(Pocket-lint) - For many BlackBerry fans, part of what made the physical keys so great in older devices is that they were more than just buttons for typing. They were shortcuts with hidden features too. Using the customisability of Android has meant BlackBerry Mobile - now built and designed by TCL - has been able to enhance the keys on the Key2 in much the same way.
BlackBerry Key2 keyboard tips and tricks
Bring notifications down with currency key: Head to Settings > Shortcuts & gestures and then tap the "Customise the currency key". Now tap on the screen and you'll get a pop-up menu with five different options. Choose "View notifications", and now when you tap that dollar sign key your notifications will drop down from the top.
Add keyboard shortcuts: Any of the letter keys on the Key2's keyboard can be used as a shortcut to launch a specific app or function. In fact, each key can be equipped with two shortcuts. One activated by a long press, the other with a short press.
The easiest way to enable a shortcut on a specific key is just to press one of the letters when you're on the home screen. A pop-up window appears and you can choose an action from there.
If you'd like to add multiple shortcuts, head to Settings > Shortcuts & Gestures, then choose "Keyboard shortcuts". Here you'll find both long press and short press options, and the ability to select any letter on the keyboard and assign an action or app to that letter.
Use the Speed Key: One of the Key2's best features is the Speed Key (the bottom right key with nine dots on it). It lets you switch between apps really quickly once you've assigned keyboard shortcuts to them. Wherever you are, and which ever app you happen to be in, you can press the Speed Key and press a shortcut button at the same time. This instantly launches that app or function without any hesitation.
Switch touch sensitive gestures on/off: BlackBerry's latest keyboard, like the last one, is equipped with a touch sensitive layer enabling you to use it as a trackpad of sorts. To switch this capability on or off head to Settings > System > Languages & input > Physical keyboard and then switch off the Physical keyboard gestures toggle on or off.
Quickly activate cursor: While typing you can quickly bring up a cursor to make changes to your text by simply double-tapping on the surface of the keys. From here you can just swipe left, right, up or down across the keys to alter the position of the cursor.
Select predicted words: As with previous keyboards you can select a predictive text word by swiping up under any of the three predicted words that appear on the screen while you're typing. That means swiping up on the left side of the keyboard for the first word, or swiping up on the middle or right side for either of the other two.
Type by swiping: If you've used Android for a while, you'll be familiar with the ability to swipe between letters to type quickly. With the Key2, you can do that with the physical keyboard too.
Head to Settings > System > Languages & input > Keyboard settings, then choose the BlackBerry Keyboard option. Now choose "type by swiping" and enable the physical keyboard option. You can toggle the software option too if you ever feel like using an onscreen keyboard instead.
Use multiple languages: While you can create multiple different keyboards with individual languages quite simply, you can also create keyboards with more than one language. If you're bilingual or multi-lingual and often intersperse your mother tongue with English words, this can be a godsend.
In the same BlackBerry Keyboard settings menu as the last tip, select "Multi-language keyboards". Now tap the "+" button in the top corner, and now choose your primary and secondary languages. The secondary language needs to be compatible with your primary, so you need to choose two that use the same symbols/alphabet.
Once that's done, select "enable" on the next screen which then takes you back to a list of languages. Make sure "use system languages" is deactivate and find the multi-language option you've just created in the list of input methods below. Once done, you're good to go. Now predictive words will show up in both languages as you type.
BlackBerry Key2 home screen and controls tips
Get that retro BlackBerry feel: Press and hold the home screen wallpaper and choose "icon pack". Now you can choose BlackBerry 10 or BlackBerry 7 icon packs that change the stock BlackBerry app icons to look like those found in older versions of BlackBerry's operating system from a few years ago.
Change home screen icon layout: As with many other Android launchers, you can customise how you want your home screen to look, by changing the number of rows and columns of app icons. Press and hold the wallpaper and choose "settings". Now choose "Icon layout" and choose how big you want the app icons to be, and how many rows or columns you want.
