Understanding SureType on a BlackBerry 7100x

by Dave Mabe

The 7100 series of BlackBerrys was created to bring the BlackBerry to the masses. It looks more like a phone than a traditional BlackBerry does. To reduce the size, RIM reduced the amount of keys. Instead of one character per key, the 7100 series sports a technology called SureType that predicts what you're typing as you type since more than one character is assigned to most of the keys.

It actually works surprisingly well, but there are some nuances that, if understood, can help you squeeze a little more productivity out of the tool.

Once you start cranking out emails on a 7100, it won't be long before you notice that there are some key combinations that correspond to more than one word in SureType's built-in 35,000 word dictionary. For example, try typing the word "see" then try typing the word "are". Another example is "hold" and "golf". SureType can't determine exactly what you mean, so you are left choosing from a list that is presents the possible words given the key sequence you just typed.

Once you choose a word from the list two times in a row, that word becomes the default word in the list for the next time you key in that sequence. That way, you won't have to use the trackwheel to choose the work you want - you can just keep on typing away. This feature is known as Frequency Learning.

What if you type a word that isn't in the built-in dictionary? Well, the word you end up typing ends up going into a custom wordlist that's stored locally on your BlackBerry. That word is then merged with the built-in dictionary for future typing only it has a higher priority than the built-in words. From that point forward, the BlackBerry remembers the words in your custom wordlist and presents those first in the list if you type an ambiguous key sequence. This is called Auto Word Learning.

Here's a nagging consequence, though. Say you accidentally misspell a word that's not in the dictionary. That word goes in your custom wordlist along with your other words. From then on, the misspelled word is your default option for that key sequence - curses! How do you remove it? In handheld versions before 4.0.2, it is buried deep in the bowels of the device in Settings, Options, Language, Input Options. You have to click the trackwheel and choose Custom Wordlist from the menu. From there you can see your entire list of custom words and change, delete, or add new ones. As of version 4.0.2, this screen is promoted way up to the Settings menu, right above Turn Wireless Off.

Both the Auto Word Learning and the Frequency Learning can be turned on or off in the Language options on the device.

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