Better BlackBerry Browsing

Research In Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry browser has long been the laughing stock of the mobile space for its lack of speed. Javascript-heavy pages frequently bring it to a standstill. And since the browser has problems rendering many common Web pages, simply surfing the Web for a quick recipe or to answer a question can be like pulling teeth.

Artwork: Chip Taylor
In other words, BlackBerry users have been dealing with a sub-par browsing experience for quite some time--unless, of course, those users were smart enough to download and install one of the few quality third-party mobile browsers available for RIM smartphones.

Rumors suggest RIM's well on its way to releasing a revamped BlackBerry browser of its own. But yesterday Norwegian-developer Opera Software upped the BlackBerry browsing-ante with the beta release of its latest mobile browser: Opera Mini 5. Though not BlackBerry-specific--the software's compatible with most Java-based handhelds--it blows RIM's default browser away, with new features like tabbed-browsing, advanced cut-and-paste and a built-in password manager.

Ted Miller, Opera Software communications manager, told me last spring that roughly 2.5 million BlackBerry users employ Opera Mini on their devices. That's more than 15 percent of RIM's total BlackBerry customer base.

I've been using Opera Mini for years; it's my BlackBerry browser of choice. During that time, I discovered a number of helpful Opera Mini keyboard shortcuts for BlackBerry users with full QWERTY keyboards. However, many of those shortcuts have been modified in Opera Mini beta 5. After some digging, I found the following BlackBerry keyboard shortcuts for Opera Mini 5 beta.

The numeral keys on your full-QWERTY BlackBerry are used to page up, down, left and right within Opera Mini 5, as well as to zoom in and out on a page. For example:

* 2 = Page Up

* 8 = Page Down

* 4 = Page Left

* 6 = Page Right

* 5= Zoom In/Out

Your Enter key works to confirm selections, or click a link, just like a tap of the trackball.

The letter "Q" is the main Opera Mini 5 "shortcut key." Various numeral keys can be pressed along with the letter "Q" to activate browsing shortcuts. For instance:

* Q + 1: Clear Page of Cursor, Selection Box

* Q + 2: Show Blank URL Field to Navigate to New Page

* Q + 3: Search for Specific Text on a Page

* Q + 4: Access "Speed-Dial" Home Screen

* Q + 5: View of Add to Bookmarks

* Q + 6: View Browsing History

* Q + 8: Access Browser Settings

* Q + 9: View or Add to Saved Web pages

Download Opera Mini 5 beta over-the-air (OTA) via BlackBerry browser, and let me know if I missed any new keyboard shortcuts. You can also visit Opera's website for more on Opera Mini.

Note: Opera Mini 5 is still in beta, and as such, you many encounter some bugs in the software. I've only found a few minor quirks in the 36-hours or so I've been using the app, but I did notice that it consumes quite a bit of free BlackBerry memory when not in use, so make sure you close out the browser when you're done. To do so, tap your BlackBerry Menu key--located directly to the left of your trackball--scroll all the way to the right on the top banner and click the browser on/off power switch.

Wondering if you'll see any BlackBerry-specific version of an Opera browser in the near future? Don't hold your breath. Opera says "the ball's in RIM's court" on that front.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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