You have set up your new Alexa device and now it’s time to figure out what Alexa can do for you.  Alexa has over twenty five thousand different skills so there is lots of room to experiment.   Before taking a deep dive into all the possibilities, here’s some suggestions for the first 15 things to try that Alexa can do natively.

1. Timers & Alarms

Timers and alarms can be used to make a sound at a particular time or a set number of minutes or hours from now.

Sample Voice Commands:

To set a timer:  “Alexa, set a timer for X minutes” – great for in the Kitchen!
To set a sleep timer on music:  “Alexa, stop playing music in 90 minutes”
To set the default alarm:  “Alexa, wake me at 7 am”
To set an alarm to music:  “Alexa, wake me at 7 am to x playlist”

2. Measurement conversions

Conversions can be used with recipes, crafts, renovations or any time you need to convert one unit of measurement to another.  Alexa can convert measurements of liquids, mass, weight, or dimensions.

Sample Voice Commands:

“Alexa, convert 1/4 cup to ounces” – great for working with recipes
“Alexa, how many kilograms is 120 pounds?”
“Alexa, how many feet in 75 inches” – works great during renovations or in the garage

3. Jokes to have a laugh (or a groan)

Sometimes you just need a laugh and Alexa is always there to provide a short and sometimes groan-worthy joke.

Sample Voice Commands:

“Alexa, tell me a joke”.

If you are more adventurous, you can ask Alexa to get way more specific than that.  Try things like: “Alexa, tell me a superhero joke” or “Alexa, tell me a ‘insert holiday here’ joke” for fun seasonal hijinks.

4. Interface with your home automation

Alexa really starts to shine when she can take small tasks off your hands or more importantly, do them when your hands are full.  Things like locking the door, turn an appliance on and off, turning on or off the lights, or changing the temperature.  If you have any additional smart devices in your home chances are that Alexa can control them.

Sample Voice Commands:

“Alexa, turn on the living room lights”
“Alexa, make me a cup of coffee”
“Alexa, set temperature to 71 degrees”

5. Define or spell words for you

If you are playing Scrabble, writing a report, or need to know the meaning or spelling of a word, Alexa can help!

Sample Voice Commands:

“Alexa, spell beige”
“Alexa, define antidisestablishmentarianism”

6. Reminders & Calendars

Never forget an important date or task again!  Before you use these skills, make sure you go into the settings in the Alexa App and set up a voice profile so that she can learn your voice.  Otherwise, the reminders will go to the default profile.  Alexa can’t currently schedule recurring events, but hopefully that will be coming in a future update.  Alexa will read your reminders and it will also pop up if you are using the Alexa App.

Sample Voice Commands:

“Alexa, remind me on Tuesday to call Jack at 10 am.”
“Alexa, how many days until Christmas?”

7. Games

If you have some time to spare, try out one of Alexa’s games.  Examples of games that come with Alexa are 20 Questions and Heads Up.   There are thousands of other games available and you can search in the Skills site to enable other games like Match Game, Guess The Celebrity, Jeopardy.

Sample Voice Commands:

“Alexa, play a game” and Alexa will offer games one at a time.  If you know the game you want to play, say
“Alexa, play 20 questions”

8. Shopping

Alexa can help you with both shopping on Amazon or creating separate shopping lists in the Alexa App.  To shop on Amazon, just ask Alexa to add items to your cart.

Sample Voice Command:

“Alexa, add toilet paper to my cart”

You can also ask Alexa to populate a shopping list in the App that you can use to keep track of your needs or search for on Amazon.  The default list is called “Shopping List” but you can create more lists, like Groceries or For the Kids.

Sample Voice Command:

“Alexa, add cookies to Groceries”

9. Weather

If you’re looking for the weather in your home location as listed on your profile, you can just ask for the weather but you can also ask for the weather in other locations.

Sample Voice Commands:

“Alexa, what is the weather like today/tomorrow/this week”
“Alexa, will I need an umbrella on Tuesday?”
“Alexa, will I need a jacket tomorrow?”
“Alexa, what is the weather forecast for Las Vegas”

10. Music

Of course, your Echo is also a speaker!  Use Alexa to play from Amazon Prime, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or you can  import your music collection into Amazon Music. You can also pair  your Echo with your phone or other Bluetooth device to stream music.

Sample Voice Commands:

“Alexa, play absolute Radio on TuneIn” – Alexa sometimes has trouble finding particular stations but adding TuneIn to the end of the request for a specific station often works.  If you have Amazon Music or almost any other music service you can integrate them with skills.  Alexa can also find a song for you if you know some of the lyrics. For example:

“Alexa, what is the song that goes I am loving you more”

11. News flash

Interested in a news briefing?  Set up your preferences in the Alexa App and any of the following voice commands will provide the news you’ve selected.  Choices include over 4,000 sources including CNET, CNBC, BBC, Fox News, CNN, The Tonight Show, People, Motley Fool, etc.  You can choose multiple sources and set the order that Alexa will provide them to you.

Sample Voice Commands:

“Alexa, tell me the news”
“Alexa, what happened today”
“Alexa, give me a flash briefing”

12. Play podcasts (from Tune In) and audiobooks (from Audible)

Alexa will play any podcast from Tune In and audiobooks from Audible.

Sample Voice Commands:

“Alexa, play the podcast Spark” – This will play the latest episode but you can also request a specific episode.
“Alexa, play Crushing It from Audible”

13. Sleep sounds

Having trouble sleeping or concentrating on your work?  Use Alexa to play some ambient sounds like oceans, birds, etc.

Sample Voice Commands:

“Alexa, play white noise”
“Alexa, play thunderstorms”
“Alexa, play nature sounds”

14. Trivia

Alexa is great at trivia and you can ask lots of useful things when you are bored or trying to settle an argument with a friend.

Sample Voice Commands:

“Alexa, when is the next full moon?”
“Alexa, who was the first person in space?”

15. Easter eggs

In addition to all the useful skills that are built-in when you purchase an Alexa device, there are some surprises.  Try any of the following!

Sample Voice Commands:

“Alexa, set phasers to stun”
“Alexa, speak Klingon”
“Alexa, I am your father”
“Alexa, are you Skynet?”
“Alexa, self destruct”

 

Enabling Other Alexa Skills

When you’re ready to enable additional skills, visit Amazon’s Alexa site and browse top skills or search by category to add skills to your device.