Echo devices can be extremely useful when you know all of the tips and tricks. Unfortunately, many new Echo users don’t know how to use these smart speakers. Some only learn the most basic features and never fully explore the other fun and useful options of Amazon Alexa.
In this article, we discuss some of the best tricks and most practical tips for using Amazon Echo. Learn how to teach Alexa and Echo to recognize voices, how to connect to other devices, and much more.
Change Alexa’s name or create a nickname for her to call you
Once you’ve got your Alexa device up and running on your Wi-Fi network, there are still a few more things you might want to do before diving in, either using echo.amazon.com or the accompanying mobile app for iOS or Android.
First off, if your name is Alexa or something similar (like Alexis), you’ll definitely want to change the “wake” word for the device. To do so, choose your device in the app, then choose Wake Word and select your desired wake word, which can be “Amazon,” “Echo,” “Alexa,” or “Computer.” You can also change the name Alexa calls you. Go to the communicate section in the Alexa app, and you can edit your name under my profile and settings.
Create separate profiles for each person in your home
If multiple people in your home have Amazon accounts, you can create separate profiles for each person in your Alexa household profile. To do so, select Settings in your Alexa app, Account Settings, and then Amazon Household and follow the on-screen directions.
With more than one account on your Echo, you can not only share content like music and movies, but you can also collaborate on shopping lists, to-do lists, and calendars. If you can’t remember whose account is logged in, ask “Alexa, which profile am I using?” To switch to your own, say “Alexa, switch profile.” It’s that easy.
If your significant other has drastically different taste in music than you, fear not. Alexa can also recognize your voice and play songs from your very own playlist. You’ll want to make sure to set up a voice profile, which entails completing a series of prompts. After you set that up, Alexa will recognize your voice across all your Alexa-enabled devices.
Personalize your Alexa experience
There are a number of third-party developers who have created skills for Alexa, including games, quizzes, and fitness routines. We’ve compiled a list of Alexa’s most useful Skills in case you’re looking to add oomph to what your virtual assistant can do.
Previously, if you wanted to add a new skill, you had to do so manually. Thankfully, you can now easily add a new skill with just your voice. If you’d like to learn how to be a mixologist in your spare time, for example, you can simply say, “Alexa, enable.” With more than 10,000 recipes to choose from, you’ll be a professional barkeep in no time.
You can create your own skills using Alexa Skills Blueprints. You can do things like create your own quizzes, play game shows, or leave directions for your pet sitter or babysitter. You can even publish the skills you create to the Alexa skills store upon approval, and other Alexa users can use your skills and give them a rating.
Enhance your Alexa privacy
Maybe you ask Alexa embarrassing questions? Perhaps you simply don’t want the virtual assistant saving all of your voice recordings? You can delete individual recordings by going to Settings and Alexa Privacy in the app. Here you have a variety of options, including managing your Alexa data and viewing your specific voice history. To delete a recording, select it and click Delete voice recordings.
You can delete recordings for the entire day, week, or month, or even delete your entire recordings history. Under Manage your Alexa data, you can also set it up to have your recordings automatically deleted. You can manage other aspects of your privacy as well (such as your smart home devices history).
Guest Connect to other Echo devices
Want to connect to someone else’s Echo to access your Alexa account? If you’re over at a friend’s house, you can use Guest Connect to temporarily connect using their compatible device. You just need an Alexa account, an Alexa voice profile, and a phone number linked to your Alexa account. If you have those things, you can just say “connect to my account” to get started with Guest Connect. Once you’re in, Alexa uses voice recognition, and then gives you access to your music and news.
Get help in the kitchen
Since your hands are busy chopping or simply covered in food, Alexa can be a big help in the kitchen, whether you need her to set a timer for 10 minutes or convert ounces to cups. If you’re deciding what to make for dinner and notice you’re out of coriander, you can ask Alexa to add it to your shopping list. If you’ve bought paper towels from Amazon Prime before, you can reorder them by saying, “Alexa, reorder paper towels.” If your kids are ordering too many cookies, you can turn off voice ordering or require a confirmation code.