Go dark mode: In the same home screen settings menu as the previous tip, choose "Theme" and switch to Dark. Now the interface changes to very, very dark grey.
Assign a function to the Convenience Key: As the name suggests, the Convenience Key is, convenient. It's the physical button on the right edge below the power button, and essentially acts as another shortcut button, to go along with those shortcuts assigned to the keyboard.
To assign a function, go to Settings > Shortcuts & gestures > Convenience Key. Now choose an action by tapping the "add new shortcut" option. Whether that be launching the work profile, opening the Hub or launching Google Assistant.
Swipe up for app widgets: As with previous iterations of BlackBerry's Android launcher, you can quickly view widgets by swiping up on an app icon on the home screen. If widgets are available, they'll show and you can choose which you want to see.
Start a search by typing: Go to the launcher settings by long-pressing on the home screen wallpaper and hitting "settings". Now, select the "Typing action" option and choose "Start a search". Once selected, this deactivates the keyboard shortcuts that you would normally have from the home screen, instead beginning a search as soon as you start typing.
BlackBerry Key2 security tips
Add apps to the Locker: Drop down the notification shade from the top of the screen and find the Locker quick launch tile. Now you'll be asked to set up the Locker if you haven't already. Log in, and now press the "+" and select "Add Apps" to lock specific apps behind a password or fingerprint scan.
Now, whenever you launch any of those apps, it'll ask you to input that password or rest your finger on the fingerprint scanner to access them.
Take a private photo: In the Locker, press that "+" and select "Private Capture". It'll take you to the camera viewfinder where you snap a photo as normal, and then take you back to the Locker as soon as you've snapped it. It's then saved in the Private Gallery, and only accessible from here.
Enable Privacy Shade: BlackBerry's Privacy Shade is a really useful way to stop anyone near you from seeing what you're looking at by creating a small window on screen and blacking out the rest. By default, you can activate it by dragging three fingers down on the screen.
Adjust Privacy Shade size/shape: To customise the size, shape and transparency of the Privacy Shade, while it's active, tap the three dots at the top of the screen. Now a set of icons appears down the right side of the screen. They each have a different function. One changes the shape, another changes the size and another the transparency.
BlackBerry Hub tips
BlackBerry's Hub, for many, is the saving grace of the company's software developments. It was before BlackBerry Mobile started building Android phones, and still is now. It's a great way to view all your incoming messages in one unified inbox that's easy to manage.
Quickly view upcoming calendar events: Simply drag down on the main Hub inbox and any upcoming appointments or events will show up at the top of the screen.
Only view unread messages: At the top of the main Hub you'll see a little downward arrow. Tap that and choose "Unread", and now the only messages shown - regardless of source - will be the ones you haven't got to yet.
Colour code services and accounts: Open up the sidebar menu from the main Hub view by tapping the three lines in the top left corner, now find "settings". Scroll down to "Accounts" and you'll see a list of all the services currently showing messages in the Hub. Choose the account you want to customise and tap on "Account colour" and choose which colour you want for that particular service.
Rearrange account order: If you don't like the order that the different services are in, stay in that Hub settings view and scroll to the bottom of the accounts list where you'll find "Rearrange accounts".
Remove accounts from the Hub: By default, the Hub automatically pulls in messages and notifications from any supported social or chat app. If you don't want all of them in there, you can pick and choose which accounts you'd like to remove. Still within the same Hub settings - under the Accounts banner - choose whichever service you want to remove and toggle both the "Display on the account tab" and "Show messages" switches to the off position.
Create a customised view: As well as letting you add and remove services from the main Hub view, you can create personalised views of the Hub. So, let's say you're at work and only want specific feeds showing you can create yourself a "Work" view, or you can collate yourself a "Social network" view that only includes Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, if you want.
Head to the same Hub settings as before and scroll to the bottom where you'll find "Add view". Tap that, then type a name for the view you want to create and choose the services you want to show in that view.
Let us know what tips and tricks you've discovered on your Key2. Discovered any neat hacks, or just great ways to stay productive? Let us know.