Archive for the 'Blackberry' Category

Talking to Your Phone

Blackberry, personal productivity No Comments »

I’ve been a fan, follower, and have dabbled in software development of speech recognition applications since the genre began in earnest in the 1980′s.  I’ve always felt that when the technology advanced to the point of being truly useful, it could prove to be a big productivity booster.

While I still find speech recognition to be of limited use on a PC, when it comes to phones and handhelds, it’s a different story!  The small form factor, as well as the fact that it’s often used in situations where use of one’s hands is limited, makes the PDA or smartphone a natural fit in my view.

Over time, I’ve tried a number of handheld voice applications, but generally came away disappointed.  Not any more!  If you use a Blackberry, iPhone, Windows Mobile device, or some selected Nokia handhelds, then you can run Vlingo.

Previous versions of this application worked pretty well, but they’ve just released an upgrade, v4.0, for the Blackberry platform, which I’ve been using for about a month now with great success. There’s a free version with limited functionality, but they’re offering the full paid “Vlingo Plus” version 4.0 at an introductory price of $14.99 – not bad!

In short, Vlingo Plus lets you do most anything you would do on your Blackberry by talking to it – sending e-mail and text messages, making phone calls, doing web searches, and lots more.  You can say “Note to self” and then dictate your note, and it will create an Outlook task for you (or an e-mail or text message to yourself, if you prefer).  For you Twitter and Facebook fans, you can use Vlingo to tweet or update your status just by speaking.  The new 4.0 Vlingo Plus release adds the capability to speak text into virtually anywhere that you would normally type (they call this “Vlingo Everywhere”).

While its recognition is not perfect, I find it quite accurate – finally, a speech recognition application worth using!  It’s based on a new technology (called a Hierarchical Language Model) which is largely the secret to its success.  It also learns as you use it, meaning it gets even smarter over time.

You can check it out at www.vlingo.com.  If you try it, post a comment here and let me know how it works for you.  Does it make you more productive?

I’m back, and unfinished Blackberry business

Blackberry, e-mail management, personal productivity No Comments »

I’m back! I’m involved in some major project work that has prevented me from blogging regularly. However, I’ll continue to write when there’s valuable content to share about being more productive.

Now, it’s time to fulfill a promise I made prior to my disappearance: discussing the topic of dealing with attachments on a Blackberry.

BLACKBERRY ATTACHMENTS 101

Things have actually changed in two big ways recently in terms of Blackberry e-mail attachments:

  • last fall, Dataviz came out with a Blackberry version of their Documents To Go software; and
  • RIM (Research In Motion, the folks that make the Blackberry) bundled the Standard Edition of Documents To Go as a free component in their latest operating system version, 4.5.

This means if you have Blackberry OS 4.5, you have available to you the ability to view and do basic editing on Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) documents.

To do this, highlight an attachment in an open e-mail message, and click to display the menu. You’ll see two relevant choices: Open Attachment, which lets you view it in the native Blackberry attachment viewer, and Download Attachment, which launches Documents To Go.

If you aren’t sure whether you have Blackberry OS 4.5, here are instructions for checking your version.

If you don’t currently have v4.5 installed, here’s information about upgrading.

If you have v4.5 installed, but you don’t see Documents To Go and/or don’t have a “Download Attachment” menu option, here’s information on installing it.

If you need more sophisticated editing and file creation capabilities than are available in the bundled Standard Edition, there is a Premium Edition of Documents To Go available – but it’ll set you back $49.95. Here’s a comparison chart of the two versions.

OK, that covers Office docs. But I hear you calling out now, “What about PDFs?”

You can do basic viewing of PDFs, just as you can for other attachments, using the “Open Attachment” option described above. This provides for basic viewing capabilities.

I will say that in my testing, RIM has improved this feature. On my previous Blackberry which ran OS 4.3, viewing PDFs was a difficult endeavor: you had to Zoom in to see anything at all, then Pan to find the part of the page you wanted to read, then select Enhance to make it legible; and then you could no longer Pan to different parts of the page.

On my new Blackberry Bold running v4.5, the whole experience is much improved. In fact, there is no longer an Enhance function, and the document is readable right after Zooming in. (Then again, the Bold also has a much better screen, so that may be a factor as well.)

If you do want more complete capabilities to view PDF attachments – essentially a Blackberry version of Adobe Reader – you have to purchase add-on software. There are a number of such Blackberry PDF add-ons available. For one, the Premium Edition of Documents To Go, discussed above, includes a full-featured PDF viewer.

If you don’t want to pay $49.95 for that add-on, a very popular and less expensive alternative is RepliGo Reader at only $19.95. In my testing, RepliGo worked quite well.

THE BEST OUTLOOK PRODUCTIVITY ADD-IN

One of the things I’ve done over the past year is conduct extensive testing of every Outlook-based productivity tool on the market, looking for the one or two that best support my More Productive Now personal productivity approach.

I’ve finally settled on one that I love enough to endorse and recommend; and in an upcoming newsletter, I’ll be sharing it with you. (In fact, I find it so valuable that I’m in the process of writing a special version of my book to explain how to best use it to achieve unparalleled personal productivity in Outlook.)

More about that coming up…

Better Blackberry Mail

Blackberry, e-mail management, personal productivity, task management 2 Comments »

If you use a Blackberry, I highly recommend you take a good look at a useful Blackberry software add-in, BBSmart Email Viewer. This application has one primary feature, and a hidden productivity gem as well.

Its main feature is that it properly displays images, graphics and special formatting in incoming e-mail messages. As their website explains: When you open emails using the default email program, they can be cluttered with hyperlinks, email addresses and large chunks of unreadable text. BBSmart Email Viewer transforms all this – making emails clearer, displaying images that were in the email.

In other words, it displays messages on your Blackberry much closer to the way they look in Outlook. You may be surprised how much smoother this makes your Blackberry e-mail reading experience.

In addition to its above claim to fame, it provides a fantastic feature for those who use the Tasks portion of Outlook to manage their commitments. As I discussed in a previous post, Outlook makes it easy to turn an Inbox message into a Task.

But what happens when you read a message on your Blackberry and it contains an actionable item that you want to turn into a Task? You’re out of luck – at least you were until now!

The BBSmart application adds two options to the menu of an e-mail message:
- Add as Task
- Add to Calendar

Selecting one of these options opens up a new Task or Appointment, with its Subject and Body pre-filled in from the e-mail’s information, just as Outlook does. Nice!

Being able to convert an e-mail right when you read it initially on your Blackberry, instead of having to leave it in your Inbox and then remember to convert it when you next read it in Outlook, can make a big difference in your personal productivity if you use your Blackberry a lot.

One note about BBSmart’s message formatting: by default, it displays your e-mail messages in an odd (in my opinion) Comic font with a yellow-cream background. But it’s quite configurable – so if you don’t like that look, just click the menu key in your Inbox and select “BBSmart Options”, and you can change the font and/or background (and a lot of other things as well).

P.S. No, I don’t get any financial compensation if you purchase BBSmart – I just recommend it because I find it valuable.