Other features are also very helpful when it comes to meal preparation. The Food Network skill, for example, gives you access to an extensive library of recipes. You can ask Alexa a series of questions to help decide what sounds best (or most convenient) for dinner. Simply say, “Alexa, ask Food Network for the recipes on TV right now,” or “Alexa, ask Food Network for recipes from Alton Brown.”
John Velasco / Digital Trends
If you own a GE Wi-Fi Connect appliance, meal prep is even easier. The Geneva skill for Alexa allows you to control these devices with your voice. Simply request this by saying, “Alexa, enable Geneva skill.” You’ll then need to link your GE Wi-Fi Connect account, but once that’s done, you’ll be able to ask Alexa an amalgam of useful questions, as well as prompt the assistant to activate various household appliances. You can say, “Alexa, tell Geneva to preheat my oven to 400 degrees,” or “Alexa, ask Geneva if my laundry is dry.”
Several other appliances have either Alexa integration or are Alexa compatible. For example, the LG Instaview ThinQ Smart Refrigerator is a fridge with a screen and Alexa built in, meaning that you can literally ask your fridge what to make for dinner. Alexa has other functionality, too. Let’s say, for example, you still managed to burn dinner — even with all of your digital assistant’s help. That’s OK. There’s now a skill to help you quickly order a Domino’s pizza. This skill, along with more than 85,000 others and counting, is available in the skills section of the Alexa App. You can also ask Alexa about nearby restaurants whenever you’re in a pickle.
It’s best to use appliances supported by Alexa. However, you may already own smart appliances that don’t work with Alexa out of the box. Luckily, there is a way of pairing these appliances. If your device isn’t supported by Alexa but is supported by IFTTT, you can set up a series of triggers to establish support and functionality. IFTTT has even curated an entire catalog of command triggers specifically for Alexa. Or, you can buy a smart hub or the Echo Plus to connect your devices.
Start your morning with Alexa
Alexa is more than willing to help you start and end your day, especially with the alarm clock-like Echo Spot. The small, round device with a screen features the time, and you can set it to auto-dim at night. The Echo Dot 3rd Gen with Led Clock has a display timer right on the front that adjusts to the lighting in the room. Saying, “Alexa, set an alarm,” will prompt the assistant to ask for a time, and you can set your 7 a.m. wake-up call for every day, weekdays, weekends, or just on Thursdays. You can even set your alarm so that you wake to Bruno Mars, Eminem, or whoever you like to hear in the morning. Depending on which device you have, you can set and disable alarms with your voice, via the screen (Spot and Show only) or in the app. Forgot when you’re supposed to wake up tomorrow? Just ask, “Alexa, when is my alarm?”
When your alarm does go off in the morning, you can ask Alexa for traffic, weather, and news briefings. The Echo, Spot, Dot, and other Amazon devices can also tell you what is on your Google Calendar, or you can add an event. Not only does Alexa support Google Calendar, but it now also works with your Outlook, Microsoft, or Apple calendar.
Oh, and if you’re running late, you can even call an Uber or Lyft with Alexa.
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
There are also plenty of products to help Alexa adjust the atmosphere in your bedroom. When you’re ready for bed, you can ask Alexa to turn off the lights and lower the thermostat, or just set a routine to do all of those things at once by saying, “Alexa, good night.” Of course, you’ll also need to have enabled specific, Alexa-compatible devices in order to do so. The Philips Hue skill, for example, works specifically with Philips Hue lights to help you control the lighting around your home. Simply say, “Alexa, turn on Relax in Bedroom,” and the lights in your room will dim or brighten to your preferred setting.
As for other features, flash briefings are a great way to stay up-to-date on the latest news and tidbits while you’re getting your day started. Flash briefings essentially function as pre-recorded updates, courtesy of popular broadcasters such as NPR, BBC News, The Economist, and Slate, among others (including Digital Trends!). If you want longer, more detailed news briefings, Alexa offers long-form briefings too. To use the flash briefing feature, you’ll first need to find, enable, and manage your flash briefing content. Go to Menu > Setting > Flash Briefings in the app to set it up. After you’ve tailored your flash briefings to your liking, you can just say, “Alexa, what’s my Flash Briefing?”
