Keeping Up With Alexa Commands

Keeping Up with Alexa Commands: August 3rd

Uncover the latest commands to give Alexa in this weekly series. Listed below are all the new or newly-promoted Alexa commands released by Amazon this week. While duds are rare, I weed out the good from the bad, so you don’t have to. If you’re looking to get the most out of your Alexa-powered device, like the Echo Dot, you’ve come to the right place. 

Today’s post covers the latest 20 commands, growing the series’ extensive list of 370 commands to give Alexa. Keep scrolling to see the full roster or use the table of contents to skip to a category that most interests you. And if you’re rushed for time, jump to the highlights section at the end.

Keeping Up with Alexa Commands

Welcome new readers. To give background, each week Amazon releases Alexa commands—whether brand new, newly-updated, or newly-promoted—within its promotional eblasts. But these feeds aren’t for the faint of heart, as Amazon omits instructions for how to use each command and sometimes even throws duds and entirely broken commands into the mix. But that’s where my experience as a Smart Home engineer can help. 

Each Monday, I’ll show you the full list of Alexa commands that Amazon releases, including not only a walk-through of how each works, but also commentary on which are actually worth using.

In case you missed it, the July 27th newsletter featured a mixed bag of commands focused on easy translation help, new games, fun skills like Pokemon, jokes with my friend Warf, and Alexa Live updates. Want to know the best commands of July? Check out July’s monthly roundup.

What Can Alexa Do

Editor’s Note: If I’ve already covered a command from a previous newsletter, I’ll include a link to the original walk-through so you can quickly jump to it. Otherwise, all other Alexa commands Amazon released this week are covered directly within this post.

Alexa Skills

“Alexa, ask NASA Mars for a Curiosity Rover update”
Perseverance on its way to Mars; SOURCE: NASA
Perseverance on its way to Mars; SOURCE: NASA

Time for a new update from NASA on Curiosity. When given this command, Alexa reads the most recent update from NASA’s blog. But Alexa’s talent for reading long-form content leaves something to be desired. If you’d prefer to read the latest update yourself, view Sol 2838: Bon Voyage, Perseverance!

As you’ll soon discover, Curiosity isn’t the big news star this week. Perseverance, NASA’s new shiny Mars Rover, is making headlines. As of a few days ago, it’s now on its long trip to the red planet. Check out NASA’s press release on the launch.

“Alexa, play The Sims”
The Sims

If you’re unfamiliar, The Sims is a life simulation video game series by Electronic Arts. 

With this skill, you’re able to hear in-game music, play trivia games, and learn more about the Sims world. When I use this command, Alexa gives me the option of which of the three I want to choose. When exploring the trivia option further, I learn that the game includes multiple difficulty levels and will test your knowledge about various Sims games. But even if you’re familiar with the series, I found the trivia questions aren’t for the faint of heart. They’re pretty tough! Play at your own peril.

In short, The Sims Alexa Skill is a solid addition for those who’ve played one of the games in the past. Fans will find plenty of nostalgia and have fun testing their knowledge with the quizzes. As bonus content, fans can also check out the related skill: The Sim Stories.

“Alexa, show me featured movies on Tubi”

If you’re in the market for another free streaming platform, try out Tubi. Jump over to the full walk-through from April where I dive into the differences between the Tubi Alexa Skill vs Fire TV App.

“Alexa, what skills do you have?”

When it comes to skill discovery commands, this is one of the better options. It’s short and gets right to the point with Alexa providing recommendations.

For instance, when I say the command, Alexa immediately suggests Calm My Dog. This skill plays peaceful classical music, offering another good alternative to white noise Alexa Skills.  

Calm My Dog Alexa Skill

Because I often leave music on for my dog when I leave the house, I’m an immediate fan of this skill. And as it turns out, I’m not alone—over 500 people have reviewed this skill resulting in a 4.5 out of 5 star rating. I’m also a fan of how transparent the skill is about its premium version and what’s included. 

Overall, if you’re looking to discover Alexa Skills, use this command. I was pleasantly surprised with what I was paired with. And if you have an anxious pet like I do, the above skill is also worth trying.

