Alexa For Dummies
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Alexa isn’t difficult to set up. But after the initial startup chores are complete, perhaps the most common question people ask is, “What do I do now?” It’s a reasonable question, especially if you’re looking at an Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Plus, which give you no hints about what your next step is supposed to be. As a way of helping you answer the “Now what?” question, this Cheat Sheet takes you through a few important initial tasks and customizations, as well as a fistful of voice commands to make Alexa do some useful and fun things.

10 Must-Do Alexa Setup Chores

When you first get your Alexa device, you may be tempted to rip it out of the box, plug it in, and then start talking. Who can blame you? However, if you want to get the most out of your initial Alexa experiences, there are a few tasks you should run and a few settings you should customize as soon as you can:

  • Get the Alexa app. You can perform a few basics without the Alexa app, but you’ll need this chunk of software on your mobile device if you want to maximize your Alexa investment. Go to your device’s app store to install the Alexa app.
  • Train your voice. The more Alexa knows your voice, the better the service works. To get Alexa off to the best start with your voice, you need to do some training. Say, “Alexa, learn my voice,” and then follow Alexa’s prompts.
  • Specify your location. Useful Alexa services such as the weather and traffic need to know where you’re located, so make sure your location is accurate. In the Alexa app, tap Devices→Echo & Alexa, tap your Alexa device, and then tap Location. If you don’t feel comfortable entering your exact address, it’s fine to enter just your zip code or postal code.
  • Set your default music provider. Alexa assumes you want to get your tunes from Amazon Music, but if you use another provider, such as Spotify, you should set up that service as your default for music. Choose Menu→Settings→Music, tap Choose Default Music Services, select the service you want to use, and then tap Done.
  • Configure your Flash Briefing. If left un-curated, your Flash Briefing can get very long as various skills add themselves to this service. To gain some control, choose Menu→Settings→Flash Briefing; then, for each skill you don’t want to hear in your Flash Briefing, tap that skill’s switch to Off.
  • Set your destination for traffic reports. Alexa needs to know both your starting point and your destination to give you a traffic report. To fill in these details, choose Menu→Settings→Traffic.
  • Customize your sports teams. Unless you’re a fan of the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the New England Patriots, Alexa’s default sports teams will just make you angry. You can fix this by choosing Menu→Settings→Sports, removing the teams you don’t care about (or actively dislike), and replacing them with the teams you prefer.
  • Connect Alexa to your calendar. Using voice commands to add appointments and find out your upcoming schedule is one of Alexa’s best features. However, this only works if you tell Alexa which calendar service to use. Choose Menu→Settings→Calendar; then tap Google, Microsoft, Apple, or Microsoft Exchange.
  • Enable Kid Skills. If you have kids, Alexa can be great fun, especially because there are thousands of skills aimed at children. You don’t see those skills by default, however. To change that, choose Menu→Settings→Alexa Account→Kid Skills; then tap the Allow Kid Skills switch to On.
  • Connect your contacts. If you want to use Alexa for hands-free voice and video calls to people in your mobile device’s Contacts app, you need to give Alexa permission to access those contacts. For iOS, choose Settings→Amazon Alexa, and then tap the Contacts switch to On; for Android, choose Settings→Apps→Amazon Alexa→Permissions, and then tap the Contacts switch to On.

The 50 Most Useful Alexa Voice Commands

Alexa is billed as a “virtual personal assistant,” and to earn that title it needs to make your life easier, simpler, and more convenient. Does Alexa do that? If the following 50 voice commands are the evidence, then I’d have to say the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

  • “Alexa, what time is it?”
  • “Alexa, what is today’s date?”
  • “Alexa, what’s the weather like?”
  • “Alexa, play my Flash Briefing.”
  • “Alexa, play my sports update.”
  • “Alexa, how’s the traffic?”
  • “Alexa, what was the score of yesterday’s [team] game?”
  • “Alexa, what’s the definition of [word]?”
  • “Alexa, how do you spell [word]?”
  • “Alexa, what are some synonyms for [word]?”
  • “Alexa, how do you say [word] in [language]?”
  • “Alexa, how many [units1] are in [number] [units2]?” (For example, “Alexa, how many cups are in one gallon?”)
  • “Alexa, what is [number] [operator] [number]?” (For example, “Alexa, what is 123 times 456?”)
  • “Alexa, what is [number1] percent of [number2]?” (For example, “Alexa, what is 15 percent of 235.75?”)
  • “Alexa, tell me about [topic].”
  • “Alexa, ask Wikipedia about [topic].”
  • “Alexa, play some music.”
  • “Alexa, play new music.”
  • “Alexa, play [song, album, artist, playlist, genre, mood].”
  • “Alexa, who sings this song?”
  • “Alexa, pause/resume/next/previous.”
  • “Alexa, set volume to [number from 1 through 10].”
  • “Alexa, play [audiobook title].”
  • “Alexa, enable [skill].”
  • “Alexa, set alarm for [time].”
  • “Alexa, wake me up every weekday at [time].”
  • “Alexa, set a timer for [duration].”
  • “Alexa, set a [name] timer for [duration].” (For example, “Alexa, set a tea timer for four minutes.”)
  • “Alexa, what day of the week is [date]?”
  • “Alexa, what’s on my calendar?”
  • “Alexa, add an event to my calendar.”
  • “Alexa, what’s my next event?”
  • “Alexa, what am I doing tomorrow?”
  • “Alexa, remind me to [task] at [time].”
  • “Alexa, send a message.”
  • “Alexa, call [name, device, or phone number].”
  • “Alexa, video call [name, device, or phone number].”
  • “Alexa, drop in on [name or device].”
  • “Alexa, announce [message].”
  • “Alexa, add [task] to my to-do list.”
  • “Alexa, what’s on my to-do list?”
  • “Alexa, add [item] to my shopping list.”
  • “Alexa, order [item].”
  • “Alexa, reorder [item].”
  • “Alexa, what’s on my shopping list?”
  • “Alexa, where’s my stuff?”
  • “Alexa, what [business types] are nearby?” (For example, “Alexa, what restaurants are nearby?”)
  • “Alexa, what’s the address/phone number of [name of business]?”
  • “Alexa, discover my devices.”
  • “Alexa, turn on [device, scene, group].”

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Paul McFedries is a technical writer who has been authoring computer books since 1991 and has over 100 books to his credit. These books include Alexa For Dummies, Amazon Fire TV For Dummies, and Cord Cutting For Dummies. You can visit Paul on the web at

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