BlackBerry 101: The Virtual Keyboard, Part One

HOW-TO / 05.31.12 / bswanncanada

Part one of a two-part series explaining the setting and functions of the BlackBerry® PlayBook™ tablet virtual keyboard

I’ve never been a very good speller and it’s definitely not from a lack of trying. I still have anxiety when I think of the weekly 2nd grade spelling test. My parents would help me study days before and I would still come up short. What drives me crazy about English is that for every rule there are exceptions, silent letters and words that just don’t want to play nice. I remember learning to spell “island” and trying to figure out who’s cruel idea of a joke that silent ”s” was. So you can imagine (I’m about to date myself here) how excited I was with the introduction of word processors with spell check included. Fast forward, *cough* a few years and spell check is everywhere, and it has even evolved into auto correct and predictive text which are, in my opinion, very helpful tools.

Today I’m going to give you an overview of the features and functionality of the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet virtual keyboard and the spell checking options it contains. I’ll also show you how to disable these features if you don’t want to use them.

Before we begin, if you are not familiar with the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet settings and how to access them, I suggest reading Ty’s blog post BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 Settings Overview.

Keyboard Type

If your primary language is English, I’m willing to bet you are accustomed to using a QWERTY keyboard, but there are other popular keyboard layouts and we’ve provided them as well.

  • Automatic: The keyboard type is chosen by the selected input language
  • QWERTY: The common modern-day keyboard layout, English speakers use this
  • QWERTZ: A common keyboard layout in parts of Europe
  • AZERTY: A layout for the characters of the Latin alphabet

Keyboard Feedback

Miss the clickity-clack of a physical keyboard? Keyboard feedback is the sound the virtual keyboard makes when you tap a key. To change the volume of the sound, move the slider to the left to decrease the volume, move it to the far left to disable it and to the right to increase it.

Keypress Popup

This feature is handy when you first start using your tablet to help gain confidence in your virtual keyboard typing skills. When this is set to On, tapping a virtual key displays a brief enlarged version of the character, showing you confirmation of the key your finger (or stylus) is pressing.

Show predictions and suggestions

I love this feature, because even if you are not sure about the spelling of a word, as you sound it out, the tablet provides suggestions above the virtual keyboard that you can select (see red rectangle in the screenshot below). This feature can also increase your typing speed; once the word you are typing is displayed, tap it and move on to the next word.

Automatically correct as I type

This feature will correct misspelled words after you tap the Space key and move onto the next word. If the device changes something you intentionally typed – a unique word or name, for example – tap the delete/backspace key once and your original text will be brought back, allowing you to continue after you tap space again.

Try it a few times yourself to become familiar with the feature.

Check spelling

This feature underlines a word with a red line that the tablet believes is spelt incorrectly. Turning this off will still allow auto correct to function, but you won’t be notified of a misspelling since the red line will not appear.


If spellcheck is enabled, a button labeled More will appear beneath the Check Spelling option. Tap this button to customize the way spell check works.

Ignore acronyms – RIM (Research In Motion), BBID (BlackBerry ID), and BBM (BlackBerry Messenger), for example

Ignore Case – Turning this off will cause spell checker to ignore words that grammatically would be spelled with an upper case or lower case letter, but for whatever reason is not. For example “blackberry brian” instead of “BlackBerry Brian”.

Ignore words with numbers – I don’t enable this feature myself, but if you write a lot of math equations it could be very useful.

Want to know how to type special characters or lock capital letters on the virtual keyboard? Look for “The Virtual Keyboard, Part 2” next week.

Have a question about the virtual keyboard? Please leave it below!

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