Keyboard shortcuts and how to disable indexing on Kindle 3

My Kindle3 (Kindle Keyboard) recently started grinding to a halt every time I added a note or a highlight (a wait of up to a couple of minutes to save each note). A bit of digging showed that my firmware had recently updated to version 3.3 and this had re-enabled indexing.

Indexing is great for finding text within books. As any software coder will tell you, indexing isn’t easy to get right and there are always trade-offs. I’m an editor. I often make several thousand Kindle highlights and notes every month. That makes my usage pattern unusual enough that Amazon’s default settings make my Kindle unusable. I had previously solved this by disabling indexing. Unfortunately I’d forgotten how.

So here, as a reminder-to-self for the next time I need this, is how to disable indexing.

  1. Start at the HOME screen
  2. Bring up the search window (hit a letter key and then delete the letter you just typed)
  3. type in  ;debugOn   + ENTER You need to match the case and you need the symbol window OFF before you hit enter (the bit in the middle of the 5-way controller)
  4. type ~help + ENTER into the search window  to check you’ve activated debug mode. (you need to bring up the search window, as in step 2, to give you something to type into)
  5. enter ~disableIndexing into the search window (match case)
  6. enter ;debugOff into the search window (yes, match the case)
Not obvious, but works a treat.
If you are using a second generation Kindle, then the steps above will work but with a minor adjustment: instead of using the tilde (~) character at the beginning of ~help and ~disableIndexing, you need to use the back quote character (`) instead. i.e.  `help and `disableIndexing. The back quote is an unusual character, but when I  bring up the symbol window on my Kindle3, I can see it on the top row, toward the right. I am indebted to Bindu Chandrabose who kindly (should that be Kindley? Sorry…) supplied this information.

Incidentally, there are a whole host of keyboard shortcuts you might not know about. Here’s a few:

  • ALT+SHIFT+H  Takes a screenshot (as a .gif file) and leaves in your ‘documents’ folder on the kindle
  • HOME->MENU->Settings->MENU->Restart  This gives a soft reset. Basically, if anything seems wonky, try this first. It’s like rebooting your PC.
  • ALT+SHIFT+M is naughty, so I won’t mention that.

There are loads more. Here’s a site that keeps a list. You can even download them to your Kindle. You might come across hacks that are downloaded applications. Be vary wary of these as they might become unstable with future firmware updates, and could be malicious.

JAN 2012 UPDATE for Kindle 4

When I wrote these notes, the Kindle 3 (now renamed Kindle Keyboard) was the most recent model, and the Kindle Fire was just a rumour. Since then, new Kindles have been launched without keyboard (so keyboard shortcuts are going to be tricky) and with different firmware versions (firmware is the ‘operating system’ software that Amazon put onto your Kindle so that it knows how to display books). A keyboard shortcut or diagnostic setting (such as turning off indexing) that works for one version of firmware might not work for another. With so many firmware versions on the go, you need to pay attention to your Kindle’s firmware version when seeking out shortcuts; check they match. Me? I only have a Kindle 3, so can’t tell whether any of the shortcuts work for other versions.

You can determine your firmware version by viewing this Amazon help topic and clicking your your Kindle device. The major version numbers for devices released 2010 or later:

Kindle3/ Keyboard: is firmware version 3

Kindle no touch : is firmware version 4

Kindle touch : is firmware version 5

Kindle Fire : is firmware version 6

Right. That’s your warning out the way. Now for some shortcuts for Kindles 4,5& 6.

Now for some tips

  • Amazon provide some shortcuts for basic navigation here, this includes ways to ‘type’ faster without the keyboard.
  • MobileReads.com is an excellent source of information at every level. Here’s a page on Kindle4 (no-touch) shortcuts including screen capture and picture collections. There’s even a mobi version (not checked) that you can load onto your Kindle.

I’ll add more tips as I find them.

Good luck!

