there is a misspelling of the word brown as briwn. Note that initially the cursor is a solid blue-filled rectangle. You can touch the screen somewhere and hold the touch for a moment. After a brief delay, the rectangle changes from solid blue to empty (no color fill). Don’t lift your finger yet! The empty rectangle indicates that the cursor can be dragged by sliding your finger across the screen.

In the animation…

  1. The cursor is dragged down then to the right (you can drag along any path you wish)
  2. The finger is lifted (the rectangle returns to having a blue fill)
  3. The keyboard is brought up (by you–using convenience key, icon, or Menu key)
  4. The backspace key is used to delete the “i”
  5. The “o” key is clicked to correct the misspelling



In Part 2 of this tutorial..

  • You learned some options on how to set your convenience keys that might help during typing.
  • You learned about keyboard modes: letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • You learned about keyboard locks.
  • You learned an easy way to capitalize, end sentences with a period, and type alternate characters.
  • You learned how to correct spelling errors, and to move the cursor around to make changes to your message.

There’s still more to learn, but you’re making great progress.


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About the author

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

53 comments on this post

Lyena S says:
Dec 24, 2008 - 01:12:07

If you press and hold the menu key, application switcher opens.

Dec 25, 2008 - 06:12:46

You’re right! I will have to re-think my recommendation on that convenience key setting, at least for the Storm. Since I’ve “trained” myself to use that key on my other BlackBerry models, it still “feels” like the thing to do. But perhaps there is a better use for that key. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

Graham G says:
Jan 4, 2009 - 09:01:09

Thanks for the great tips, especially the cursor control.
You can also call up the keyboard by swiping the screen from the tool bar at the bottom upwards toward the center of the screen. Swipe down from the top of the keyboard to get rid of it.

Jan 4, 2009 - 09:01:38

I’ve been meaning to add those tips, probably to the not-yet-finished Part 3. Thanks for sharing those tips for readers in advance.

mandy says:
Jan 5, 2009 - 10:01:06

hi, i have a whit diagonal arrow at the top right corner of my screen, any ideas what it means, i have not noticed it before?

thank you.


Ryan says:
Jan 5, 2009 - 11:01:19

Thank you for these tutorials!!

Jan 5, 2009 - 01:01:29

Wish I could see your screen. I think you see diagonal arrow indicating data being sent/received from/to your BlackBerry. If it’s stuck like that, I’m not sure what that means. Try resetting your phone by pulling the battery: remove it, wait, replace it, wait. See if that clears it up. If not, you should contact your carrier’s customer support. It may be something they have to resolve.

Jan 5, 2009 - 01:01:53

Thanks for the feedback. I wasn’t sure if anyone was reading them or cared.

Chad says:
Jan 12, 2009 - 11:01:01

Here is a question I have that I cannot figure out since I’ve had my storm while typing. Say I have a misspelled word at the end of a sentence and I click the space bar to accept the suggestion my BB gives me. The problem lies placing a punctuation mark at the end of that sentence…when I backspace to do this the word goes back to the incorrect spelling. Any idea how to fix this? If so maybe this could be added into one of your great BB Storm typing tutorials.

Jan 12, 2009 - 09:01:16

I can’t find a way to stop the backspace from reverting to the wrong spelling. So, instead of using the “space bar” to accept the suggested spelling, highlight the spelling you want and click the screen. That will allow you to follow with a punctuation mark.

Chad says:
Jan 12, 2009 - 09:01:13

Thanks! Can’t wait for the third installment.

Todd says:
Jan 14, 2009 - 03:01:57

most helpful information about typing on the Storm I have seen. I improved my ability to type dramatically. i especially like the cursor tip. Can’t wait for the next installment. Thanks for all the great work.

Jan 14, 2009 - 07:01:08

Thanks for the feedback. Glad you found the article helpful.

Grant says:
Jan 14, 2009 - 09:01:10

i have consistent trouble typing ” have “. it almost always comes up as ” Gabriel “…any ideas ?

