Keeping Up With Alexa Commands

Keeping Up with Alexa Commands: July 13th

Learn the latest ways you can use Alexa in this weekly series. Highlighted below are all the new or newly-promoted Alexa commands that Amazon released this week. While duds are rare, I weed out the good from the bad, so you don’t have to. So if you’re looking to get the most out of your Echo devices, you’ve come to the right place.

Today’s post reviews 20 commands, most of which are new to this series and grow the extensive list of Alexa tips and tricks. Keep scrolling to see the full list or use the table of contents to skip to a category that most interests you.

Keeping Up With Alexa

As a refresher, 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. Amazon skips out on providing instructions for how to use these commands. What’s more—sometimes there are duds or entirely broken commands altogether that are thrown into the mix that will likely trip you up. That’s why I created this weekly roundup called “Keeping Up With Alexa.” 

Each Monday, you’ll see not only the full list of Alexa commands that Amazon releases, but also a thorough walk-through of how each works with added commentary from me on which commands are actually worth using. 


Today marks the second newsletter of July (in case you missed it, view July 6th here). Luckily, Monday the 13th isn’t nearly as scary as Friday the 13th. So without further delay, let’s get started. 

What Can Alexa Do

Editor’s Note: If an Alexa command has already been covered in a previous newsletter, I’ll include a link to the original review. Otherwise, all other Alexa commands Amazon releases this week are covered directly within this post.

Alarms

“Alexa, wake me up to disco music”

Here’s a nice feature if you use Alexa as an alarm. Alexa lets you set up alarms with playlists.

When I use this command, Alexa asks me what time I’d like the alarm for. I respond with “8am.” Next, Alexa says, “alarm set to 8am to disco music from Spotify.” 

In the Alexa App, this is what I see in the Reminders & Alarms section:

Alexa App Alarm with Playlist
Alexa App Alarm with Playlist

If disco isn’t your thing (I don’t blame you), never fear. Check out April 3rd for a few alternative playlists to get your morning boogie on.

Alexa Skills

“Alexa, ask Translated to say ‘hello’ in Japanese”

If you need Alexa to translate short phrases for you, Translated is your best shot. 

You may recall this command was covered back on April 10th. That’s not to say it’s not worth your time this week. The Alexa Skill Translated is pretty good for simple phrases, with a large number of supported languages.

“Alexa, help me relax”

Don’t get tricked by this command. Rather than help you relax, Alexa instead suggests skills that could help you relax. So if you’re not willing to interact further with Alexa to find and review relaxation skills, you’ll be disappointed with this command.

For instance, after I give this command, Alexa suggests Sleep Sounds: Thunderstorm Sounds. This is just one of many, many sleep sounds on the Alexa Skills Store.

This Alexa command format isn’t unique, either. Amazon has released several of these commands where Alexa recommends skill genres, like games. Here are a few recent examples:

  • “Alexa, find skills to try” from April 17th.
  • “Alexa, test how smart I am” from May 4th.
  • “Alexa, let’s play a game for kids” from May 17th.
“Alexa, open Whale Sounds”

Here’s another sleep sound skill suggested for this week, which isn’t surprising at all given how many Alexa Skills are related to sleep sounds.

When I use this command, Alexa plays what starts out as muffled white noise that quickly turns into an eerie symphony of whale moans, cries, and howls. 

Although I’d get nightmares from using this skill, Whale Sounds has over 200 reviews with a favorable 4.3 out of 5 star rating. One of the reviewers even calls it “Hauntingly beautiful.” So while this soundtrack is creepy to me, I might be in the minority.

“Alexa, show me featured shows on Red Bull TV”

This skill offers free video content for Echo Show users. Given that we don’t have much in the way of professional sports with the current pandemic, this skill is a good option to get your sports fix. See the full walk-through from the Alexa Skill section from April 24th.

Audible

“Alexa, read me a Science Fiction from Audible”

Learn more about this command and the current book in rotation from June 8th’s Audible section. And yes, this command does sound like it has a typo in it—and it really annoys my wife.

