RIM has just announced that it has moved from the BlackBerry 5 operating system to BlackBerry 6. But what are the new features of the BlackBerry 6 OS and should you be getting excited?

BlackBerry 6 will be available on all new devices moving forward from the phone maker, as well as being available to owners of the BlackBerry Bold 9700 and BlackBerry Pearl 9105 smartphones.

So what can current and new BlackBerry users look forward to? Here are the key elements to the new operating system explained.

Look at the new BlackBerry 6 OS homescreen at a glance, and you'll ask what has changed. Actually focus in and you'll notice that a lot is different with a new design interface that is as new as it is familiar.

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The grid is still there, as is the white text and icons on black, but now you can scroll left to right and right to left to reveal further groups of apps divided by pre-determined selections like Favourites, Downloads, Frequent, Media and All - just like Android, webOS and iOS 4.

As with other operating systems you can drag icons around between these groups. Users can organise where they want their icons to appear, and can add contacts or web page shortcuts directly to the home screen.

RIM has improved the way you can get notifications of stuff coming in, above and beyond a red flashing light on the device.

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Now a tap on the notification bar at the top of the screen gives you a preview of all your notifications without having to open the relevant app. Of course, clicking on the notification will open up the relevant app so you can reply, view or just read whatever it was you were being notified about.

Also new to BlackBerry 6 are context-sensitive Action Menus.

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Now users get a further host of options by clicking and holding the trackpad or through an extended touch of the display.

Probably the biggest day to day improvement coming your way is the Webkit browser, that means you can actually start surfing the web on the go without continually waiting for the BlackBerry browser to load the "damn" page.

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The new browser brings with it full HTML 5 and CSS support, as well as tabbed browsing so you can easily switch between web pages you are surfing.

Other features include improved bookmark management and if you've got a touchscreen enabled BlackBerry (Torch we are looking at you) then you'll get pinch to zoom as well.

Double-clicking on the trackpad or screen will, like other operating systems, zoom in to text; intelligently wrapping text in a column while maintaining the placement of a page's key elements. RIM says that it will also change the font size and style to match other settings in your phone. It's called "auto text wrap zoom".

It's all about being social these days: tweeting, updating your status, and even letting people know where you are via Foursquare.

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RIM's approach to that with BlackBerry 6 is Social Feed, a unified social stream in one place that continually pulls in data streams you've signed up for in the background; so whenever you go to check what's happening in your world, BlackBerry 6 has you covered.  Notifications of your new updates will work in the same way as do emails and texts.

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Currently RIM is supporting all the usual suspects including BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, AOL Instant Messenger, Google Talk, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger but says that it is offering the API out so other services like Foursquare can take advantage of the same system.

When it comes to creating new messages you'll be able to post the same message to multiple accounts at the same time, says Facebook and Twitter. Suddenly social networking sites you haven't used for ages will become the bane/joy of your life.

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But Social Feed isn't just about Twitter and Facebook. A second element to it sees you tracking your favourite RSS feeds, quickly allowing you to follow sites like Pocket-lint for example and not miss a story. Users will be able to click on a headline to be sent off to the connecting page in that new Webkit browser.

Start typing on the onscreen or physical QWERTY keyboard on the home page, and you'll enter Universal Search, a new system for searching your BlackBerry 6 touting device and the web.

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Search results will then come up in a grid format allowing you to shoot off to Google for further results or something on your BlackBerry to that folder, app, email or contact. It will even search your web history (something that could be quite dangerous).

Ever since the first worker picked up their BlackBerry and started emailing they've wanted to be cooler than the device lets them be. RIM has heard this call and has brought a number of new and improved multimedia features to BlackBerry 6.

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That means a media player that looks and acts more like Apple's iPod app and the ability to see your entire music collection even though the tracks won't necessarily be on the device. Using something RIM calls Wireless Music Sync you won't be able to live stream, but you can select songs to Sync wirelessly when you are next on your network without having to plug in a cable.

RIM has also added a new Podcast app that allows you to wirelessly download and then play podcasts on the go.

It's the little things like locking orientation of the OS to landscape mode when playing a video that shows RIM has put some thought into it when it comes to Multimedia.

You can now manage your images, create folders, and select multiple images by doing a two-finger tap. Images will also automatically get the name of the city you've taken them in, so you can search for them via Universal Search.

RIM’s new Text Messages application adds the ability for users to view a conversation in one threaded "chat" as well as share photos, videos and other content.    

RIM has improved the setup making it considerably more consumer friendly than just a list of text options as found in BlackBerry 5.

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Now you'll get icons instead of text, and hopefully a quicker easier start to your new device.

For all the latest BlackBerry news, photos, reviews, features and first looks, check out our dedicated BlackBerry homepage.