BlackBerry Desktop Software: a Closer Look at the Mac OS Version

Product

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Update: BlackBerry® Desktop Software for the Mac OS platform is now available!

BlackBerry® Desktop Software is now compatible with the Mac OS platform, and the upcoming release is just around the corner. We’d like to take this opportunity to share some details about the key features included in v1.0. We know many of you are waiting anxiously for the product to be released, and the wait is almost over! Before I dive into the details, I wanted to thank you all for the great comments and feedback you left on my initial post announcing this upcoming release of BlackBerry Desktop Software. Knowing how anticipated the product is was the best motivation the team could have. Read on for a detailed walk-through of the key product features.

The Welcome Sheet

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Once BlackBerry Desktop Software is installed and connected to a BlackBerry® smartphone via USB, users will be presented with what we call the Welcome Sheet. The idea behind the Welcome Sheet is to ensure users can customize important settings defining their experience with the BlackBerry Desktop Software going forward. Anything defined here on the Welcome Sheet can of course be changed later on via various options (also covered in this post).

One important feature I’d like to spend some time talking about is the option to select whether a BlackBerry smartphone syncs with one or multiple computers, a new feature to BlackBerry Desktop Software. Want to sync with one computer at home and another at work? Change the setting to “Safer Sync” and you’re all set. Your sync times will increase (how much depends on the amount of data stored on the smartphone), but this feature will help keep data on your Mac and BlackBerry smartphone in harmony.

BlackBerry Desktop Software will also tell users where their music will be synced to. If your BlackBerry smartphone has onboard memory (like the BlackBerry® Storm™ or BlackBerry® Bold™) you’ll have the option to choose whether to sync music to the onboard memory or a microSD™ card. Reserving memory is also very helpful and a nice way to save some space for documents, movies or even apps with the new archiving feature introduced in BlackBerry App World™ 1.1.

Summary Screen and Device Options

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The Summary Screen provides a quick overview of the information about the connected BlackBerry smartphone. The information provided about the last sync and backup will help users make sure their smartphone is backed up and synced regularly if they opt against using the automatic options. Speaking of which, to configure some of the more advanced settings in BlackBerry Desktop Software, the Device Options menu button is displayed prominently on the Summary Screen.

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Two additional options in the Device Options menu over what is displayed on the Welcome Sheet are the ability to sync automatically when the BlackBerry smartphone is connected and to check for software updates.

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Within the Device Options menu, users can choose whether their BlackBerry smartphone should be backed-up automatically and what data should be included in the backup file. Excluding messages or information data (that may be stored on the Mac already) can significantly decrease the time it takes to back up the BlackBerry smartphone.

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The media options provided under the Device Options menu are mostly what is displayed on the Welcome Sheet, but the option to “Delete all music…” requires a bit of attention. We added this feature to provide users with an easy way to remove the tunes transferred using the BlackBerry Desktop Software; it’s a great way to keep your music selection fresh day to day! Any music transferred manually to the smartphone will remain intact

Synchronizing

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Because synchronization is one of the most important features in this release of BlackBerry Desktop Software, our focus was on making it solid with an intuitive set up. We wanted to ensure users have all the key options and information when setting up their sync preferences, while at the same time keeping the interface clean and simple. For this reason, all information categories are listed on the left, and the right panel reflects the settings for each category. The alternative of having everything on the same page and listed sequentially seemed a bit cluttered to us.

Users can sync their BlackBerry smartphone with the iCal application, Address Book, Apple Mail (for notes) and any other software that can talk to Apple’s Sync Services. For example, to sync with Microsoft® Entourage users simply need to check the option to sync with Sync Services in Entourage preferences.

Updating Device Software

As with Windows® BlackBerry Desktop Software v4.7+, users won’t need to install anything on their computer to update their BlackBerry device software. Every time the BlackBerry smartphone is connected, BlackBerry Desktop Software will automatically check for updates. Users will see a notification when a new update is available:

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We’ve learned a couple of lessons from the years of experience with our version of BlackBerry Desktop Software for Windows®, and as I mentioned previously, we focused on making the update experience as simple as possible. Keeping the update process lean on extraneous options and features also ensures we can focus on quality. All in all, BlackBerry smartphone users will still have an option to specify whether their data should be backed-up (including third-party applications) and encrypted, but that is as far as the options go. Once the update options are selected, it’s simply a matter of hitting the “Start Update” button and grabbing a cup of coffee while the BlackBerry Desktop Software takes care of business.

Installing and Removing Applications

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With the number of applications for BlackBerry smartphones growing by the day, it is important to ensure users can easily install or remove BlackBerry optional applications like support for other languages or any third-party applications they may have downloaded in the past and don’t use anymore. Simply clear the check box to remove previously installed applications; the “+” sign is for adding new applications.

Back Up and Restore

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When backing up data, users have the option for a full or a partial backup and also the ability to encrypt their backup file. An important item I’d like to mention for those who may be familiar with the Windows® BlackBerry Desktop Software is that backup files now have a new extension, .bbb, which stands for BlackBerry Backup file of course! The current version of BlackBerry Desktop Software stores BlackBerry data in an .ipd file and the contents of on-board memory in a .cab file; while there are benefits to this approach, our experience is showing that keeping all information in one place provides a more convenient overall experience.

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While the new/upcoming version of BlackBerry Desktop Software will store backup files in the new format, users will still be able to restore any .ipd files made from previous backups using the current version of BlackBerry Desktop Software.

BlackBerry Desktop Software is very focused on providing the key functionality that we know Mac users have been waiting for. If you haven’t yet, make sure you sign up to be notified when this product is released on www.blackberry.com/mac. Stay tuned for another overview on some other cool features I did not have a chance to touch on here shortly after we release.

Comment away and let me know what you think about what you’ve seen so far!

Mac and Mac OS are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

About Andrey F.

Andrey started with Research In Motion (RIM) in 2006 as an intern, and recently joined the handheld software product management team in 2008. Andrey's focus is on the overall direction for desktop software. He spends most of his time identifying customer needs and working with various development teams to come up with new and exciting ways to extend the magic of the BlackBerry® experience to the desktop. Andrey hopes this blog will allow him to share his passion and knowledge about BlackBerry with readers.

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