“Alexa, relax with Diddy”

Here’s something new from Audible called Audible Sleep. Audible released a handful of meditations tied to helping you sleep better. One of which is voiced by the artist Diddy called “Honor Yourself.”

Honor Yourself Meditation
July’s new guided meditation

When I use this command, Alexa says “honor yourself” then begins the meditation by Diddy, which is roughly 25 minutes long. The main difference of this meditation track versus other guided sessions is the artist himself serves as your personal guide and talks throughout. 

Although Audible has several other recordings available, the service doesn’t offer corresponding Alexa Commands for all of them yet. So for now, you’re limited to just this one. 

If you’re a fan of new guided meditations or simply a fan of the rapper himself, give this command a shot. 

“Alexa, what’s free from Audible?”

Good news—Audible has rotated out June’s free audiobook for a new one in July. 

July’s free audiobook
July’s free audiobook 

This month, the free audiobook is Great Figures of the Civil Rights Movement. Here’s the description from the Amazon page:

“Malcolm X. Marcus Garvey. Charles Hamilton Houston. Diane Nash. For every well-known figure of the Civil Rights Movement, there are dozens of lesser-known, yet no less significant, activists who helped advance America’s social views and helped shape race relations in this country. Most listeners have only skimmed the surface of these deeply complex, influential, and world-changing figures. Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries of The Ohio State University delves into their stories, presenting an intimate study of the men and women who led half a century of social change.”

Jokes

“Alexa, give me a prank”

Last time I asked for a prank, Alexa gave me a dad joke instead. This time, however, when I give the command, Alexa tells me about an actual prank called “The Blind Mouse.” Essentially, I’m instructed to put a piece of tape under the computer mouse of one of my friends or coworkers.

Nice job, Alexa. This definitely counts as a prank in my book. It’s also one I’ve done to coworkers… more than once. Have you ever seen a coworker get livid when their mouse suddenly stops working? If not, give this prank a shot. I highly recommend it.

Oh, and if you’re looking for other prank ideas besides this one, keep trying out the command. Alexa has some good ideas up her sleeve. 

“Alexa, tell me a dog joke”

When I use this command, Alexa gives me this joke:

A man walks into a pet store and says, “I need a dog.”

The clerk says, “what kind of demeanor are you looking for?”

The man responds, “the meaner the better!”

I think this one is more of a dad joke than a dog joke—made even better when you get your kids involved. Keep having them ask Alexa as she rotates through a handful of jokes.

Music

“Alexa, play Long Weekend Country from Amazon Music”
Long Weekend Country from Amazon
Long Weekend Country

Amazon has built a large collection of curated playlists for all sorts of music tastes. This particular playlist was first covered on May 25th. This time, it’s been updated with additional songs (now 25 in total), although the full song list isn’t available anymore. 

“Alexa, stop playing music in one hour”

When I give this command, Alexa starts a sleep timer set for an hour. 

To get the most out of this command, you’ll need music playing. The good news is Alexa doesn’t care what music service you use. For instance, I use Spotify with no problems, but you can also use Amazon music and other providers. You can also change the timer duration with this command. For example, I used 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes passed, my music simply stopped playing. Alexa didn’t say anything else or try to prompt me for a new command, which is really nice. I’d say this command is a strong contender for my favorite of the week.

Productivity

“Alexa, delete my meeting tomorrow”

I’m always a fan of deleting meetings. More deletion, less creation, please! So if you’re like me and need help eradicating meetings from your day, learn how to link your calendar to Alexa from April 24th’s Productivity section.

“Alexa, what are my emails?”

A little known fact: Alexa can read your emails to you. Although, I’d have to warn you first that it does take a bit of setup on your part. What’s more, I’d question the overall usefulness, as would you really rely on Alexa to read your emails? 

When I use this command, after linking my email account, Alexa reads the subject line for the latest email in my inbox. I can also receive notifications when I get a new email. But honestly, getting Alexa notifications for each new piece of email gets old, fast.

If you’d like to give this command a go, first follow the steps below to add a new email account:

  1. Open the Alexa App
  2. Tap on Settings
  3. Scroll down and Tap on “Calendar & Email”
  4. Tap on the ‘+’ Icon and follow the steps

Settings

“Alexa, speak faster”

This command was first covered via Settings Commands on April 17th. What’s nice is the inverse, “Alexa, speak slower,” also works. 

