10 Must-Do Alexa Setup Chores

By Paul McFedries

Part of Alexa For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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.