Jan 15, 2009 - 07:01:01

I’m assuming this happens when you’re using the full-QWERTY keyboard, not when using the SureType keyboard. I’d have to watch to know for sure, but my guess is that you’re pressing some wrong keys (e.g., G instead of H on the first key). Not that my way of doing things is the best way or only way, but one way to has proved to be reasonably good–but practice again what I recommended for holding, touching, clicking, etc. Make sure you mentally divide the keyboard into a right and left half, and use the corresponding thumb for each half of the keyboard. I find that if I accidentally reach over the half-way point with a thumb, I get the wrong key almost every time, even though it appears my thumb is mostly over the correct key. The lower edge of my thumb (almost at the knuckle) seems to touch the wrong key before the tip of my thumb gets to the desired key.

Now, if you’re using SureType–which is an excellent keyboard and typing technology, but not what I covered in my article–then it’s a different story. Try typing “have” several times in a row (making sure you backspace if necessary to force it to be correct). At least on the Pearl, that would force SureType to move that spelling up in the priority list to cause it to be recommended the next time, in this case instead of “Gabriel.”

If I’ve missed something, please return and give me a little more detail of what you observe when “have” becomes “Gabriel.” I’ll try to give you better advice if you can clarify for me what’s happening.

Thanks for reading the article and asking a question.

ali says:
Jan 24, 2009 - 11:01:26

This was great. I have had my Storm for three days now, and on day one, I wanted to return it — it felt clumsy and is quite “user unfriendly”. When I searched for how to write a Memo, it told me to open the memo folder and click add memo. Of course, I couldn’t find the memo folder, until I read your article, and even found that there are two application folders and that one has to scroll up. The typing tutorials are great too. My only concern is on losing the Voice Dial button, since that is a good thing to have on a quick button while driving. Thanks again, Ali

Jan 25, 2009 - 01:01:49

You don’t have to change the left convenience key and lose voice dialing. I later discovered you can hold the Menu key and get the Application Switcher. That’s even better than my original idea (which really dates back to the my Pearl days).

Kristin says:
Jan 26, 2009 - 06:01:12


I didn’t see a link to this page from the Tutorial #1 page and you’ve answered my questions quite succinctly.

Thanks for your help and will bookmark this site on my storm so I can refer to it as needed!

Thanks a bunch! Kristin

Jan 26, 2009 - 08:01:42

Glad you found the info you needed. Please do return. Suggestions for new articles are always welcome. Questions are always welcome.

Mike says:
Feb 2, 2009 - 01:02:33

WOW! Thanks for that curser control lesson. That was the one deal breaker for me as I was almost ready to return my Storm until I found your lesson. Great work and please give us the Third, Forth, and …… lessons.
I would like to see some selection tips for web browsing as I have been having problems there as well. Missing the trackball… Like selecting text that I type in a box and would like to copy and past elsewere. I do not seem to be able to highlight it accurately.

Feb 2, 2009 - 01:02:50

Thanks for the feedback. I keep meaning to add more tutorials but have either been too busy (work and personal life) or gotten seduced by other article ideas. I will redouble my efforts to add more tutorials. Suggestions like those you give me are very helpful to get me focused on the next tutorial.

Kuzz says:
Feb 2, 2009 - 09:02:45

I am still struggling with the click and drag feature to correct. is there a feature i need to unlock on the phone? I click a point on the screen and hold it for a sec or two or three..and i’m not getting the solid square going to a empty square. not sure, thanks for you help

Feb 2, 2009 - 11:02:10

It sounds like you’re saying you CLICK and hold. You should TOUCH and hold. By touch I mean lightly touch and don’t push, don’t click. Just touch and hold that touch until the cursor changes to an empty box. Please try again–it should work.

Ron Barr says:
Feb 11, 2009 - 12:02:29

Do you have any clarification on the effects of the various screen/keyboard settings. i.e. Tap Interval…Hover Period etc. have on the phone and it’s responsivness?

Feb 12, 2009 - 07:02:41

It would be good for me to add an explanation of those settings in my next tutorial. I’ve been sidetracked on other articles and personal stuff to complete the next part of the Storm Tutorial series–sorry. But here’s a tidbit: The tap interval setting is much like the double-click interval for your computer’s mouse. It determines how quickly or slowly you want to double-tap the screen. In the web browser, the double-tap zooms in to the screen for better readability. The Hover Period setting determines how long you want to maintain a touch on the screen. In Part 2, I describe how you can move the cursor around for editing text by “hovering” until the cursor changes to an empty rectangle, then sliding your finger on the screen to move the cursor. How long you wait for the cursor to change is the Hover Period.

