Virtual assistants keep getting better every day, making our lives easier with simple voice commands. Amazon’s Alexa is one of the leaders of the pack, letting you control your music, other media, and even your smart home devices, all from one place.
It’s likely not going to revolutionize your home life, but if you have an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot, you’ve likely already noticed your life getting easier.
You’ve also probably only just skimmed the surface of what your virtual assistant can do. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of some of the coolest Amazon Echo hacks you never knew you needed.
Let’s dive right in!
Change Alexa’s name or “wake word”
Before you can get Alexa to do anything for you, you have to get her attention by saying, “Hey, Alexa.” If you don’t like that name, or are worried your Echo will get confused if, say, you have a daughter named Alexa, you do have the option to change that “wake word.”
Here’s how to do it:
- Open the Alexa app.
- Click on Settings.
- Select your device.
- Click on Wake Word.
- Pick from four choices available: “Alexa,” “Amazon,” “Echo,” or “Computer.”
Unfortunately, you can’t really get creative and come up with your own original, funny, or weird name for Alexa. Instead, you’ll have to choose between Amazon, Echo, or Computer.
Keep in mind that “Computer” and “Amazon” might cause some problems when you say things like, “Hey, honey, can you grab my computer? I think I left it in the living room,” or “I wonder if I can order Froot Loops on Amazon.” (Note: you can indeed buy Froot Loops on Amazon).
Train Alexa to recognize your voice
Voice commands are a godsend and make interacting with your virtual assistant so much easier — sure, picking up a phone or device to adjust your music isn’t the end of the world, but still.
Even so, sometimes Alexa needs a couple tries before understanding what you need. Maybe you have a specific regional accent she struggles with, or just a voice or manner of speaking that doesn’t fully click. Not to worry! The beauty of machine learning is that it can, well, learn. And that includes learning your voice.
Go into your Alexa app, click on Settings, and select Voice Training. You’ll get 25 sample commands to read aloud, and your Echo will record them to remember your speech patterns and accent. Done!
Get help falling asleep
If you’re a light sleeper or have trouble falling asleep, Alexa can help you out.
With access to a huge library of music and sounds from Amazon, Alexa is well equipped to get you to sleep using gentle music, white noise, or nature sounds.
The next time you need something soothing to listen to while you fall asleep, try one of these commands:
- “Alexa, open Thunderstorm Sounds.”
- “Alexa, open Fan Sounds.”
- “Alexa, open Babbling Brook.”
- “Alexa, open Ocean Sounds.”
- “Alexa, open Fireplace Sounds.”
- “Alexa, open Train Sounds.”
Alexa is also equipped with a sleep timer, so that she can turn off your media on her own after a set period of time. You don’t even have to get up. If you’re settling in for the night, listening to music or watching TV, just call out to Alexa: “Alexa, set a sleep timer for 30 minutes.” (Or however long you like.)
Alexa knows a few bedtime stories to help you get some shut eye.
She also knows a few bedtime stories, if that’s your jam. Try, “Alexa, tell me a bedtime story,” or “Alexa, open Bedtime Story” to see if that works better for you. You can even personalize this feature, for your kids, for example: “Alexa, tell a bedtime story to Zoe.”
One great feature of the Echo is how easy it is to make and manage to-do lists. You can use the feature for one-off shopping lists or ongoing lists of tasks you need to get to.
To get started, just say, “Alexa, create a new to-do.”
She’ll ask you what the list is, and add whatever you tell her to. Or you you can cue her to what you need later, like, “Alexa, add ‘make a dentist appointment’ to my to-do list.”
She’s also pretty intuitive if your language isn’t so precise. For example, you can say “Alexa, add milk to my shopping list,” or “Alexa, I need to buy milk,” and in either case she’ll add milk to your shopping list.
While Echo doesn’t leave much room for managing your lists once Alexa makes them — you’ll have to edit them manually from the Alexa app or on the Alexa website — you can sync your lists with Any.do or Todoist.
Just follow the links above to sync up your Echo to your favorite list app.
Change Alexa’s voice
Alexa has a pretty distinctive voice and manner of speaking, and that may not be for everyone.
Unfortunately, you can’t just ask for Oprah or Clint Eastwood to voice your Amazon assistant (but we sure wish you could).
Instead, Alexa can switch to different languages or regional accents. She’ll always have a female voice, but if you want her to have an Australian, Indian, southern U.S., or some other accent to match your family’s speech patterns, you can absolutely do that.
- Open the Alexa app.
- Click on the gear icon.
- Select the device you want to change.
- Click on Language.
- Click on and open the drop-down menu and select the language of your choice.
- Click Save Changes.
- Click Yes, Change to confirm.
That’s all there is to it. Now you can enjoy a more customized Alexa.
Find nearby food
Alexa is helpful if you’re in a new neighbourhood, or if you just want to try some place new for dinner. Try something along these lines for restaurant info:
- “Alexa, find me a nearby Vietnamese restaurant.”
- “Alexa, what restaurants are near me?”
- “Alexa, find the address for the nearest Pizza Hut.”
- “Alexa, find business hours for the nearest Swiss Chalet.”
Or if you just want a no-hassle experience and to order some pizza, Alexa has a great skill — the only catch is you’re limited to Domino’s, which may be great or awful, depending on you pie preferences.
To do this, you’ll want to enable the Domino’s Pizza skill in the Alexa app.
Then set up a personal “Pizza Profile” on the Domino’s website. You’ll need to create an “Easy Order” that Alexa can then access when you want pizza.
Then it’s just a matter of telling Alexa you want pizza by saying, “Alexa, open Domino’s.” Then while you wait, check in on your order status by saying, “Alexa, ask Domino’s to track my order.”
Tune your guitar
There isn’t much to this one. Just say, “Alexa, tune my guitar,” and she’ll run through and play you each of the six notes in standard tuning.
If you can’t keep up, she runs through them four times. And if you still need her to slow down, just run through them another four times, or eight.
Connect your smart devices
If you spend a bit of time looking through the Alexa app, you’ll come across a Smart Home section. While you can connect the Echo to your smart home, you can actually use it as a hub in and of itself.
If you get a smart plug, like the Wemo Switch, you can go ahead and connect other devices to your Echo and use Alexa to control, say, your smart lights, ceiling fan, or thermostat.
It’s a cheap and easy way to connect your home.
Those are some of our favourite Amazon Echo hacks. But there are certainly more.
Have you found any fun and useful skills or hidden features on your Echo? Have you had any luck with any of these? Chime in in the comments!