Contrary to popular belief, when it comes to software, open source does not always mean "free." Not always...but in this case, it does.
Over the past few months, we've made it our mission to dig up the best free smartphone applications available. A ways back, we profiled a half dozen free BlackBerry downloads. Then we touted seven great Windows Mobile applications you can pick up without dropping a dime. But we knew those wouldn't be enough for you, so we kept on searching and found another six free can't-miss BlackBerry apps—we even asked a few Research In Motion (RIM) executives for their third-party software faves.
This time around, we went the open source route, and found five great—and free—BlackBerry apps we know you'll like. You'll find a secure password keeper; a Bloglines-based RSS reader; software that brings "push" mail and over-the-air (OTA) sync to a variety of enterprise and consumer Web mail and PIM services; a cool GPS location-logging utility; and a set of tools to give you more control over your BlackBerry's backlight and messaging options.
KeePass for BlackBerry—The Open Source Password Keeper
Passwords for corporate systems, passwords for Web mail accounts, passwords for sites, online forums and users group. The list just goes on and on. Today's tech-savvy businessperson has more passwords than important things to do and meetings to attend. And as any security conscious user knows, it's good practice not to reuse the same password for different accounts. From a security standpoint, the more passwords, the better.
That's where KeePass for BlackBerry comes in. The application is a mobile sibling of the popular KeePass Password Safe for desktop computers, and it's an open source alternative to the default RIM Password Keeper that comes pre-installed on newer BlackBerry devices. The BlackBerry-specific version was written from scratch to take advantage of unique RIM users interface feature, and it's locked with one master password so you need only remember a single login for access to all your passwords. The application databases are encrypted using the AES and Twofish algorithms for added security. And because it's open source, you can peek at the full source code to, say, check if the encryption algorithms are correctly implemented.
KeePass for BlackBerry is available for OTA download and its source code can be found here. (Note: BlackBerry handheld OS 4.2.1 or higher is required for access to full KeePass for BlackBerry functionality.)
We've included mobile RSS reader apps in our previous free BlackBerry downloads articles, but never an open source RSS app like Berry Bloglines. The app can be downloaded OTA or via PC from TheBogles.com—the same folks who created our favorite local search at for BlackBerry, Beyond411.
The program imports users' existing Bloglines RSS reader account feeds, and unlike some common RSS apps, it offers not only short summaries of content within feeds but lets users read full articles without clicking to separate pages. It also integrates with Google's mobile content reformatting service so external pages reached via Berry Bloglines are optimized for mobile device screens. And once you've checked out a story via BlackBerry, it's marked as read in your desktop Bloglines interface.
The Berry Bloglines full source code is available here. (Note: Despite its RIM-specific name, Berry Bloglines works on any Web-enabled smartphone.)
Funambol for BlackBerry—"Push" Mail Sans BES, Exchange and OTA PIM Sync
If your RIM smartphone is connected to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), you very likely already received "push" e-mail—at least from your corporate Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino and Novell GroupWise mail account—and can sync PIM data like calendar and contact information via USB. But users who want push "e-mail" for Web mail and OTA PIM sync have largely been out of luck...at least until Funambol released its latest free, open-source software.
The software consists of two parts: a push e-mail component and PIM sync component. The push mail functionality works with popular Web mail services like Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo! And it also supports any POP or IMAP server, according to the company. BlackBerry users wirelessly sync PIM data with a Funambol server, which in turn can sync with a variety of additional mail and PIM systems.
The software is currently available for the full line of BlackBerry 8xxx series devices, as well as the as-yet unreleased Bold 9000. It can be downloaded for free from the company's website, and the software's full source code is available here.
The bbTracker application is an extremely simple, easy-to-use piece of open source software that could prove particularly valuable to road warriors, athletes and outdoorsmen. GPS functionality is a must, however, so users need a device with internal GPS or an external "puck."
The free BlackBerry download tracks users' coordinates and/or altitude; records recently travelled paths, which can be displayed via line graph; tracks and charts elevation and speed over a given time period; and then exports it all to a mapping service like Google Earth so you can follow a path you travelled while carrying your BlackBerry. The software is not a full-fledged GPS application, though, and as such it does not provide on-screen maps or directions.
BlackBerryTools is not a single free application—rather, it's a package of five open source downloads that give users more control over BlackBerry functions like backlight, message reply options and spell checking. The utility also offers various weather and device status information, like battery life and messages received.
BBLight lets you modify your device's backlight setting so your display can remain lit for as long as you desire. BBToday displays the date, current time, messages, appointments and tasks. Weather information and forecasts are available via BBWeather. BBReply helps modify your message reply-to addresses, and BBCorrector helps spell check message.