Customize Alexa answers on Echo and other Blueprints
Alexa now has the ability to customize her answers based on the decisions you make. You can find this option in Alexa skills or right from the redesigned home screen on the app. There is a special “Skill Blueprint” that allows you to build custom answers to specific questions. For example, you could create a custom question where you ask, “Alexa, is mom always right?” and then create Alexa’s response, “Let me check … yes, all records show that mom is always right.” You can customize questions in all sorts of ways for jokes or useful information.
If this sounds like the sort of thing you are interested in, make sure to check out other Skill Blueprints that can help you track chores, count down to important dates, and more.
Make a playlist with your voice
You can listen to anything on Amazon Music just by asking Alexa to play it, as long as you have an Amazon Prime account. Those with Spotify accounts can sync with their Amazon devices so TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and Pandora will also play tunes, internet radio, and podcasts on command. If you bought some MP3s and uploaded them to your Amazon Music Library, you can also listen to those.
Whereas previously, you had to go to the Amazon Music app to actually create a playlist, this is no longer the case. Amazon Music listeners can have Alexa make a playlist simply by saying, “Alexa, add this to my playlist” or “Alexa, create a new playlist.” From here, you’ll be able to ask the smart assistant to either add songs to an existing playlist, or create a new playlist based on the song that’s currently playing. If you have a Prime Music or Amazon Music Unlimited subscription, you can instantly access this feature.
Don’t forget that the Amazon Echo started as a Bluetooth speaker, so you can use your Echo device to listen to music or stream to other speakers with better sound. The Echo Input is specifically designed to be used with other speakers.
If you prefer to listen to audiobooks, you can do so with your paired Audible account. It’s not quite the same, but if you have a list of ebooks in your Kindle account, you can find which are compatible with Alexa in the app and ask the assistant to read them.
Voice control your TV, too
You can connect your Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV Stick to Alexa (if you don’t have a Fire TV Cube with Alexa already built in). When you’ve done all that, you’ll be able to ask Alexa not only to turn on the TV, but also search by genre or even actor. So when you say, “Alexa, show me movies with Brad Pitt,” his entire collection should show up. Pro tip: Choose Ocean’s 11 over Ocean’s 12.
Drop In on other Echo devices
Drop In is a feature that allows you to automatically connect and speak through other Echo devices. You can easily find it by going to the Communicate icon on the bottom of the Alexa home screen and then choosing Drop In at the top. This will take you to the settings where you can enable Drop In. Then you can just say, “Alexa, Drop in on” and the name of the Echo or person you want to start talking to.
Drop In only works when both sides enable it, so you can’t drop in on a friend without them being aware of the possibility. It’s useful for checking on other areas of a big house or upper story, or with a family member. If you have several Echos, you can also choose to “Drop In on all devices” to use them as an intercom service.
Announce statements to all Echos in the house
Drop In can be useful if you want to have direct conversations with another Echo, but if you simply want to make a statement or announcement, there is another option right by Drop In called Announce. This will take you to a screen where you can type or dictate a quick message, and Alexa will relay it to all the Echos in your group. It’s an ideal way to announce that dinner is ready, that bedtime has come, or a variety of other family events.
Enjoy Alexa jokes, games, and Easter eggs
Once you’re done deciding what movie to see, you can have a little fun with Alexa. The virtual assistant has games, jokes, Easter eggs, and amusing answers to all sorts of questions — like where do babies come from? Want to choose your own adventure? Enable the skill, then say, “Alexa, open the magic door.” Heck, if you’re into it, Alexa will even play farting noises for you.
Don’t overlook the skills available for sports fanatics. With the Fantasy Football skill, you can track all of your favorite sports teams. Using Alexa, you can use the skill to ask for specifics on game scores and how they affect your fantasy match-ups.
Another useful skill is Find My Phone. This feature helps you find your mobile device should you happen to misplace it. If you can’t find your mobile device, you can say, “Alexa, find my phone,” and Alexa will use her technological skills to help you out.
If you’ve seen other Echos do cool things that yours can’t do, simply ask, “Alexa, do you have any new features?” Alexa will let you know about any recent features that have come out. You can pull up the app to check for new features also, but it’s always nice to make Alexa earn her keep by working for you.
Check out these great Amazon Echo deals if you’re in the market for a smart speaker.