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Alexa is Amazon’s voice-activated smart assistant, meant to make your life a little easier through automation and a friendly, human(ish) interface.

While most often associated with Amazon’s line of smart speakers, Alexa can do a lot more than play you your favorite songs. Here’s a breakdown of how Alexa works, and how you can set up Alexa in your own home.

What is Alexa?

How to use Alexa - What is Alexa?

Alexa was “born” in 2014. The virtual assistant was introduced with the Amazon Echo, but “she” has since become compatible with other devices.

With the rise of smart homes, the advantages of a smart assistant became quite obvious. You could have Alexa Google things for you, like Apple’s Siri, but you could also do all kinds of things around the house using your voice — turn your music up, get help with a recipe, order new dishwasher detergent as soon as you ran out, etc.

While you could originally only use Alexa with the Amazon Echo, other developers and manufacturers began incorporating Alexa into their own devices and operating systems for a streamlined, consistent smart home experience.

What is Amazon Echo?

How to use Alexa - What is Alexa?

The Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Dot are definitely the first devices to come to mind when thinking about Alexa.

Amazon Echo is the default Alexa smart speaker. Its functions go far beyond those of a speaker though. While you can use the Echo to do things like listen to the radio, stream music, set timers and alarms, or make phone calls, you can also use the Echo as a smart home hub, connecting all of your smart home devices to control them from one place, using your voice.

How to set up Alexa on Amazon Echo

If you have an Amazon Echo, how do you set up Alexa? It’s pretty simple (these instructions apply to the second generation devices, though setting up a first-gen Echo is almost the same).

First, you’ll want to download the Alexa app, which is free and available on phones and tablets with Fire OS 3.0 or higher, Android 5.0 or higher, and iOS 9.0 or higher. Use your device’s preferred app store and simply search “Alexa app,” or check out the Amazon store using Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or Internet Explorer (10 or higher) on your Wi-Fi enabled computer.

From there, follow these steps:

  • Plug in and turn on your Echo.
  • Wait for the light to turn blue, then orange. Once it turns orange, Alexa will greet you.
  • Following the instructions on the Alexa app, connect your Echo to Wi-Fi.
  • Start talking to and interacting with Alexa.

That’s it, you’re all done and ready to give your smart speaker instructions via Alexa.

Alexa-ready devices

For obvious reasons, Amazon leads the pack in devices that support Alexa, but you’ll find a number of third-party devices with Alexa compatibility.

Of course, the more you stray from Amazon, the more variation you’ll find in how to set up Alexa. Each manufacturer will offer its own instructions to set up Alexa, so make sure to read those carefully and to download new skills on the Alexa app.

Below are just a few of the devices you can control via voice commands to Alexa.

Smart speakers

Tablets

How to use Alexa - What is Alexa?

Media streaming devices

Other Alexa-powered devices

Quick and easy Alexa commands

To get Alexa to follow your commands or answer your questions, you’ll need to get her attention. To do that, simply say her name, followed by whatever command you have in mind.

Below is a breakdown of some of the most common commands you’ll want to familiarize yourself with to make full use of your Alexa smart assistant.

General

  • “Alexa, let’s chat.” – Start a conversation with Alexa. Heads up: it can get pretty weird.
  • “Alexa, what’s the weather?”
  • “Alexa, what’s my flash briefing?” — Alexa delivers news from selected broadcasters.
  • “Alexa, what’s the traffic like?”
  • “Alexa, set an alarm for X.”
  • “Alexa, set a timer for X minutes.”
  • “Alexa, what time is it?”
  • “Alexa, what’s the date?”
  • “Alexa, cancel the alarm.”
  • “Alexa, show my calendar.”
  • “Alexa, show me the weekend forecast.”

Music

How to use Alexa - What is Alexa?

