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Using a Blackberry with the Apple Mac OS X

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The iPhone is the logical choice of mobile phone for Apple Mac owners, but it isn't mandatory and you can use alternative devices if you prefer them. Blackberry phones, for example, are a popular choice, particularly for business users and companies. You may even find that you have to use a Blackberry mobile phone and that an iPhone just isn't an option.

Price is another factor when it comes to choosing a mobile and brilliant though the iPhone is, it certainly isn't the cheapest device currently on the market and if you are short of cash (and who isn't in these troubled economic times), then you might be forced to settle for a cheaper Blackberry. Of course, top of the range Blackberries cost just as much as the iPhone, but the range is greater and the entry price point is lower.

Whatever your reason for choosing a Blackberry mobile in preference to an Apple iPhone, you will find that it works with Apple Mac desktops Blackberry mobile phonelike the iMac and laptops such as the MacBook rather well.

You can synchronise your contacts, calendars, email and more. You can play your favourite music from your iTunes library, view documents and so on. And there's even an online App Store that provides lots of free and cheap applications for your Blackberry. OK, the range of software is not as extensive or as cool as the iPhone's, but there are some good apps to download and install.

The Blackberry connects to the Apple Mac using a USB cable with a standard plug at the computer end and a mini USB plug at the phone end. It comes with the phone. When the phone is plugged in a message appears on the mobile phone's screen asking you whether you want to use mass storage mode or not. You can choose Yes or No on the phone.

The two modes are quite different and one isn't better than the other, they simply work in different ways and the one you choose depends on what you want to do. Select the mass storage mode if you want to manually browse the contents of the phone's memory and copy files to and from the device, or choose No to the mass storage option and use the Blackberry software to sync your Mac with the device.

Installing the Blackberry software

Blacberry software on Mac OS XAlthough software is provided on a CD with the Blackberry mobile phone, it is always a good idea to ignore it and download it from the website instead. The online version is likely to be a more recent edition because it's easier to update and a CD.

Go to the Desktop Software section of the Blackberry website and download PocketMac SyncManager. Install it in the usual way on your Mac and then revisit the website and download and install the updated drivers from the same web page. The software is probably the same the world over, but it's always best to download it from the Blackberry site specific to your country just in case. Click the Worldwide link at the top of the page, choose your country, then go to the desktop software download section.

Should you run the software first and then plug in the Blackberry or vice versa? It's better to plug the phone into the USB port, choose the connection mode, and then run the software. It then finds it straight away.

Explore mass storage mode

If you select masss storage mode when the Blackberry is plugged in the phone will appear to be an external USB storage device like a hard disk drive or USB flash memory drive. After a couple of seconds you will see an icon appear on the desktop that enables you to access the phone's contents.

Blacberry software on Mac OS XThe organisation of the contents of the phone's memory couldn't be simpler and if you open the Blackberry folder you will see several subfolders called documents, music, pictures, ringtones, system, videos and voicenotes. It's obvious what each one contains.

Photos that have been taken with the phone's camera are stored as standard JPEGs in the Pictures folder and you can view them by double clicking them in a Finder window, drag them to the Mac's hard disk drive to copy them, or import them into iPhoto in the usual way. You can copy photos and artwork from the Mac's hard disk drive to the phone's memory too. This is useful if you want to create your own wallpaper for the Blackberry's home screen or add other photos or artwork to the Pictures folder.

Just create a JPEG image from artwork or a photo that's the same size as the phone's screen and then copy it to the Pictures folder. For example, the Pearl 8100/8110/8120 has a 240 x 260 pixel screen and the Bold has a 480 x 320 pixel screen. You can then go into the the phone's Media application, select your photos, view the wallpaper image, press the Menu button and choose the option to set it as your home screen background.

The Blackberry plays common audio file types, including MP3 and more importantly, the .m4a used by iTunes. It won't play copyright protected iTunes music of course, but if you have bought DRM-free music or if you have ripped your own music CDs into iTunes then you can drag tracks and even whole albums to the music folder of the Blackberry and you'll be able to play them when you're away from your Mac.

Just drag a folder from /Users/YourName/Music/iTunes/iTunesMusic on your Mac to the /Blackberry/music folder to copy an album. As you can see, it is very easy to manually add music to the phone. You will be limited by the memory available, but you can delete music you have listened to to make room for more music.

Sync your Blackberry with your Mac

Plug the Blackberry into the Mac using the USB cable and select No on the phone when you are asked if you want to use mass storage mode. No icons will appear on the desktop and there's nothing to show that the device is connected. You can now run PocketMac SyncManager in the Applications folder to run the Blackberry software. Click the Blackberry icon to start.

Blacberry software on Mac OS XSelect each of the Contacts, Calendar, Tasks and Notes tabs in turn and choose the application to sync data with. You can sync with OS X built in applications like Address Book and iCal of course, but other applications are also supported, such as Entourage, Lotus Notes, and others. Just tick the boxes to sync them.

Select the Bookmarks tab and you can choose to have your Safari bookmarks copied to the Blackberry. The Blackberry isn't the best mobile phone for browsing the web, but this option could be useful if you rely on web access. It's easier to find useful websites on the Mac and then bookmark them so you can visit them on the Blackberry later. (Tip: Opera for the Blackberry is a good web browser that's worth downloading and installing on your mobile.)

The Email tab enables you to choose whether to copy email sent from the Blackberry to your email program on the Mac. Entourage and OS X Mail is supported. It's sometimes useful to be able to refer to messages on the Mac without getting your phone out to check what's been received or sent.

The Redelivery tab is for forwarding email from your Mac to the Blacberry and it enables you to read and reply to email messages when you are away from your Mac. It's not useful if your inbox gets a zillion spam messages every day, but if it's junk-free then this is a useful option.

Click the Sync button when you have configured the sync options.

Summing up

The Blackberry makes a good companion device for the Mac and the PocketMac sync software works well. You can easily copy files to and from the mobile phone manually using mass storage mode too. Have fun with your Mac and your Blackberry mobile.