If you find yourself changing the speed of how Alexa talks, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. I’m personally struggling to find a lot of good use cases for it. 

“Alexa, speak Spanish”

Did you know about Alexa’s Multilingual Mode? It’s news to me! 

When you enable it, Alexa claims to understand both languages you use, while also responding in the same language you first gave the command in. In essence, Alexa can understand English and Spanish.

One thing to note though, this command doesn’t mean Alexa can understand English and Spanish at the same time, like if you were to use Spanglish with a blend of both English and Spanish in your Alexa commands. Instead, Alexa understands either language without you needing to switch your language preference within the Alexa App.

I got excited when I first saw this command. I’ve been practicing my Spanish for a bit now (going on 500 days with Duolingo!), so I was eager to test out my new vocab. But sadly, I haven’t had much success with this command.

For instance, Alexa fails to understand any simple Spanish phrase I give. Here are a few examples I tried:

  • “Alexa, enciende las luces” (turn on the lights)
  • “Alexa, que hora es” (what time is it)

Admittedly, my accent isn’t great, but I’m surprised Alexa won’t understand anything I say in Spanish. Bilingual Readers: let me know if you have more luck with this then I did. I still have high hopes for the capability.  

“Alexa, tell me what you heard”

This command tells you what Alexa has picked up and understood in the last minute or so. But you’ll need to use this command after saying something else. Otherwise, it’s not very helpful.

For instance, if you use this command right after giving Alexa a different command, like “turn on the lights,” Alexa responds with: “I heard: ‘turn on the lights’.”

If you often question Alexa’s actions, use this command. You’ll likely be able to figure out what words Alexa is having trouble understanding.

One last nugget to note… in case you’re wondering, you can find the history of everything Alexa has heard in the Alexa App. I plan on writing a longer article about this feature soon, but in the meantime, here are the steps to follow:

  1. Open the Alexa App
  2. Tap Settings
  3. Scroll down and Tap Alexa Privacy
  4. Tap “Review Voice History”

Shopping

“Alexa, add cranberries and cinnamon to my grocery list”

This command is really useful. Did you know Alexa can accept multiple list items at once?

When I use this command, Alexa lets me know that I don’t have a list called “grocery,” and asks if I want to create it first. After replying “yes,” Alexa tells me the list is created and both items are now added to it. 

And when I open the Alexa App, this is what I see:

Grocery list in Alexa App
Grocery list in Alexa App

I didn’t know Alexa was smart enough to add multiple items in one command—very handy. This new capability brings me one step closing to moving from using Apple’s Reminders App to Alexa lists instead. 

Smart Home

“Alexa, play a slideshow”

Although I covered this command in the Smart Home section on June 8th, it’s definitely worth your time this week. But if you don’t have an Echo Show or a Fire TV, and you don’t use Amazon for photo storage, then this command isn’t for you.

Timers

“Alexa, cancel my Bedroom Echo timer”

Change your mind regarding a timer? You can cancel it rather than let the timer run its course. Learn more timer insights from May 4th

Takeaways

In looking at the graph above, it’s no surprise Alexa Skills tops the chart in terms of the bulkiest command category for this week. The growing list of third-party commands through skills is ever increasing. Learn more about Alexa Skills and the marketplace

What is surprising is that the Audible category this week is not far behind. Not only is there a new free audiobook to listen to, but this week highlights a new service called Audible Sleep, which features a three-time Grammy Award winning artist. 

But in terms of frequent use, I’d have to single out two very different commands. The first is from Music with a clever way to start a sleep timer. The second, surprisingly, is from the least populated category from this week: Shopping. Now, adding multiple items to my grocery list at once has never been easier.  

What’s also worth noting is Alexa’s got Jokes. And if you’d like to go head-to-head with the likes of Jim Halpert, try out Alexa’s newest office prank. 

Do you have a favorite Alexa command from this week? Or would you like to weigh in on any of the takeaways from above? Leave a comment below! 

