The Comprehensive Beginners Guide To The N900

Now that N900 deliveries have started, chances are you will be getting hold of your very own N900 pretty soon. There is also a high probability that you will feel just a little at sea when you use the device for the first few minutes when you try and get a feel of it and wonder what is the best way to set it up.

N900 Tips & Tricks

Fortunately, I have already gone through the same experience and will be able to provide you a reference on how to best setup your N900. This tutorial will cover the following aspects:

  • A general introduction.
  • How to transfer your data from your old device.
  • Setting up Email and IM Accounts.
  • A highlight of certain must know tips, tricks & shortcuts.
  • Personalizing the N900
  • How to install Applications onto your N900.


  • When you first bootup the device, the N900 will play a short video describing the basic operation of the device. If you have not already seen it and a zillion other videos of the N900 on the web, make sure you have a look.
  • As you are aware the N900 runs Maemo 5 and is completely different from any Nokia telephone that you may have owned. The first thing that you will note is that there is no end/red key, so unlike other Nokia devices you will not have a single key to press inorder to get to the home screen, it will have to be done by tapping the top left corner of the N900. It will seem like a hassle at first but you will quickly get used to it.
  • Next, the N900 has a notification light. It flashes in three colours:
    • Blue for notifications (New text messages, IM, or email).
    • Orange while the battery is charging.
    • Green when the battery is full.
  • The firmware update method is a little different on the N900. The N900 will automatically check for updates once a day and you will be notified of updates via a small icon next to the clock, tap on that to update wirelessly. If you prefer the wired method, then there are options to use Windows, Mac OS X or Linux for the job, detailed instructions for which can be found here.

The Comprehensive Beginners Guide To The N900

  • However the computer option will wipe the device’s memory so you should take a back before you update. This method is also useful if you ever want to return your N900 to the factory state as unlike Symbian devices (*#7370#) there is no code to format the N900’s main memory.


  • Transferring data from your old Nokia to a new one has been a piece of cake for quite some time as far as Symbian devices go and it is pretty easy with Maemo too. Infact you can now even pull in contacts from your online accounts without third party software. Simply goto contacts and you will be presented with a plethora of options:

The Comprehensive Beginners Guide To The N900

If you do not see this screen, tap the status bar on the top and select ‘Get Contacts’.

  • If you choose ‘Synchronize with another device’ you will also be able to pull your Calender, Notes and other information.


  • The joy of the N900 is in the ease of setup and this continues here. Simply open the email application and select add new mailbox. You will be presented with options from Gmail to Nokia Messaging. If you already have a Nokia Messaging account, simply select it and enter your login credentials. The N900 will then automatically populate all your email addresses under that account.

The Comprehensive Beginners Guide To The N900

  • If you do not have a Nokia Messaging account, you can enter your login credentials separately for each account.
  • Setting up IM is again a simple matter of entering your login details. Once you have this done you can control your IM availability by simply tapping the cluster next to the clock on the status bar at the top and choosing ‘Availability’.
  • The N900 also has deep Skype integration, so you can simply start making Skype calls from the contacts once you have entered your login details.


  • The keyboard on the N900 plays host to a large number of shortcuts, but the important thing is to memorize the important ones at the start and let yourself learn the others as you move on.
  • The first shortcut you must know is Ctrl + Backspace, this brings up the visual task switcher and is especially convenient when you are web browsing in the full screen mode and have multiple windows open.
  • The usual shortcuts such as Ctrl + X/C/V all work for Cut, Copy and Paste respectively. You will also find that most shortcuts that work on your computer such as Ctrl+A/S/Z work if the application you have open requires them.
  • Lock & Unlock – The N900 also has a dedicated lock switch, however you will soon find that it is located at a very odd position and isn’t very intuitive as such. Fortunately, Nokia has also included another option. You can quickly doublepress the power button on the N900 to lock the touchscreen and press it once to bring up an option to unlock it by dragging your finger across the screen.
  • Turn Control – When in the landscape mode with the keyboard closed you can simply turn the phone vertical and the phone application will launch. To enable this, tap the Phone menu in the top Status bar and select turning control.
  • Making a call from Conversations – The N900 has a consolidated messaging and IM application called Conversations. While in conversations if you need to call, simply tap the picture next to the person’s name and the phone will brings up the dialing options.
  • Smart Dialling – When at the homescreen, you can simply start entering the name of the person you want to contact from the keyboard and the N900 will automatically launch the contacts applications and filter through the contacts.


