I’ve recently posted about my recommended products on how to make your home smarter with the use of Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant. Now here are the top 10 things to know how to use Alexa.
By the way, to check out my recommended Alexa compatible devices go here.
Who is Alexa
First off, you may be asking who is Alexa again? Alexa is Amazon’s personal digital assistant that can answer questions or perform smart home commands. You’d need an Amazon Echo device or a smart home device with Alexa assistant installed in your home in order to utilize her.
The name “Alexa” comes from the library of Alexandria which stored the knowledge of the ancient world.
You can actually ask Alexa this, “why are you named Alexa?” And you’ll get the same answer as above.
In this blog I’ll mainly be focusing on commands you can ask with the use of an Amazon Echo gadget.
Now let’s go along with our top 10 things to know how to use Alexa.
Top 10 Things To Know How To Use Alexa
There are a lot of things that Alexa can do. This list is mainly for beginners to introduce them as to how and what Alexa can do.
In order to interact with Alexa, you’ll always have to start by speaking her name. Your Amazon Echo will light up indicating that it’s listening. Also if you have it set up it will also make a sound to inform you that it’s waiting for a command.
One more thing, you can also configure or change the wake up word or name when talking to your Echo device. Below are your options:
This comes handy if you have more than one Echo device around your home. It will also avoid both Echo device activating when you only have one and the same wake up word or name. Granted that is only if both device are within hearing distance when you try to wake them up.
1. Set reminders and alarms
I’d say the most common and likely the functionality that you’ll be using more often is this. Setting reminders is very useful indeed. Imagine, not having to use your phone to setup a reminder or an alarm. This is with the assumption that most of us nowadays use our phones for our reminders.
Using your smartphone, you’ll first obviously have to look for it. Pick it up. Unlock it if it is locked. Navigate to your clock or calendar app. Then setup a reminder or alarm.
With your Alexa personal digital assistant, simply speak it out and Alexa will set the reminder for you.
- “remind me to pick up my son from school at 2:30pm”
- “remind me of my conference call at 8am”
- “set up a repeating reminder every Sunday at 9am for time to go to church”
Now ain’t that a breeze?
2. Get the latest news
The next capability of Alexa is to let you know of the latest news for the day. You do have to select your sources first in the Alexa App settings for your flash briefing.
I find this very useful and handy. You can do this by saying:
- “Alexa, what is my flash briefing”
You can start your day with the flash briefing for the day. It will read all the flash briefing sources that you have enabled.
Below are the categories that’s available:
- News (Local & Worldwide)
Other categories that you can check in the Alexa App are what are “Popular” and “Recommended for you”.
3. Play music
Another functionality of Alexa is to play music. Have it play music or songs:
- from a particular era (i.e. songs from the 80’s)
- from a genre (i.e. pop, rock, jazz, hiphop, etc.)
- or you can ask it to play songs composed or sang by a particular artist
- another option is pick the album you want to listen to
“Alexa, play music from the ’80s”
“Play songs from Michael Jackson”
Several sources for songs or music that you can get content from:
- Amazon Music
If you are looking for a particular radio station, you can try to add it too. You will have to find it in the Alexa App Skills settings and enable the station that you want.
4. Call a contact or a phone number
Amazon has been generous to allow users to make phone calls. This is, however, only limited to the United States and Canada as of the moment.
This is again a very nice and useful function as you don’t need to go searching for your phone. Or if you have a landline, you don’t have to reach out for your handset.
Just speak it out and it will make the call for you.
- “call John Doe”
- “call 203-111-2222”
If you are trying to call a number, it will confirm the number first before it dials out. To end the call just say,” end call”.
5. Read your Kindle ebooks
This is another capability that I really like. You can have Alexa read your ebooks for you. It can, however, only read from Kindle. This is like having your own audiobook.
I say this is really nice because audiobooks are more expensive that ebooks. You save some money just by buying ebooks from kindle rather than an audiobook from Audible or Audiobook.
Alexa also reads from where you last left off. Thus you don’t need to worry if you have to pause and return to it at a later time.
6. Make a shopping or to-do list
You can have Alexa make a shopping or to-do list for you to help you remember. So imagine this, you’re out and about. And you suddenly find yourself in the store. Your shopping list would be in your Alexa app.
You can even install the Ultimate Alexa app (available on Google Play) and have Alexa with you while on the go. There are some limitations to the app as compared to the Echo device. This gives you the functionality to ask Alexa through your phone what is your shopping list.
So here’s how to make a shopping or to-do list.
- “Alexa, add eggs to my shopping list”
- “Alexa, add wash my laundry to my to-do list”
- “Alexa, add to [Shopping / To-do] list”, then wait for her response and then say the item you wish to add.
When you want to check your list, you can ask,
- “Alexa, tell me my to-do list”
Upon completing an item on your list you’ll have to go to the Alexa App on your smart phone to check it off or delete it.
7. Make math calculations or unit conversions
Here’s another very useful functionality of Alexa. Have it calculate for you or convert units for you.
- “what is two feet in centimeters?”
- “what is 17 times 25?”
- “how many ounces in a cup?”
If you can imagine, this has many usage. When you’re cooking and needing to make conversion. You’re doing your homework in math. When you’re out shopping and making calculations. You’ve dine out and want to know how much tip in percentage to add.
There’s so much that you can use this capability for. Although granted, other digital assistants, such as Google assistant and Apple’s Siri are also capable of doing this. Nevertheless, still a useful function indeed.
8. Send a voice message
You have other friends who also have an Amazon Echo device. You can ask Alexa to send them a voice message.
- “Alexa, send a message to Jane Doe”, it will then ask you for your message
- “Are we still good for our dinner tonight?”
This is like having your own voicemail box or answering machine in your Echo device. This eliminates the need for an answering machine phone to store your messages. Although, again this only applies to those with Amazon Echo gadgets too.
9. Find the time in a different city
Another very useful capability of Alexa is it can tell time from any parts of the globe.
- “what time is it in New York”
- “what time is it in UK”
- “in Germany”
- “in Kuala Lumpur”
You get the point right? If you have relatives or friends from other parts of the world, this comes in handy. Alexa can help you be mindful. It’ll keep you from disturbing someone who might be in dreamland.
10. Find definitions, synonyms and spelling
Last but definitely not the least, finding out a word’s definition or spelling. Imagine, reading your book or watching tv. Then you come across or hear a word. But you don’t know what it means. Alexa to the rescue:
- “what’s the definition of treaty”
- “tell me another word for impose”
- “how do you spell… mississippi”
Very useful when you’re writing. Students can definitely find this very helpful. Writers or bloggers would also find this useful.
It’s like having your own Dictionary.com through your Echo device.
So there you have it folks. These are some of the basics of how to use Alexa. Though they are basic functionalities I find them extremely useful in day-to-day living.
Obviously, Alexa can do far more especially when you start adding smart home devices to your home. Then you can integrate them to your Amazon Alexa Echo gadget.
I’d say Alexa can truly make your life more efficient with all the functionalities and automation that she can provide. Please comment your feedback and questions below.
That’s all for now. Have a wonderful and blessed day!