Sheryl Canter

Kindle 3 Tips and Tricks

Kindle 3

I resisted the Kindle for a long time. I read a lot and I’m headache-prone, and those low-contrast early Kindles were not going to work for me. Also, I saw in reviews that Kindle books often lacked the footnotes and indexes of the paper versions. When I had occasion to create a Kindle book I realized why: the format is very limited and inconvenient for publishers.

But then I bought an iPad. The Kindle app is free, so I tried a couple ebooks. For most books I read, footnotes and indexes are not an issue, and I’m chronically low on bookshelf space. I like the built-in dictionary and being able to carry several books in a small package. So now I was sold on ebooks, but the iPad was not the ideal hardware. It’s just heavy enough that I don’t want to carry it around, the screen washes out in bright sunlight, and the battery life is only so-so. I can read books on my Droid X phone, which also has a Kindle app, but that drains the battery fast.

Amazon had dropped the price of the Kindle when the iPad was released, and the new Kindle 3 with its light weight, improved screen contrast, long battery life, and readability in direct sunlight was starting to look pretty good. So I bought one, and I like it a lot. I used it for a few days without reading the manual – the basics are not hard. But once I read the manual and did a little googling, I discovered some interesting things I didn’t know. What follows is a collection of tips and tricks for the Kindle 3 that I found especially useful:

  • Viewing PDFs and Other Document Types
  • Zapping that Ghost Dictionary in the Archive
  • Hotkeys and an Easter Egg
  • The Hidden Image Viewer

Viewing PDFs and Other Document Types

One way to put books onto your Kindle is to buy them on Amazon, of course, but that is not the only way. Some free book sites let you download to your Kindle over the air. You also can copy files from your PC directly to your Kindle via USB cable, or email files to your Kindle using a special email address. The email address is the interesting method because it has a special feature: it can be used to convert files in different formats into something the Kindle can read.

Your special Kindle email address is set in the “Manage Your Kindle” area on Amazon ( If you have the 3G version, make sure you use and not so WiFi is used for the transfer, otherwise 3G charges will apply for the transfer. You just create a message and attach the file you want to send to your Kindle; no subject is necessary except in one special circumstance described below.

The Kindle’s native format is based on the MobiPocket format. So in addition to Kindle files (file types .AZW, .AZW1, .AZW2), the Kindle can read unprotected MobiPocket files (file type .MOBI or .PRC) without conversion. The Kindle 3 also can natively read PDFs without conversion, but they don’t display well on the 6″ unit – the type is too small. You can magnify the display, but the lowest magnification, 150%, means the entire page doesn’t fit on the screen, and panning is a pain. You can’t magnify it just enough to fill the margins.

Before the Kindle 3, if you emailed a PDF to yourself it was converted. This is no longer true with the Kindle 3 unless you put the word “Convert” in the subject. Certain other file types will be automatically converted if you email them to your Kindle including HTML, Word, text, rich text, and image files. You don’t have to put “Convert” in the subject for these file types – you don’t need any subject at all. The word "Convert" is only necessary for PDFs that you want converted.

Zapping that Ghost Dictionary in the Archive

Do you have something in your Archive called The New Oxford American Dictionary, though it’s already on your Home page? But the archive version has no author, and when you try to move it to your home page you get the message that it doesn’t exist? So it just sits there annoying you? Here’s how to get rid of it.

Amazon recently made a change so that the Kindle dictionary is not downloaded like other books; it’s built in. But somehow the The New Oxford American Dictionary remained in your list of books. If you go to the the “Manage Your Kindle” area on Amazon (, you’ll see it listed in “My Orders”.

Next to every book in “My Orders” is a plus sign. Click on that. Once the title is expanded, you’ll see a button labeled “Delete this title”. Click it. It’s scary, I know, but it’s the right thing to do – promise. After you delete it, reboot your Kindle while connected to WiFi. To reboot, press the Menu button, select Settings, press the Menu button again, then press Restart. Theoretically you also can reboot by sliding the power button to the right for 15 seconds (I haven’t tried this). When your Kindle restarts, you will still have The New Oxford American Dictionary on your Home page, but the ghost in the Archive will be gone.

Hotkeys and an Easter Egg

The Easter Egg is Minesweeper.