Audible

“Alexa, buy Little Fires Everywhere on Audible”
Little Fires Everywhere

If you don’t have Audible, or aren’t interested in audiobooks, feel free to skip this command. Conversely, for those of you who loved Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, which also starred Reese Witherspoon in its TV adaptation, take note—this might be your favorite command this week. 

When I use this command, Alexa first introduces the audiobook version of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, and then pitches Amazon’s Audible subscription service where you can get this audiobook for free with signing up. 

As a brief overview, the novel centers on how a mother and daughter duo upend a seemingly perfect, rule-following family in Cleveland’s suburbs. While my wife opted for the Kindle version instead, she highly recommends this book all the same. If you’ve already seen the TV series on Hulu, she’d love to hear how it measures up to the book. Leave a comment for us below. 

Donations

“Alexa, make a donation to American Red Cross”

Find more information about the American Red Cross from Donation commands on May 25th.

Information

“Alexa, help me study for my test”

With this command, Alexa introduces wikiHow’s steps for effectively studying. For instance, Alexa lists step one as “make a study schedule,” with detailed reasons why a schedule is important for studying. All in all, Alexa provides 18 steps to follow broken into three separate sections: Study Routines, Efficient Study Tips, and Test Taking Tips.

Truthfully, Alexa isn’t the best medium for these sort of detailed tips. While the command isn’t exactly a dud, the information Alexa provides is far too much to absorb. Instead, if you’re serious about improving your studying skills, skip Alexa and head straight to the source.

“Alexa, speak in iambic pentameter”

This command might prove challenging simply based on figuring out how to say the last two words. Think of the pronunciation like this: I·am·bic  pen·ta·muh·tr. When I give this command, Alexa provides a clever example of what iambic pentameter sounds like.

For those, like me, who didn’t intimately study the likes of William Shakespeare, John Keats, and John Donne, iambic pentameter is the most commonly used metrical speech rhythm in traditional English poetry. Give this informational command a shot to learn something new.  

“Alexa, tell me a quote by Fred Rogers”
Mr. Rodgers

When I use this command, Alexa gives the following quote: 

“I’ve often hesitated in beginning a project because I’ve thought, ‘It’ll never turn out to be even remotely like the good idea I have as I start.’ I could just ‘feel’ how good it could be. But I decided that, for the present, I would create the best way I know how and accept the ambiguities.”

Solid advice about starting new projects, or really anything at all. Just start. Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis. For a roundup of other good quotes from Mr. Rogers, check out the Information commands from April.

“Alexa, what are the most popular books this week?”

When I give this command, Alexa reads the titles of the three most-read fiction books of the week, according to Amazon Charts. Surprisingly, the list is nearly the same as it was back in April

But all isn’t lost. After the third spot, the chart becomes much more interesting with newer books to check out, such as: 

4. Peace Talks

5. The Order

Amazon Charts is a decent way to discover your next read by browsing popular books of the week, based on most-read and most-sold categories. But if you’d like book recommendations based on your interests and previous reads instead, I’d recommend checking out Goodreads

“Alexa, who was born on this day?”

When given this command, Alexa spouts off a notable person in history whose cake day is today.  

Primo Levi

When testing this over the weekend, Alexa named Primo Levi, the author of The Periodic Table and an Auschwitz concentration camp survivor. But before you think back to what you first studied in chemistry class, The Periodic Table is actually much more interesting as it’s his memoir broken up into 21 short stories named after each chemical element. 

Needless to say, I’m a big fan of this command for introducing interesting people from history, like Primo here, and for indirectly providing me my next book read. 

Movies

“Alexa, find action movies on Fire TV”

Fair warning, this command is closer to a dud than being really useful. 

Right off the bat, Alexa doesn’t respond when given this command on any other Alexa-enabled device other than a Fire TV.  An Echo or Echo Show, for example, doesn’t support this, which feels like a missed opportunity.

When I use this command on Fire TV, Prime Video shows me a search screen with the term “action movies.” The benefit of this command is to save you from typing on the Fire TV with the remote, which admittedly, is rather painful. But that’s it in terms of usefulness. 

Overall, I was hoping any Echo device I give this command to would wake up my Fire TV and show results, even have Alexa responding with something like: “You got it, showing results on your Fire TV.” But unfortunately, the “on Fire TV” mention doesn’t seem to add any extra value to this command. You essentially get the same result with the alternative command, “Alexa, find action movies,” which can be used on a variety of Alexa-enabled devices, like the Echo Show. 