  • “Alexa, play some music.” — This randomly plays music through Amazon’s music service.
  • “Alexa, play music by X.”
  • “Alexa, play latest Lenny Kravitz album.”
  • “Alexa, play ‘Zombie Nation’ by Kernkraft.”
  • “Alexa, next.” — skip to the next track.
  • “Alexa, restart.” — restart the current song.
  • “Alexa, add this song.” — This adds the song you’re listening to to your Spotify or Amazon Prime Music library.
  • “Alexa, play [song] on Spotify.”
  • “Alexa, play [artist] station on Pandora.”
  • “Alexa, play [radio station] on TuneIn.”
  • “Alexa, what’s playing?” — This will tell you the name of the song playing along with its artist.
  • “Alexa, stop playing in 20 minutes.”
  • “Alexa, set the volume to 4.”
  • “Alexa, louder” or “Alexa, turn up/down the volume.”
  • “Alexa, wake me up to [artist, song, genre, playlist, or album] at 8 a.m.”

Eating out

  • “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.”

Organization and planning

  • “Alexa, create a to-do list.”
  • “Alexa, add ‘buy food for cat’ to my to-do list.”
  • “Alexa, add ‘pizza sauce’ to my shopping list.”
  • ”Alexa, what’s on my shopping list?”
  • “Alexa, I need to make an appointment to see the vet.”
  • “Alexa, what’s on my calendar for tomorrow?”
  • “Alexa, add [event] to my calendar for [time/date].”

Online shopping

  • “Alexa, order an Echo.”
  • “Alexa, ask Uber to request a ride” or “Alexa, ask Lyft for a ride.”
  • “Alexa, shop for new music by [artist].
  • “Alexa, track my order.”
  • “Alexa, buy more laundry detergent.” — You can re-order items on Amazon this way.
  • “Alexa, search for [artist] on Amazon.”

Smart home

How to use Alexa - What is Alexa?

  • “Alexa, turn on/off [smart home device].”
  • “Alexa, turn on/off [scene name].”
  • “Alexa, set [smart light name] to [your preferred level].”
  • “Alexa, brighten/dim [smart light name].”
  • “Alexa, set the light to [color].”
  • “Alexa, set [smart thermostat name] temperature to [XX] degrees.”
  • “Alexa, lock/unlock the [back/front] door.”
  • “Alexa, show [camera name].”

Alexa easter eggs

As useful as Alexa is for everyday tasks, she can also offer lighthearted fun. She’ll even get a little sassy if you know which (figurative) buttons to push.

Try a few of these prompts sometime, when you’re looking for a laugh. Alexa will amuse you with dad jokes, pop culture references, and even some self-reflexive anecdotes about AI.

  • Alexa, who is better, you or Siri?
  • Alexa, can you pass the Turing test?
  • Alexa, do you have a boyfriend?
  • Alexa, my name is Inigo Montoya.
  • Alexa, where’s Waldo?
  • Alexa, where is Chuck Norris?
  • Alexa, who you gonna call?
  • Alexa, show me the money!
  • Alexa, more cowbell.
  • Alexa, what’s the first rule of Fight Club?
  • Alexa, may the force be with you.
  • Alexa, do or do not.
  • Alexa, are you a Jedi?
  • Alexa, that’s no moon.
  • Alexa, what is the Prime Directive?
  • Alexa, engage!
  • Alexa, live long and prosper.
  • Alexa, set phasers to kill.
  • Alexa, fire photon torpedoes.
  • Alexa, I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.
  • Alexa, expelliarmous.
  • Alexa, wingardium leviosa.
  • Alexa, alohamora.
  • Alexa, winter is coming.
  • Alexa, what does Jon Snow know?
  • Alexa, hold the door.
  • Alexa, up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start.
  • Alexa, all your base are belong to us.
  • Alexa, why is six afraid of seven?
  • Alexa, see you later alligator.
  • Alexa, which comes first: the chicken or the egg?
  • Alexa, how do I get rid of a dead body?
  • Alexa, how are babies made?
  • Alexa, never gonna give you up.
  • Alexa, play that funky music.
  • Alexa, my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.
  • Alexa, what is love?
  • Alexa, who is the real Slim Shady?

More helpful Alexa tips from DGiT

Wrap up

That’s the gist of what you can expect from Alexa.

Did we miss any of the questions you have about the smart assistant? Any uses you’ve found for your own Alexa device or commands you’d like to figure out? Chime in in the comments!

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