Minesweeper: Home+Alt+Shift+M
Refresh: Alt+G
Power Off: Hold Power slider 7 seconds
Reset: Hold Power slider 15 seconds
Kindle Store: Alt+Home
Bookmark Toogle: Alt+B
Next Chapter: Right on 5-way
Previous Chapter: Left on 5-way
Delete Book: Left on 5-way then Select on 5-way
Book Options: Right on 5-way then Select on 5-way
Numbers: Alt+top row keys (gives you 1 through 9 then 0)
Screenshot: Alt+Shift+G (places a GIF file in your documents folder – you need to connect through USB to see it)

The Hidden Image Viewer

I found the information about the image viewer on this Web site. The viewer is a little buggy, but here’s how you set it up.

Connect your Kindle to your PC via USB. Create a new folder at the same level as the other folders called “pictures”. Then inside this folder, create subfolders in which you will put the actual image collections. You can’t put the images directly inside the “pictures” folder. I created two subfolders: “people” and “screenshots”. The Kindle can read .JPG/.JPEG, .GIF, .PNG, and .BMP file types. Copy your image files into the subfolders, then eject the Kindle from the PC. Press Alt+z to add the new image collection folders to the Home page.

When you click on an image collection folder, the image viewer will launch. You can cycle forward and backwards through the pictures using next and previous page buttons. When you move to a new image, it doesn’t refresh properly – you’ll see overwriting from the previous image. I found I could get it to refresh by pressing one of the directional arrows on the 5-way

There are image viewer hotkeys. The rotate works reliably for me, but the others don’t. I was able to zoom in and out initially, but after trying it a couple times it stopped working. Maybe I need to reset my Kindle. Here are the hotkeys, for what it’s worth:

Zoom in: q
Zoom out: w
Reset zoom: e
Actual size: c
Full size: f
Rotate: r
Pan: 5-way arrows

Have you found any other Kindle 3 tips or tricks? Post them here!


  1. James Curran says:

    From my experience, to read a PDF natively, rotate the screen to landscape mode, and then “fit to Width”. It’ll be two screens to a page, but they’ll be readable.

  2. It depends on the book, but you’re right, that works with many novels – perhaps most – though you only see half or a third of the page at a time. Other PDF books I have, especially some of the “Missing Manual” books, are not readable when fit-to-width in landscape mode. The font is still way too small.

  3. joe says:

    i still can’t figure out how to get the photo viewer to work or how to get picture on my kindle 3

  4. Bill says:

    Hi Sheryl! Excellent blog and great information on Kindle 3. You have me completely psyched to start using mine. And I feel like I have a big jump on the manual. Can’t wait!!! Had a GREAT time hanging with you in Abingdon Square today. Bill

  5. rob white says:

    Anyone out there know how to place a personal picture as desktop background ( and at the same time get rid of those hideous dead authors) ? Rob

  6. Mark Latham says:

    The following was from:
    Igor Skochinsky

    Picture viewer

    I’m not sure why Amazon didn’t make it public (maybe because paging is kinda slow), but there is a basic picture viewer in Kindle.
    To activate it:
    1) make a folder called “pictures” in the root of Kindle drive or SD card. Kindle also checks for “dcim” made by cameras.
    2) put your pictures for a single “book” into a folder inside that. The subfolder name will be used as the “book” name. Supported formats are jpg, png, gif.
    3) in Home screen press Alt-Z. A new “book” should appear. Open it to view your pictures.
    4) In the local menu you can toggle dithering, resize to fit and full screen mode.

    Keyboard shortcuts

    Various undocumented/underdocumented keyboard shortcuts. I italicized most interesting ones.

    Global keys

    Alt-Shift-R reboot Kindle
    Alt-Shift-. restart GUI
    Alt-Shift-G make screenshot
    due to an implementation bug, screenshots can only be stored on SD card, not the main storage. A gif file is saved in the card root.
    Shift-Sym start demo
    Enabled only if allow_demo=true is passed on the Java commandline. Needs a special demo script present on the SD card.


