How to use Alexa

When you take your Amazon Echo out the box you see a simplistic and minimal looking product. The reality is that the Echo and the possibilities that come with Alexa are endless and continually growing.

This article will provide you with the information you need to get your Echo and personal Alexa software up and running, in addition to showcasing the awesome features available.

alexa app

How to set up Alexa

Getting started with Alexa requires a hub with compatibility for the voice assistant.  This article refers to the setup and use of Alexa on one of Amazons Echo products. This is the step by step process for setting up a second generation Amazon Echo:

  1. Plug your Echo into a power outlet
  2. Wait for the moving blue light ring to turn orange
  3. Download the Alexa App
  4. Launch the app and wait for setup to automatically start
    • If it doesn’t – go to Settings > Set up a new device
  5. Follow the setup instructions

Now your Echo is the setup you should find the perfect place to optimize performance. Ideally, you would have the Echo the center of a room, perhaps on a kitchen counter, as to be as close as possible to any voice commands. You also want to make sure the Echo is at least eight inches from any wall.

Now you are set to enjoy the perks of your Echo with a command. This is operated by simply saying “Alexa” followed by the command itself, for example, “turn off”.

how to use alexa example

Alexa feature guide

Saying that Alexa is jam-packed with features is an understatement. From practical to entertaining, Amazons Alexa can be used for many, many things. This section will break down the main areas and show you the best features.

How to use Alexa for entertainment

Alexa is both a portal and control point for huge libraries of various media types. This includes music, podcasts, audiobooks, and video services if you have an Echo device with a screen such as the Echo Show. Here is exactly what you can do:

  • Control playback
  • Change volume
  • Change equalizer
  • Access music services
    • Amazon Prime Music
    • Pandora
    • Spotify
    • iHeartRadio
  • Mulit-room music
  • Listen to podcasts
  • Listen to audioboojs
  • Play games with Alexa
  • Watch movies & TV shows (with Echo Show/Spot)

how to use alexa plus options

How to Use Alexa for communication

Alexa can be used to communicate to family members within your home as well as further afield contacts via smartphone syncing. This is exactly how you may use Alexa as a communication hub:

  • Drop in feature for two way communication (e.g your phone to Echo)
  • Announcements from the main Echo to supported devices in a household (e.g Dinner is served)
  • Call other Echo devices for free
  • Video call other supported Echo devices for free
  • Speech to text messaging
  • Skype calls
Echo show
The Echo show can make video calls

How to use Alexa to increase productivity

With Alexa comes many practical tools to assist your daily life. General life admin tools in the form of alarms, reminders, calendars and more put the “assistant” in “virtual assistant”. The main productivity orientated features include:

  • Alarms
  • Repeating alarms
  • Music alarms
  • Timers
  • Calendar scheduling and updates
  • Shopping lists
  • To-do lists
  • Custom lists
  • Mathematical calculations
  • Word definitions
  • Word spellings
  • Currency conversion
  • Cooking assistance – timers, size conversions & suggestions

alexa routineHow to use Alexa as a Smart Home hub

One of the key applications of Amazons Echo and Alexa is to operate as the hub of the smart home. Amazon has been working hard to integrate Alexa with as many devices possible. This year they have successfully surpassed a total of 20,000 devices. This applications of Alexa has endless possibilities, but here are a few examples so you get the gist:

  • Turn on smart lights
  • Dim smart lights
  • Change smart lights color
  • Turn on smart plug connected devices
  • Turn off smart plug connected devices
  • Change the temperature of the smart thermostat.

This scratches the surface, considering how many devices there is that work with Alexa. Each device has a specific set of skills and various options which you need consider on a device by device basis.

If you want to take it one step further you can set up Routines which are essential chains of automation that happen on a daily basis. For example, on a single command, you can be told the weather forecasts, the daily news and turn on the lights slowly.

How to use Alexa Skills

alexa skills

Alexa Skills are virtual apps that third parties can create to broaden the functions of Alexa. From playing games or getting more out of your smart device, it is Alexa Skills that make the Echo a potentially limitless product. These are examples of Alexa Skills:

  • Play Jeopardy!
  • Open CNN
  • Play Song Quiz

Smart devices tend to have accompanying Alexa Skills that provide the user with a few more features. For example, the iRobot Skill works with certain Roombas to enable the robot vacuum to clean a specific room only.

How to use Alexa for Shopping

alexa shopping

Given that Amazons original and primary business is its online retailing, it isn’t much of a surprise that Alexa neatly fits in the equation. Hooking up your Amazon account to your Echo makes ordering online goods easier than ever. It doesn’t stop there though, here is exactly how you can use Alexa as a tool for your online shopping:

  • Reorder purchased goods
  • Search for any product
  • Find the best-rated product
  • Ask for the best selling in a category
  • Ask for available deals
  • Ask for the price of a good
  • Order food from Wholefoods
  • Ask for delivery updates
  • Receive notifications

How to use Alexa for News & Information

Alexa is a hub of information for all the worlds latest developments. You can ask Alexa for:

  • News flash briefing
  • Weather forecasts
  • Sports updates
  • Translations
  • Traffic updates
  • Commute length estimates
  • Any question you have!
  • Trending topics
  • Local search – near restaurants, cinemas playing films

Rupert Pople

Rupert is the founder of this website and a smart home tech enthusiast fascinated by the power of connected devices. Within his Business Management (BSc) degree at the University of Nottingham, he studied the technological impact of the Internet of Things.

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