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BlackBerry Hacks
By Dave Mabe
October 2005
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Run Programs in the Background
"Minimize" programs using the BlackBerry equivalent of Windows's Alt-Tab
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

As BlackBerry users, we marvel at the efficiency that the BlackBerry provides. This efficiency causes even the slightest delay to seem like an eternity. Using the BlackBerry Browser to view a slowly responding web site can be frustrating when you're used to the quick and immediate access that the BlackBerry provides to most data.

It turns out that the BlackBerry OS provides an easy way to multitask by sending applications to the background. This method is analogous to the Alt-Tab functionality that Microsoft Windows provides.

Let's say you're using the BlackBerry Browser to access Painfullyslowsite.com. Rather than stare at a blank screen with a slowly moving progress bar across the bottom, you can respond to some emails and have the web site load in the background. To switch to the Messages application, hold the Alt key, and then press and release the Escape key. As you continue to keep the Alt key down, a list of icons appears, as shown in and . Each icon represents an application that can currently be switched to. Use the trackwheel to choose the program you'd like to switch to (the Messages program in this case), and then release the Alt key.

This sends the BlackBerry Browser to the background, and the Messages application is started and brought to the foreground. Similar to Microsoft Windows and other modern operating systems, these applications in the background continue to execute even though they aren't visible.


This process is called preemptive multitasking, which means the operating system uses an algorithm to intelligently decide which application gets access to system resources such as processor and memory. Typically, foreground applications receive a higher priority for getting access to resources than a background application.

Figure 1. The Application Switcher on a 7290 device

Figure 2. The Application Switcher on a 7100 device

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