A Complete Guide to the 40+ Most Useful Alexa Commands
So you’ve finally bought one of Amazon’s Echo devices, but you don’t know how to communicate with Alexa, the capable built-in virtual assistant? Talking with Alexa is straightforward and fun! All you need is to remember a few key phrases and you’ll be setting up appointments, listening to music, or telling your kids that dinner is ready from anywhere in the house in no time.
We’ve put together the most useful (and some less useful, but definitely amusing) Alexa commands for you to try. They’re grouped by category so you can scroll down to a segment that’s of particular interest, or take it all in to go from beginner to a true Alexa conversationalist by the time you’re done.
You’ve got to start somewhere, so why not with a few helpful tips? “Alexa, help” will give you a few pointers and commands to try. “Alexa, what time is it / what’s the date?” are also good beginner questions.
Sooner or later you’ll want to expand Alexa’s capabilities with Skills. These are apps that teach Alexa new things like playing games, or make existing commands more useful. Many 3rd-party devices can’t be used with Alexa unless you’ve activated their corresponding Skill first. “Alexa, new skills” lists three Skills to try. You can enable, disable, or access new skills by saying “Alexa, enable / disable / open [Skill name].”
If you don’t like referring to your Echo device as Alexa, Amazon, Computer, and Echo are also accepted. However, you’ll need to access the pertinent setting in the Alexa app to change the trigger word. While writing the guide, we’ve sometimes omitted “Alexa” from a listed command to make the text more streamlined. Keep in mind that you need to start every command with “Alexa” or another chosen trigger word for the Echo to execute it though.
Getting Up in the Morning
Even if you aren’t a morning person, using Alexa to wake you up in style can put a spring in your step! You can set a mundane alarm with “Alexa, set an alarm for 6:30 a.m.”, but can also be woken up by a chosen artist, genre, or radio station. “Alexa, wake me up to Maroon 5 at 7 a.m. / wake me up to BBC Radio One on TuneIn” work flawlessly.
If you have a stable weekly schedule, you can “Set a repeating alarm for weekdays at 6 a.m.” Want to snuggle under the warm blanket for a couple more minutes? “Alexa, snooze” will do the trick.
Staying Up to Date
All Echo devices come with Flash Briefing, a useful news service that aggregates stories from a wide variety of sources. At first you get access to a few major news outlets, but can customize the briefing to suit your preferences in the Amazon Alexa app. Pulling up the briefing is as easy as saying “Alexa, what’s my Flash Briefing?” You can browse general news headlines as well by saying “Alexa, what’s in the news?”
Missed the big game last night? Ask “Alexa, what was the score of the Hornets game?”, or just “Did the Hornets win?” if the numbers don’t interest you. For up-to-date news on the teams you follow, say “Alexa, give me my Sports Update.”
It’s essential to know what the weather’s going to be like if you’ve got something planned on the weekend. While there are more advanced Skills like Big Sky that give you a more thorough overview, Amazon’s basic weather forecast will do too if you say “Alexa, what’s the weather like?” for a current forecast, or “Alexa, what’s the weather going to be like the day after tomorrow?” for long-term predictions.
Listening to a temperature reading sometimes isn’t enough though, especially if it’s windy outside. To get a better idea of what the temperature will really feel like, ask “Alexa, what’s the wind chill?”
Consulting Alexa can be very helpful when planning for your commute or gauging the distance between two points. The results rely on GPS data, so you’ll have to tell Alexa either a specific address, or mention a prominent landmark like city hall or a local museum. You can ask “Alexa, how far is 215 Pinewood Grove from home?” and she’ll tell you. Keep in mind that asking about the distance to a well-known store like Walmart will always prompt Alexa to point you to the nearest one unless you specify its address.
Getting to work in the morning is a chore already, and a major traffic jam can only make things worse. Alexa has access to live traffic reports, so when you ask her “How long will it take to drive from home to work?” she’ll give you an accurate estimate. You can get more detailed information on current traffic by asking “Alexa, what’s traffic like?”, or “What’s my commute look like?”
You may want to pick up a few groceries on your way home too. If you know which stores you need to visit but aren’t sure what their working hours are, Alexa will find out for you. Tell her “Alexa, find business hours for Tom’s Diner” and you’re all set. Discovering new businesses or restaurants through Alexa is a breeze. Just ask her something like “Where’s the nearest dry cleaner?” to get a quick and accurate response.
Is the toothpaste running low? Let Alexa order some for you from Amazon! You can quickly buy a single product by saying “Alexa, buy / reorder toothpaste” and can add stuff to your cart as well with “Alexa, add Q-tips to my cart.”, or take advantage of current deals with “Alexa, what are your deals?” Once you’ve bought everything and the package is on its way, you can keep track of it with “Alexa, where’s my stuff / track my order.”
Alexa is great at making shopping lists! To start a new one, tell her to “Add milk to my shopping list / I need to buy bananas” You can have her read out an existing list’s contents by asking “What’s on my shopping list?”
Arithmetic & Unit Conversion
Alexa will gladly help when you don’t want to bother doing math in your head. Basic arithmetic options like subtracting and multiplying are the most useful and can work on currency or distances too. You can say “Alexa, what’s 45 minus 17?”, or “What’s $299.99 divided by 12?”
When you’re traveling abroad or have to deal with the metric system, the conversion skill can save you a lot of time and grief. Ask “Alexa, what’s 120 kilometers in miles?”, or “What’s 24 inches in centimeters?” to quickly get the result that comes more natural to you.
Getting in Touch
One of the Echo speakers’ best yet least-known features is the ability to call other Echo users for free! All you need is the consent of the other person, an Echo / Dot, and for both of your apps to be up to date. Alternately, you can purchase an Echo Connect which taps into your landline and turns your Echo into a real phone.
