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Key shortcuts for discussion threads

If you are a new Blackberry user, you probably navigate through your messages with the trackball. And you probably love it. We all love the trackball. And if you are lazy like most people, you still didn’t read the online help system to learn all the great keyboard shortcuts your Blackberry has. Well, here is your chance to learn some.

The most common shortcut used by any Berry addict is probably the Space key. It lets you scroll down one page at a time, good for skimming through a long list quickly. It’s too bad the shortcut for going up is Shift+Space. That is very inconvenient.

There are better keys. For example, whenever you are reading a message, you don’t have to close the message just to scroll up or down and click-open the next one. Instead, two shortcut keys come to rescue: N and P, which stand for Next and Previous. In other words, press N to jump to the next message and press P to jump back to the previous one. And there is also the U key, which lets you jump to the next Unread message.

These shortcuts are nice, but look at this screenshot:

It’s a discussion list we have in the BerryReview team, and the messages you can see belong to what are known as “threads”: several messages, usually comments and replies, regarding one specific topic by several people interested in it. In that case, navigating with N and P is usually not good enough because the messages are interspersed and you’ll end up reading one message from one topic, then one message from another topic, then another message from the first topic then maybe one from a third topic… a mess! How about reading each topic separately in its proper sequence before jumping to the next one?

The relatively new operating system 4.5 introduced two new shortcuts: J and K. You might see mention of them in the help system of 4.2 devices, but they didn’t work properly until 4.5.

Open the first message. When you’re done reading it, press J and you will be shown the next message in the current thread. In the screenshot example, after reading Ronen’s message about “Re: Luc, Greg – post for…”, I can press J and skip to Vicky’s message. Pressing J again will let me see another message by Ronen (I have newer messages at the top). In case I need to go back and recheck something, I can press K, which opens the previous message in that thread only.

After pressing J so many times, you will eventually reach the end of the thread and be shown the first message again. Then it is a good idea to press U, because you will be shown the next Unread message, which should belong to another thread. From there, you might as well use the J and K pair again to navigate across that new thread.

That’s it, happy hopping!

4 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. Lets not forget about the T and B keys. They can take you to the Top or Bottom of most any screen including your message list and web pages. Thanks for the great wrap up guys!


  2. J and K work fine on 4.2.2 …

    anyways, there is another way of dealing with threads : it is to use the “search subject” in the menu. It will display only the messages of that thread. then N and P do the same as J and K.

    interestingly enough, for the famous editor VI (dedicated to developpers and/or geeks), navigation can be done with JK (up/down) and HL (left/right). Maybe one developper at RIM was a VI user (as opposed to emacs)

  3. Searching by subject is such a chore. You have to menu-click a message, then scroll down to “Search Subject” and click it. Then you open the first message.
    You can’t even press S as a shortcut to jump to “Search Subject” because several other entries in that menu begin with S. It may sound like no trouble, but that much scrolling and picking really gets old after a while.
    The good thing about this approach is that it’s easier to delete read messages of one given thread. But I wish there were a single key shortcut that would “Search Subject” already. That would be nice.
    The relation to Vi makes sense, but so does the fact that no one wants to have to press Ctrl+Alt+Meta+x+up or anything like that on a cell phone. 😛
    Yes, I’m on the Vi camp. But only because pico and mcedit are so limited. 🙁

  4. alt+u is also a great one for dealing with messages, as I am constantly toggling the read/unread status

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