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Top Nokia E90 tips

This page is for anyone thinking of migrating to the Nokia E90 with a view to using it as their main communicator and entertainment device. (Page updated 16th August 2007)

The E90 is (as I write this) the highest specified S60/Symbian OS device there is. With a good-enough qwerty keyboard, huge internal screen, oodles of RAM, built-in 3 megapixel camera and GPS, and that's just scratching the surface of its functionality.

  1. Open up your device
    By default, the E90 and other modern Series 60 smartphones come 'locked down' in terms of the applications they'll accept, installing only those that have large companies behind them, able to afford the expensive 'signing' process. But there are hundreds of other great applications, many of them free, that are 'unsigned' ('self-signed') (although under S60 3rd Edition, totally unsigned applications are slightly restricted in what they can do). Don't worry about this (see my malware article to put your mind at rest). Just go to 'Settings | Applications | App manager' and set 'Software installation' to "All". and 'Online certif check' to "Off". You can now install any compatible program without being blocked by spurious security warnings!
  2. Use those shortcuts!
    As befits a communicator with a proper keyboard, Nokia have outfitted the E90 with lots of shortcuts, although it still falls a bit short of those in its full (Series 80-driven) 9500 predecessor. Here are a few of my favourites, some obvious (as they're similar to those in non-keyboard S60 devices) and some not so obvious:
    In any text-entry application or dialog, Ctrl-C copies highlighted text, Ctrl-X cuts it and Ctrl-V pastes it, just as in any desktop application.
    In Web, '8' brings up the mini-Map, '1' gives you bookmarks, '5' switches windows.
    At any point in the E90, you can:
    • cycle between running programs, Windows-style, by holding down 'Chr' and pressing 'Tab' until you get to the app you want
    • use 'Chr'-'p' to switch Profiles

    In Gallery/Images, '3' rotates images, '*' toggles full-screen on/off, while '5' zooms in and '0' zooms out.
    In Gallery/Video clips, '2' toggles full-screen playback and navigator-up fast forwards within a clip.
    In Calendar, '#' takes you to 'Today, though watch out that the current firmware has a bug that doesn't update the right hand information pane.
    There are plenty more shortcuts to find and enjoy (and don't forget the row of dedicated application buttons beneath the screen, they're easy to overlook if you've come from another S60 device!), even in third party applications (see the next item), though it's hard to remember them all - the ones above should save you the most time.
  3. A better Office
    The E90 comes with a stable but fairly old and un-optimised-for-the-E90 version of Quickoffice (v3.85). I strongly recommend paying the extra and doing the upgrade to the latest v4.5. It's better in all departments, it's faster, it's more compatible with more files, and, best of all, it has loads of extra keyboard shortcuts for the E90, designed to make old Nokia 9500 users feel at home, mimicking many of the key combinations of the office apps under Series 80 on the 9300 and 9500.
  4. Levelling up
    Many E90s have uneven rubber feet fitted, seemingly. If yours 'wobbles', experiment with shaving down or even removing the 'tallest' foot. Worked wonders with my device!
  5. Pump up the brightness (1)
    The default themes that ship with the Nokia E90 are mainly dark and boring. Maybe they 'fit' the idea of a business device, but you'd be a lot better served with a simply bright and white theme, such as this one: white_revisited_13.sis (sorry, no idea where it came from now!) More contrast and a much simpler and less distracting display!
    White theme
  6. Pump up the brightness (2)
    Make sure you increase the screen from the default brightness to its maximum. Yes, there's a tiny hit on the time between battery recharges, but in the meantime you'll see some glorious colours. With the clamshell open, press 'Chr' plus the top-left key, to cycle through the levels. With the clamshell closed, go to 'Settings | General | Personalisation | Display | Light sensor' and adjust away. Of course, for night-time use, your smartphone can double as an emergency torch or, if you're actually reading from the screen, you can use the same settings to turn the brightness right down to save being dazzled.
  7. Ignore those 'Exit' buttons!
    Because the E90 has oodles of execution memory (i.e. RAM), you can have most of your Series 60 apps running at the same time, which means no delays while applications are launched. The trick is to ignore those 'Exit' buttons. When you need to switch to a different application, press the Menu ('Applications') button and select it from there, leaving the current app running. Or use the tip below to switch between running programs directly.
    [Caveat: watch out for intensive apps like navigation programs, games or third party music players, which can eventually drain your battery if left running all the time. For these, you definitely should press Exit!]
  8. Faster GPS
    Things you can do to improve GPS lock-on speed:
    - stay stationary after activating Nokia Maps - the GPS receiver has a much better chance of locking on if you're not moving and complicating the calculations.
    - stay up to date with latest firmware, which will include optimised GPS routines and (perhaps, in the future) Assisted GPS support.
    - be aware of how far on the Earth's surface and how long it is since you last used the GPS. The higher each of these numbers, the more work the GPS has to do to find and lock onto each satellite. For example, if I know I'm 100 miles away from the last place I used it or if it was two weeks ago, I'll give it a blast on the window ledge for 10 minutes before taking the E90 out into the car. Once in the vehicle, it should then be locked on almost instantaneously.
  9. The latest and best
    Make sure you keep up to date with PC Suite. Yes, there's a version on the CD that came with your smartphone, but Nokia are fixing bugs and adding bits and pieces all the time. Most useful is the way you can explore your smartphone's folders (including your text Inbox) from within Windows Explorer. Very cool. Keep an eye on the PC Suite home page and stay current!
  10. The ones you love the most (1)
    With the Nokia E90, there's S60's usual 'active' standby screen. Don't just take the shortcuts given, I'm sure you have ideas of your own as to your most used applications. You can change any of the six (or eight, with the clamshell open) shortcuts in the rather-hidden-away 'Tools | Settings | Phone | Standby mode | Active standby apps' (Phew, you really have to get to know the settings hierarchy on these devices!)
  11. The ones you love the most (2)
    If you get fed up scrolling down the Menu screen lookng for your favourite applications again, why not shuffle things round so that the apps you use the most are clustered right at the top? Highlight an icon and use 'Move' or 'Move to folder' (if needed) and you'll find you can re-insert it anywhere in the list or in another folder. If you have lots of favourites, make the most of the folder system (e.g. 'Games') and then put these folders near the top of the list, for speedy access.
    The two sweet spots to bear in mind are position 1 in each folder (the default highlighted icon with the E90 open) and position 5 in each folder (the default with the E90 closed), so putting your most used applications or folders in these locations will mean less keypresses all round.
    E90 app sweet spots
  12. Quicker camera and music access
    Although your needs will be different to mine, I've assigned 'Camera' to the right hand function key on the standby screen, so that it's only usually one button press away. And I've assigned Music to the 'My own key 2', again for quicker access, in this case with the clamshell open. And, in case you were wondering, I've assigned 'Notes' to 'My own key 1'.
  13. Hangup = Exit
    Don't keep switching back to the Standby screen using the Hangup button. This was OK on old versions of S60, but in almost every instance it closes the current application on the E90 - in other words, it acts as 'Exit'. If you want to keep the current program running in the background, press Menu/Apps instead, twice if you want to get to Standby screen.
  14. Download!
    Make the most of 'Download!', a recent innovation by Nokia, on most of their smartphones. On a device-specific basis, some relevant 'free' tools that you'll need are placed for easy access, grabbing them online (via Wi-Fi hopefully, some of them are largish downloads). There's also a game and a number of trial versions of commercial apps, too, you can ignore these unless you're interested.