10 must-have free BlackBerry apps

Do more with your BlackBerry -- without spending a dime.

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Opera Mini

Although a Web browser is included with your BlackBerry, the built-in browser's lack of power and features gives you a limited view of the Web at best. Opera Software's Opera Mini browser allows you to surf standard Web pages and renders quickly and accurately.

The secret of Opera Mini's success is that it processes page requests through Opera's servers, offloading much of the page processing away from your BlackBerry. Its caching is especially good, allowing almost instant return to the previous page; that's useful for checking out Web search results, for example.

Opera Mini includes excellent bookmark features, as well as the ability to view pages as they would appear on a full-size computer screen, zooming in and out with a click of the track wheel.

Opera Mini
Opera Mini is a quick and full-featured mobile Web browser.

Mobipocket Reader

You'll always have something to read with Mobipocket's e-book reader. Text is easy to read, even on a BlackBerry's small screen, and you can add your own annotations as you go.

Mobipocket offers a wide range of titles for purchase through its store (which can be accessed on your PC or directly from your BlackBerry), but the .mobi format is a standard offered by most e-book sellers.

Mobipocket Reader
Mobipocket Reader brings e-books to the BlackBerry.

What's more, you can use the desktop software to convert documents from PDF, HTML and most word processing file formats to load on your BlackBerry, making Mobipocket Reader ideal for reviewing work and personal documents in addition to e-books.

iSkoot

Send and receive Skype calls on your BlackBerry using iSkoot's excellent Skype client. Sound quality is better than you'd expect -- even on slower 2G Internet connections -- and iSkoot's tabbed interface makes navigating your contacts list easy. ISkoot also allows you to chat by text, if you prefer.

iSkoot
iSkoot lets you make Skype calls on your BlackBerry.

It also integrates nicely with your BlackBerry's regular phone settings, using your existing ring tones and the BlackBerry call log.

The program is not only free to download and install, but there's no additional charge for sending and receiving calls to and from non-Skype numbers. (Normal SkypeIn and SkypeOut charges apply.)

TwitterBerry

Don't fall out of the Twitter loop when you're away from the computer. TwitterBerry from Orangatame Software lets you read all the latest tweets from your Twitter friends, plus you can send tweets, read and write direct messages, and view your @ replies.

TwitterBerry
TwitterBerry lets you Twitter on the go.

Menu items let you call up your BlackBerry's spell checker (so you don't embarrass yourself) and insert symbols easily (so you can make the most of your 140 characters). You can also view your friends' timelines individually, as well as the public timeline of all Twitter users.

(Need tips for using Twitter? See "Twitter for business: 5 ways to tap the power of the tweet.")

WebMessenger

CallWave's WebMessenger lets you chat with friends or business contacts on the most popular IM networks.

WebMessenger
WebMessenger provides a solid alternative to desktop chatting.

You'll need to create a single "master" account to log into the software, but once logged in to WebMessenger, you can automatically log in to your existing accounts with AOL, Google, ICQ, Jabber, MSN, Skype or Yahoo. You can be logged in to multiple accounts at the same time, and once you log in to whatever networks you've chosen, WebMessenger will keep you logged in even when it's running in the background.

WebMessenger downloads your buddy lists so you can see at a glance who's online and start chatting almost instantly. Depending on the abilities of each particular network, you can create chat groups, send messages to multiple recipients, and add or remove contacts, just as you would with a desktop client -- making WebMessenger a solid alternative to desktop chatting.

Have your say: What are your favorite BlackBerry apps? Tell us in the article comments.

Logan Kugler is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer who has written about technology and business for more than 30 national magazines including MacLife, PC Magazine, Success and Advertising Age. You can reach him at logankugler@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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