Jeff says:
Feb 14, 2009 - 09:02:04

Excellent tutorial. Looking forward to part 3. I was considering returning my storm because of my frustration with typing on it. I love everything else about it, but my error rate was very high. With your tips I’ve improved and will continue practicing, hopefully to an effective level.

I have bookmarked your site and am waiting for part 3! Thanks Kelly

Feb 15, 2009 - 04:02:00

I’m delighted that my tutorial(s) have convinced you to not return your Storm. I, too, have experienced frustration with it. I still prefer a non-touchscreen interface (for now), yet I love the larger screen that it enables. I promise I’ll try harder to get Part 3 finished. I either get too busy or sidetracked.

Gonzalo says:
Feb 15, 2009 - 01:02:32

thank you Kelly, great tutorial.

what i would like to know is if i can avoid having every first letter after a period automatically converted in capital (i like to write all small caps… as you can see)

you will probably explore in part 3 selecting text by touching the screen with two fingers simoultaneously in cursor mode. this is also helpful erasing several messages at the same time.

many thanks.

Kevin says:
Feb 15, 2009 - 02:02:13

The procedure for positioning the cursor within text (touch and hold screen for transparent cursor) works occasionally but not always. Is there a way to program a key to initiate the cursor movement mode ?

Feb 16, 2009 - 12:02:59

When the procedure appears to fail to work for me, I assume it’s because I wiggled my finger and made it look like I was sliding versus holding my touch. Either that, or I assumed I didn’t hold my touch steadily quite long enough (that delay is programmable under Options > Screen/Keyboard > Touchscreen Hover Period). Try varying that (and/or possibly similar settings) to see if it works better for you. I don’t know any way to program a key to make it enter that mode–an interesting idea.

Feb 16, 2009 - 12:02:17

I have not found any way to turn off that feature. You probably know that if you get a capital letter you don’t want, you can backspace then retype it, and it will stay lower case. Yes, it takes 3 clicks instead of 1, so it’s annoying. But that’s the best answer I have for you. Lo lamento, amigo mio.

Gonzalo says:
Mar 1, 2009 - 04:03:34

Dear Kelly, about cursor control, the other day I managed to keep the ‘rectangle’ in edit mode (empty rectangle), even after lifting my finger; it stayed this mode until I sent my email.
It was very, very useful, I could move the cursor around at any time without ‘hovering’ the screen first at each move.
The problem is… I don’t know how I did it.
Do you know how to lock the cursor in this mode (empty rectangle)?

Mar 1, 2009 - 08:03:58

I can’t find any way to duplicate that. You may have encountered a software “bug” that just happened to be useful. If you ever figure out how you did it, please let me know. Thanks for sharing this interesting story, mi amigo.

Gonzalo says:
Mar 2, 2009 - 04:03:11

gracias Kelly

while looking through the blackberry forums I see that someone else has experienced the same situation (also by accident).

it would be somewhat funny to see BB developing their software in the direction of a found bug…

Mar 2, 2009 - 07:03:07

Yes, that would be an interesting way to develop new features.

How are things in Spain? I visited in 1981 and fell in love with your beautiful country.

Gonzalo says:
Mar 2, 2009 - 08:03:57

thank you Kelly, same as in the US pretty much concerned with the economy… again, thank you for your support.
if I find the answer I will let you know.

ali says:
Mar 2, 2009 - 11:03:54

I have just discovered the hover, etc settings. Someone at a Home Show decided I should increase the numbers and i would be happier. I don’t see much difference actually, (I guess I can make mistakes easily at any setting) and now I am wondering if the higher numbers are making it more sensitive (so one increases as they get more experienced) or less – as one gets more experienced they don’t need as sensitive a touch…. Can you touch on that – what the numbers mean as they increase and decrease?

Mar 3, 2009 - 01:03:09

Hover Period determines how long you must hold your touch on the screen to distinguish a “hover” from an ordinary “touch.” For example, when editing and you want the cursor to change so you can move it around. Or when you hold your touch on a message header to tell your BB that you want to search for all messages from that same sender. Smaller numbers cause it to be “more sensitive,” meaning you have to maintain the touch for a shorter period of time, causing it to respond more quickly. It probably also makes it more accident-prone. The default is 400.

Tap Interval determines how quickly you must double-tap the screen, for example to cause a web page to zoom in. Smaller numbers force you to double-tap more quickly. I guess you’d say that larger numbers actually make it “more sensitive” because you can trigger a double-tap without trying too hard. The default is 100.