To call someone, say “Alexa, call Sylvia” and use “Alexa end the call / hang up” to finish it. “Alexa, answer (the call)” will answer the call from another user. Drop In is another way of using the Echo as a communication device. If you’ve got more than one Echo and all are properly named, saying “Alexa, drop in on the kitchen” will turn your speakers into a handy two-way intercom system. Dropping in works with other users too, but requires them to have it enabled.
You can leave voice messages for other users if they aren’t home by saying “Alexa, send Mark a message / message Mark.” Whenever someone leaves you a message, the Echo’s ring will glow green. “Alexa, play messages” will do just that.
Broadening Your Mind
It would be a shame to not take advantage of the world’s greatest accumulation of knowledge now that you’ve got an assistant to read it out for you! To access Wikipedia articles, say “Alexa, Wikipedia: Martin Luther King.” If you stop her in the middle of an article you can always resume it with “Alexa, tell me more.” Subjects don’t always need to be specific – Alexa can answer millions of general questions like “What’s the population of Zimbabwe?”, or “How tall is president Trump?”
She can even help you out in a pinch if you don’t know what a word means or aren’t sure how to spell it correctly. For these, use “Alexa, what’s the definition of somnambulism / how do you spell hypochondriac?”
Organizing Your Day
You can use Alexa as an effective means of setting up appointments and keeping lists. You can organize your personal calendar by adding events: “Alexa, add an event to my calendar / add dance recital to my calendar for Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.”. Previous appointments can be viewed by asking “What’s on my calendar for this week?”
Reminders work in a similar way. “Alexa, reminder / remind me to turn the boiler off at 10 p. m.” is what you need. Existing reminders can be brought up by saying “Alexa, what are my reminders for Friday / what reminders do I have for the weekend?” If you have a lot of obligations to keep track of in a single day, consider making a to-do list with “Alexa, create a to-do.” Add more stuff to it by saying “Alexa, add ‘take out the trash’ to my to-do list / I need to make an appointment with my hair stylist.”
You can also set up, label, and manage multiple timers. To start, say “Alexa, timer / set a (casserole) timer for 30 minutes / set a second timer for 15 minutes.” To check up on the timers, ask her “Alexa, what are my timers / how much time is left on the (casserole) timer?”
Movies & Television
Alexa is a treasure trove of information on movies, TV series, and the people who star in them. Feel like going out to your local theater and don’t know what to watch? Say “Alexa, what movies are playing tonight?” You can also specify a genre to narrow down the search. Once you’ve found a movie that sounds interesting, you can find out what critics and other moviegoer think about it with: “Alexa, what is the IMDb rating for Deadpool 2?”
Now you’ll never forget the cast of a show, and can even ask Alexa about specific actors’ roles. Use something like “Alexa, who plays in Westworld?” for the former, and “Who plays June Osbourne in The Handmaid’s Tale?” for the latter. Finally, you can get some much-loved quotes by telling Alexa to “Give me a Pulp Fiction quote.”
Music & Books
It isn’t surprising that commands having to do with music fall into the biggest Alexa commands category. They range from the simplest “Alexa, play some music” to very specific requests like “Alexa, play the latest album by Miley Cyrus”, or “Alexa, play some post-punk.” You can control various aspects of playback before or while a song is playing. The most useful playback commands are “Alexa play / pause / next / restart” and “Alexa, turn up/down the volume / set the volume to 7 / mute / unmute.”
Listening to playlists, podcasts, or your favorite radio shows is easiest through services like Spotify or TuneIn. You can access them by saying “Alexa, play 90s hits on Spotify / NPR on TuneIn.” Getting info on song names, band members etc. works well too. Identifying a song by lyrics is probably the most useful music lookup feature. Say “Alexa, play that song that goes ‘Cause girls like you run around with guys like me.’”
Audible offers thousands of audiobooks for all ages and interests. You can listen to ones you’ve purchased through the service on your Echo speaker. Just ask Alexa to “Read Anathem / play Anathem on Audible / play the book Anathem.” Apart from standard play/pause controls, you can tell Alexa to “Resume my book” and go to the “Next / previous chapter”. You can even listen to eBooks you’ve bought on Kindle. Tell Alexa to “Read me my Kindle book” to do so. You’ll have to make due with her less than human voice, but can finally catch up on your reading!
The Echo dot is the most inexpensive central hub you can get for your smart home. Thanks to Amazon’s expansive partnerships, Alexa is supported by hundreds of 3rd-party companies and smart devices. You can control lighting, adjust the temperature, check up on the kids, and so much more through a single Echo device! Some devices will have you install new Skills before you can control them with your voice. Specific commands vary by manufacturer and product, and there are simply too many to list here.
And Finally, Some Fun Easter Eggs
She may be a voice coming from inside of your speakers, but Alexa is definitely not just a monotonous fact-checking and appointment-keeping machine. The design team worked hard not only on making Alexa the most versatile virtual assistant around, but they’ve also managed to infuse her with a dash of humor and personality by adding witty Easter eggs to her responses. New ones seem to be popping up almost daily, so keep asking different questions to try and sidetrack her and see what happens!
Fans of sci-fi will really come into their own when referencing their favorite universes. Tell Alexa to “Fire photon torpedoes / open the pod bay doors”, or ask for some “Earl Gray, hot” and see what humorous quips she has for you. Are you a Game of Thrones fan? Inform Alexa that “Winter is coming” to have her recite a quote from the show. A variety of movies are represented too, so expect accurate answers to questions like “What’s the first rule of Fight Club?”
You might not have known, but Alexa happens to have answers to some of human kind’s most baffling questions. Find these out by asking “Why is six afraid of seven?”, “Is there a Santa?”, or our personal favorite, “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”