    Alt-Shift-M Minesweeper
    Alt-Z rescan picture directories
    Alt-T show time


    Alt-B toggle bookmark
    Alt-T spell out time
    Alt-0 enable/disable slideshow
    Alt-1 start slideshow (if enabled)
    Alt-2 stop slidehow
    Alt-PageForward/PageBackward go to next/prev annotation or one “chunk” (1/20th of a book) forward or backward


    411 show diagnostics data
    511 run loopback call test
    611 diagnostic data service call
    126 Lab126 team members

    Font List

    J show/hide justification options

    Picture viewer

    Alt-Shift-0 set current picture as screensaver
    F toggle fullscreen mode


    I,J,K,L up,left,down,right
    M mark mine
    R restart
    Space open cell
    Scroll move cursor up/down
    Alt-Scroll move cursor left/right
    H return to Home screen

    Text input

    Alt-Backspace clear all
    Alt-H/Alt-J move cursor
    (the following don’t work in search field for some reason)
    Alt-6 ?
    Alt-7 ,
    Alt-8 :
    Alt-9 ”
    Alt-0 ‘


    It seems there is a location capability (GPS?) in the CDMA module. I cannot check it as I’m not in USA but the following shortcuts are programmed inside the browser.
    Alt-1 show current location in google maps
    Alt-2 find gas station nearby
    Alt-3 find restaurants nearby
    Alt-5 find custom keyword nearby
    Alt-D dump debug info to the log and toggle highlight default item
    Alt-Z toggle zone drawing and show log

    Audio Player

    Alt-F next
    Alt-P play/stop

    Search commands

    These command work in the search field. You can enter only beginning of the command if that’s enough for it to be unique.

    Public commands (always available)


    Semiprivate (available but not mentioned in @help)

    ;dumpMessages dump current debug log into the “documents” directory
    ;debugOn set log level=2 and enable private commands
    ;debugOff set log level=1 and disable private commands

    Private commands
    Note: following commands are clearly not intended for end users. Some of them may damage your Kindle and void your warranty. Enter at your own risk.

    `help list private commands
    `7777 set version to TOPmk-xyz-77770 (to disable OTA updates?)
    `voltLog enable/disable voltage table debug
    `batteryLoggingDelay set battery logging delay (in seconds)
    `pppStop close WAN PPP connection
    `allocate [MB]

    Posted by Igor Skochinsky

  7. Steve says:

    Hi Sheryl, have you any ideas as to why all my pdf files and the manual have disappeared from my kindle cheers Steve

  8. Steve says:

    Sorry Sheryl, forgot to mention via the usb l can’t re-install the pdf’s

  9. John Blake says:

    If you email a JPEG picture to your kindle address this also seems to work. I do this via WIFI, not sure if there would be any charges with 3G. After they pop up on your kindle you can then make a Picture collection and keep them there.

  10. Beth says:

    Hi Something has gone wrong with my Kindle. It no longer displays images correctly – they are kind of greyed out! Can you hep me? I have rebooted several times and no change. Thanks

  11. Judie says:

    Why does my Kindle all of a sudden, skip a bunch of pages – either backwards or forwards? It drives me crazy!

    Thank you!

  12. Wow! I love the hot keys and Easter eggs! Thanks for putting this up, I just bought a Kindle off ebay and LOVE IT! The screen is wonderful (no i didn’t go for the new ‘fire’ I got the older 3G kindle, its all I need!)

  13. annie says:

    i need help with my kindle 3, all the files are not showing however when plug to my laptop, all my files are there. nothing is showing in my list aside from dictionaries. if it will help before, I’m only seeing like 4 folders, like documents, audio, music and active content date. now it has recycler, the old 4 folders, system and _ (that’s the label for the folder)… please i tried rebooting it, tried resetting it but it didn’t work… i hope to hear from you soon.. thanks.

  14. Annie – you need to contact Amazon tech support.

  15. Ray Scrafield says:

    hi Sheryl, just found your blog. Thanks for your efforts. I was just wondering if the 3G can be used for sending and receiving email. Since it connects via wifi, I was wondering if there is some way to use it similar to an ipad. I have been searching for hacks but so far haven’t found any.


  16. Greg Lee says:

    I got my wife a Kindle Paperwhite to replace her Kindle Keyboard. Try it — you’ll like it (if you can do without a keyboard).

  17. I know! I was very intrigued by the Paperwhite when I saw the descriptions, but I’ve indulged in too many electronic purchases recently, so I just can’t. I had to buy a new phone because mine was broken. (I got a really good one – Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD.) And then I had to replace my iPad 1 because Apple bricked it by pushing iOS 5 on it, though it doesn’t have adequate memory to run that OS. I felt that Apple was trying to manipulate me into buying a new iPad, and I don’t like to be manipulated, so I bought an Android tablet instead – also top of the line – which I love (Asus Transformer Infinity TF700T with dock). So I’d feel like a spoiled brat to also replace my Kindle, though I want to! I tell myself that the first version of any new technology is never the best, so I’m waiting for the Paperwhite 2. 🙂

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