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What is a Soft Key?

Soft keys are a feature of modern voice over ip phones. They provide a way to customize the phone’s user interface depending on the context as well as your your personal preferences. Here is a picture of the Cisco 504G phone. This is one of our most popular phone models and it is reviewed and compared against Polycom's phone models here.

Cisco Soft Buttons

In this picture the Soft Keys are highlighted in red. A Soft Key has two components:

  1. The text in the LCD screen which tells you the function of the soft key (example from above: Redial is the first soft key)
  2. The button which you press to invoke the soft key. (Above the buttons are dark grey.)

As you can see in the picture there are 4 soft keys along the bottom edge of the LCD screen. These buttons can take on many different functions. Note that some functions do not make sense in some contexts. For example, it does not make sense to transfer a call if you are not on the phone with anyone! The two most common contexts are on the phone, and idle. Here are some examples of popular functions the soft buttons can take on in each context.

On The Phone

  • Transfer
  • Blind Transfer
  • Conference
  • Park
  • Redial
  • Directory
  • Speed Dial

Idle (Phone is on the hook)

  • Redial
  • Directory
  • Call Pickup
  • Call Forward Activate / Deactivate
  • Do Not Disturb
  • Last Call Recieved
  • Missed Calls
  • Speed Dial

Soft Keys are different from Hard Keys because they are dynamic and can be changed. Hard Keys always have the same function and cannot be changed. An example of a hard key is the Hold Button, or the Volume up or Down Button. The Hard Keys are highlighted below in yellow.


Cisco 504G Hard Buttons

On the Cisco 504G the hard keys include:

  • Voicemail
  • Menu
  • Mute
  • Headphone
  • Speakerphone
  • Hold
  • Volume Up / Volume Down

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