  • The device comes pre-loaded with two themes and you can switch between them by going to Settings > Themes. Sadly, there aren’t many 3rd party themes for the N900 yet.
  • To change the ringtone goto, Settings > Profiles and then scroll down to ringing tone. The reason I decided to mention this seemingly simple procedure is because most users (myself included) miss this the first time, it is a little hidden.
  • Since most of the real estate on the N900’s screen is occupied by wallpapers, changing the wallpaper brings a huge difference in the feel of the device. To change the wallpapers simply tap the screen for more than a second and the screen will switch to the edit mode. Here click on the desktop menu and select change background. You can gets tons of free wallpapers here or here.

The Comprehensive Beginners Guide To The N900

  • This is also the mode from where you can add widgets, shortcuts, contacts and bookmarks to your homescreen. Once you have them on the screen, simply drag them to a location of your choice and hit done.


  • The way to install applications on the N900 is pretty straightforward. Apps are hosted in repositories which can be added to the Application Manager on your N900. In simple words, the application manager itself lists the available applications and you can simply tap on them to install.
  • What applications are available to you depends on what repositories (catalogs) you have added to your device. By default you have:
    • Nokia Applications
    • Nokia System Software Updates
    • Maemo Extras
  • Maemo Extras contains applications that have been tested by the community and are considered safe to install. Make sure you enable it by opening this link on your N900.

The Comprehensive Beginners Guide To The N900

  • Alternatively you can goto the Application Manager > Application Catalogues, click on Maemo Extras and make sure that the box next to ‘disabled’ is not ticked. If you do not find Maemo Extras at all, you can add it manually entering the following data.

Application manager > Application Catalogs > New
Catalog name: Maemo Extras
Web address:
Distribution: fremantle
Components: free non-free

  • Apart from Maemo Extras, there are two more repositories (catalogs) that house applications:
    • Extras-Testing: This repository hosts applications that are in the testing phase and are not yet safe for the end user to install.
    • Extras-Devel: This repository hosts the absolute alpha versions on the applications under development and should be avoided, even more than Extras-Testing.
  • Applications in both these repositories can cause serious damage to your N900 including making it unstable, slow or even completely bricking it. Since this is a beginner’s guide I will skip instructions on how to enable these on your N900. If you feel you have the knowledge, experience, skill to beta/alpha test applications in these catalogs and are willing to take the risk, then come back tomorrow for a guide on how to enable them.

In the meantime, enjoy your new N900!

17 thoughts on “The Comprehensive Beginners Guide To The N900”

  1. Just had to mention: “When in the portrait mode with the keyboard closed you can simply turn the phone vertical”

    if you’re in portrait mode it is already vertical, no? ITYM “landscape mode”.

    Thanks for the collection of info – makes a good start!

  2. Thank you very much for this :).
    We just got our Nokia N900 about 2 days ago.
    It is very different than Symbian 3rd or 5th.
    Maemo5/6 is definitely the future, so thank you so much for showing us “the way” with your article.

  3. Thanks – had worked most of these out after a week or so but still picked up a couple of new tips.

    The main one that confused me that you didn’t mention is to swipe from the left in the web browser, if you want to do something like scroll Google maps or select text on the screen. If you don’t, you are just scrolling round the browser window locally, so to speak.



  4. Great Information Vaibav, Many thanks for sharing.

    Is there any way I can create a password that will ‘lock’ the conversations so only I can access by inputting a password.

    The reason for this is that as its a new phone everyone wants to have a look and touch & feel it but I dont want everyone who holds the phone to read the IM’s and SMS’s.

    Please advise how this can be achieved if you know.



  5. I have been trying to set up my hotmail account, which all the posts say is easy! I’m using the correct pop3 and smtp servers. Using 25 as the smtp port. Still can’t get it to work. Anyone else tried and succeeded please?

  6. To set up Hotmail, make sure you select Nokia Messaging first, then it will only ask for your eMail address and password. Entering the Pop3 details didn’t work for me either. Hope this helps.

  7. This was very helpful!!!

    3 Questions though:

    How do you personalize ringtones for your contacts?

    How do I make contact groups?

    And, I understant that skype is already intergrated on the phone. How do i get a skype account with out downloading the software? most of my family overseas just got it, so I am very please at the idea of not paying extra charges for long distance phone calls if i could just use this feature.

  8. Iḿ amazed about all the cheers regarding the N900. Ovi doesn work anymore, itś impossible to insert a symple birthday. Delete multimple data. the spreadsheet app doesńt work etc etc.
    symply put its a phone with a browser. for me that sucks. back to the E90
    since Nokia doesn offer any help

  9. Hi every one,
    I have a couple of Questions, If there any one would help me,
    1: How can I Assign a ring tone to a contact?
    2: How can I creat a playlist of my own?
    3: How can I start a video call with a contact?
    It was so much easier on symbian
    Thank You

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