Music

“Alexa, play what’s popular in London from Amazon Music”
Savage Love

Did you know with Alexa you can play popular music from different cities? For instance, when I use this command, Alexa plays the song called “Savage Love“.

Alexa also supports other cities besides London, such as:

  • Berlin
  • Miami
  • New York City — make sure you add “City”
  • San Francisco 
  • Seattle
  • Tampa

Interestingly enough, every other city I tried played the song “Watermelon Sugar.” Because of this, I have a hunch Amazon Music has a very limited subset of song options that’s skewing the results. Surely, not every major metropolitan city in the world is obsessed with Harry Styles, right? Lets try an experiment. Give this command a try with the city you’re in and comment below if Alexa gives you something different. 

Productivity

“Alexa, check my email”

View the complete walkthrough of how Alexa reads the subject lines of your emails with this command from July.  

“Alexa, create an event called ‘video call with Tom’ on Saturday at noon”

Tom? Don’t call him. Instead, call your Grandma using this Productivity command

All jokes aside, when you give this command, Alexa creates an event on your calendar with a contact named Tom. As a bonus, Alexa also adds a link for a video call if your contact also has an Echo Show.

“Alexa, make a note that Bobby is allergic to tomatoes”

When I use this command, Alexa adds the note: “Bobby is allergic to tomatoes.” Here’s what it looks like in the new Alexa UI: 

Notes in the Alexa App
Notes in the Alexa App

To find Notes:

  1. Open the Alexa App
  2. Tap on 
    1. More
    2. Lists & Notes
    3. Notes

The impressive part is how you can ask Alexa about your new note. When I then ask, “Alexa, what is Bobby allergic to?” Alexa responds with “Bobby is allergic to tomatoes.” Alexa is able to understand your notes well enough to answer follow-up questions about the notes. That’s impressive considering no other Voice Assistant or note system that I’m aware of can do this. 

By the way, do you notice the second note in the screenshot from above? See more impressive examples of Alexa’s note system via Productivity commands from April. 

Shopping

“Alexa, let’s rate my stuff”

As I’m sure you already know, ratings are everything on Amazon. The more ratings and reviews a product has, the better the confidence level you have that the product is actually authentic. So it’s no surprise that you can now use Alexa to leave ratings for your past purchases.

When I use this command, Alexa brings up a recent item that I’ve ordered off Amazon and asks me to rate it from one to five stars. Quick and easy.

Pay it forward for all the ratings and reviews you’ve read on Amazon—use this command to offer up your own rating. 

“Alexa, what should I wear for yoga?”

When I use this command, Alexa responds with: “wear a breathable short-sleeve t-shirt.” Alexa also sends a notification to my phone, sending me to the Amazon App to look at shirts that fit this description.

Smart Home

“Alexa, show photos from last year”

When given this command, Alexa shows my photos dated from the previous year on my Fire TV or Echo Show. Learn more about giving Alexa access to your photos via Smart Home commands from May.

Weather

“Alexa, tell me when there’s a severe weather alert”

It’s hurricane season where I’m at, so coincidentally, this command is extremely useful. To set up your own handy weather alerts, view Weather commands from May. 

Highlights

Alexa Commands Category Breakdown

What’s notable this week is the Information section wins out as the category offering the most commands. If you’re keen on learning about notable people born today or how to speak in iambic pentameter, jump to Information commands

Duking it out for first place for the bulkiest category is, of course, Alexa Skills. Amazon consistently shows its continued focus on Alexa Skills with offering four latest options this week. While most Alexa discovery commands are usually duds, jump to Alexa Skill commands to find a worthy recommendation from Alexa on what skills to try. You’ll also find interesting updates from NASA. 

If you’re pushed for time and want a solid utility command from this week, jump to Productivity commands to not only create notes with Alexa, but also learn how Alexa understands and can answer follow-up commands about your notes. This feature is by far the coolest and sets Amazon’s Voice Assistant apart from its competitors. 

Looking for more Alexa commands to try? Check out the complete series Keeping Up with Alexa.

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