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About timctaylor

Science fiction author and publisher. I live with my wife and young family in an English village. I am currently writing full time, when I'm not roped into building Lego.
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13 Responses to Keyboard shortcuts and how to disable indexing on Kindle 3

  1. minbari100 says:

    my wife has books on hers. indexing is a royal pain. takes 30 minutes or more. can’t even get out suitable long enough to enter all those codes before it locks up. I hate that thing

    • timctaylor says:

      That’s a lot of books. But if Amazon provides the storage capacity on the Kindle, they should really provide devices that can cope with that many books. I don’t think there’s any way around this except removing books from the device. You might be able to sideload them temporarily from the documents folder on the Kindle off via the USB cable to a safe place (or two places) on a computer, then put them back on once the indexing is turned off. Should work but I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes if you suggest that and something goes wrong :-)

      Unfortunately, every time Amazon update their Kindle firmware, it seems to turn indexing back on…

      • minbari100 says:

        ya, I suggested that she get something like kindle for PC and download most of the books to that and leave the rest in the “archived folder” this is because amazon has alot of books she wants to read that are free, but only for a day or two. once they are archived, you can download them to any kindle (real or virtual)

        unfortunately, she is not interested in doing that. she says it is too inconvenient to download books a couple hundred at a time >_>
        I give up, lol.

  2. Pingback: Probleme cu baterie Kindle « burgspatz

  3. Pingback: Probleme mit Kindle-Batterie « burgspatz

  4. Bindu Chandrabose says:

    Hi Tim,
    Thank you so much for your advice on disabling reindexing, those were the clearest, most concise directions I saw on the topic for us Luddite types. I had pretty much given up and decided to try and hire someone to do it. One question – is there any way to check (other than just watching battery drain) if the Kindle is still indexing? Ie; I had 247 unindexed items before (killed my charge, as you can guess) and still do. Does that mean I did something wrong, or that those items will just stay unindexed (which is fine, as long as they don’t run down the battery after charging)?
    Regards from Los Angeles,
    Bindu

    • timctaylor says:

      Hi Bindu,
      Glad to hear I’ve helped. If you followed the steps in the post, the indexer should stay off permanently. I say “should” because my indexer once turned itself back on after Amazon sent a Kindle firmware upgrade (that’s the Kindle operating software). It won’t be obvious when this happens as the update happens automatically when your Kindle device is connected to the internet.

      To check whether your indexer has restarted, set ;debugOn as before, but this time, instead of ~disableIndexing, enter the command ~indexStatus (note the capital ‘S’).

      You want a window to pop up that says various things about real time updates, and — crucially — at the bottom should say something like: Current status: The Indexer is not running.

      It’s a bit of a pain going through those steps. I’d run them if the battery goes down unexpectedly or your Kindle suddenly gets very slow.

      Good luck

      • Bindu Chandrabose says:

        First, I wanted to say that I read your bio and really think it is wonderful that you have worked so hard to realize your goals. Like you I am an ardent reader and have attempted to write a book, although in my case that resulted in a few chapters of total and complete crap. So I know how hard it is to do the difficult work of making yourself better, trying and then trying again, accepting the input of other writers, staying hopeful when it would be easy to choose otherwise. Or at least I can guess at it, since I am too wimpy to actually do all the hard things. Anyway, one note on the indexing -

        Checked my Kindle index and it is not running, yay! I have this problem all the time, so fixing it is a good thing. One thing I would add – for the past year I thought my kindle was a 3dgen, when I used your instructions it didn’t work. So I tried googling some of your debug language and found that if you substituted backquotes for the tildes, it would work on a 2dgen. I tried that and it worked. For those with 2dgen. kindles who want to try disabling indexing, this might be more clear:

        “in Kindle 2, you use the ` (backquote) where Kindle 3 has the ~ tilde
        Same first step: ;debugOn and enter. Then
        `help and enter – this provided the list of debug commands. Continue with:
        `disableIndexing and enter. Then
        ;debugOff

        Best,

        Bindu

      • timctaylor says:

        Thanks for the update, Bindu. I’ll work that into the text tomorrow.
        Glad to hear you’re a writer too. Keep on going. As far as I’m concerned, the definition of a writer is someone who writes, rather than someone who makes money writing (although, to be fair, that’s good too…)

        Have a great day

  5. Thank you very much for this tutorial.
    I bought a Kindle for a friend and disabling the indexing will prevent the many calls for help
    concerning battery life that would have arisen once he loaded 600 books on to the device at once !

    • timctaylor says:

      Delighted to help. I’m relatively new to blogging and one of the delights is that, having worked out how to fix a problem (by Googling), I can pay back by leaving a post on my findings for other people in the same boat, and they *do* find it. The internet can be a wonderful thing.

  6. Pingback: Keyboard shortcuts and how to disable indexing on Kindle 3 « shadolrds

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