Swipe sensitivity determines how sensitive the screen is to your finger sliding on it, for example to cause the keyboard to hide. Higher numbers make it more sensitive. The default is 3.

I have not changed my numbers from the defaults and I’m happy with the settings like that.

Rita says:
Mar 10, 2009 - 06:03:22

If the auto correct aspects really bug you, you can turn it off in Options>Language>Input Language>Edit input Language Options. Uncheck box by Auto Correction. Save. Voila … no more annoying corrections popping up. Whether that’s good or bad is up to the individual, but it does eliminate a major frustration in typing.

Thank you also for the tips. As others, I was ready to turn in my month-old Storm until I read your information. Timely and accurate. Would appreciate a short course on the sure type keyboard. Any place to get the “how to” on that?

Mar 10, 2009 - 09:03:31

Thanks for sharing your tip on auto-correction. Thanks for your feedback on the tutorial. As for SureType, I did tutorials on SureType for the Pearl that one could probably still find useful for the Storm, as the concepts are the same. I actually LOVE SureType, even on the Storm, though I force myself to use full QWERTY most of the time just so I can get better with it. It’s kinda rare to find anyone who wants to learn SureType, sadly. If you try the Pearl tutorials, would you let me know if you find them useful or whether you think they need to be rewritten for the Storm? I have a huge backlog of articles to complete for this site, so I don’t know if/when I could take that topic on. But I do try to respond to requests as best I can.

Susan Etherton says:
Mar 13, 2009 - 09:03:11

Great articles…i found several useful answer to my know…the small questions that you can’t find an answer to..thank god for google…thats how i found you. Am looking forward to any additional tutorials…I’ve also bookmarked your page….Thanks again!

Mar 13, 2009 - 10:03:48

Thanks for the feedback.

Traci says:
Mar 24, 2009 - 09:03:29

Thanks for this tutorial. I just got my storm 5 days ago and this really helped. Especially the curser control. That is my favorite thing to have learned!! Saves me a lot of frustration. Thanks for taking the time to make this tutorial. Do you know when #3 is coming?

Mar 25, 2009 - 10:03:21

Glad the tutorial helped. I can’t say when #3 will come. I’ve hit a very busy time with work and personal life. Tutorials seem to take way more time to develop and write than some other types of articles. But I’ll keep trying.

Tom OC CA says:
Apr 9, 2009 - 02:04:40

Hello I just finished part 2 and the comments, which
I will call part 2.5! Wow the roving cursor.
That clear little box made this reply actually readable!
Thanks Again!

Kristin Carter says:
May 26, 2009 - 07:05:15


Thanks for this information. I can’t wait for Part 3 and Part 4. I just bought the Blackberry Storm 4 days ago and it has been a challenge!!!! I don’t like to give up on anything but I was compelled to go back to my BB Curve (with penalties) until I started reading your write ups!!! Thank you again for your help!!!


May 26, 2009 - 08:05:30

I still love my Curve, too. But I’ve learned to love my Storm after a lot of work getting used to it.

Jun 3, 2009 - 02:06:26


Thanks for publishing these lessons. I’m looking forward to reading the next installment, and I hope you will be publishing it soon.

By following your lessons, I’ve been able to become very proficient at typing on my Storm, and I’m loving it!

I enjoy using the QWERTY keyboard, but would love to become as proficient using the suretype keyboard as well. If you have any recommendations and tips for using that mode, I’d love to hear about it.

Thanks again for your helpful articles!


Jun 3, 2009 - 03:06:12

I apologize for falling so far behind in Storm typing tutorials.

Kayla says:
Jul 21, 2009 - 10:07:46


This is my first blackberry, and despite my best efforts to stay positive, I was beginning to harbor rather ill feelings toward my phone. That has now completely changed, thanks entirely to your tutorials. This is officially the best phone I’ve ever had and I could not be more excited. Thanks so much!


Jul 22, 2009 - 09:07:25

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that kind of feedback. I hope I’ll be able to provide more articles that are beneficial. Please come back, and leave suggestions for things you might want to learn about or need help with.

sonya says:
Aug 19, 2009 - 12:08:18

how do i get it to not automatically put a period after two spaces and capitilize the next word??????? very frustrating!!!

Aug 19, 2009 - 09:08:08

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, 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 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.

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