11 thoughts on “Keeping Up with Alexa Commands: July 13th”

  1. I’ve tried “Alexa, speak Portuguese” with no success at all. However, “Alexa, speak Spanish” worked fine and so it’s now understanding commands in both languages like a charm. However, Portuguese is my first language, but this trick doesn’t seems to do the job, even when Alexa itself could be configured to speak Portuguese only if I had decided so…

    1. Hi Claudio, Thanks for double checking the command for me. The problem must be with my pronunciation. Time for me to try it again.

      Also, unfortunately it doesn’t look like there are any language combos with Portuguese yet. You can find what’s supported in the Alexa App by:
      1. Tap on Devices
      2. Tap on an Echo
      3. Tap on Language

      You’ll see the supported combinations, like English/Spanish and English/French. Hopefully Amazon will add Portuguese/English too.

      1. For lights, try saying “Prende la luz” (turn on the light)” or “Apaga la luz (turn off the light.” She did both successfully. I also asked her to play music, “Alexa, pon musica.” She gladly obliged and stopped when I said, “Para musica.” This is going to be fun!

    1. Thanks for sharing your use of the command. Do you find that Alexa talks too slowly in some cases? I know sometimes she can be pretty long winded.

  2. I just purchased a new amazon cube and am amazed what you can do with it. After a little work with the setup, I can now control my cable box, av receiver, hdtv, and of course the fire tv. I can say ( after saying ALEXA) turn on tv ( the cable box, av receiver and tv turn on), go to cable channel 3 ( or say CBS), find A Star is Born, lower the volume, and on and on. I’m now the ultimate couch potato. Plenty of videos for setup help on YouTube plus the help section of the cube.

  3. I really struggle with Alexa.
    Hey Alexa, is there a [shop name] in this town?
    I then get a list of two within a couple of miles. Ok. She goes on to tell me I can ask for the address of the first one. So I do. She’s sorry, she doesn’t know that one.
    Alexa, who is the father of [some famous person] She doesn’t know.
    Google knows.
    Can you ask her to do a google search?
    I often ask for the same radio station to be played. But if I don’t say it in exactly the right way she doesn’t know it. The full name is really long. Why doesn’t she remember favourites?
    Also, and this is super irritating, Alexa, set a timer for 8 minutes.
    Ok. Blah blah
    4 mins later Alexa, how long left on the timer?
    I’m sorry I don’t have an alarm set.
    THEN THE ALARM GOES OFF!!!!!
    I really want to like her and use her more but if she doesn’t know anything she’s just a fancy clock who has never predicted the rain forecast in my area correctly.
    So, in short, please help with ways to phase questions, or, let me know if anyone is interested in buying three dots??!

    1. Hey Helena,

      That does sound very frustrating. It sounds like you have a few commands that you use regularly, that sometimes just don’t work. Here’s are few ideas that might make your experience a bit better.

      “Hey Alexa, is there a [shop name] in this town?
      I then get a list of two within a couple of miles. Ok. She goes on to tell me I can ask for the address of the first one. So I do. She’s sorry, she doesn’t know that one.”

      For these sort of follow ups, there could be a timing issue. Alexa doesn’t do well with responses to questions after Alexa stops waiting for your answer. It’s not uncommon for Alexa to loose the context, and create the situation you have.

      “Alexa, who is the father of [some famous person] She doesn’t know.
      Google knows.
      Can you ask her to do a google search?”

      This one is interesting! Who are you searching for? I’m a bit surprised about the response here. If the answer is on Wikipedia, Alexa should know about it too I think.

      “Also, and this is super irritating, Alexa, set a timer for 8 minutes.
      Ok. Blah blah
      4 mins later Alexa, how long left on the timer?
      I’m sorry I don’t have an alarm set.
      THEN THE ALARM GOES OFF!!!!!”

      You mention below that you have 3 echo dots right? You might be running into problems where a different Echo Dot is answering your command then the one you expect. In this case, a different Echo Dot understands your timer, while the Echo Dot you’re asking now doesn’t know about it. Try to see which Echo Dot wakes up, and answers your command. That might help.

      Oh and the music playlist issue. Sounds like the challenge is the playlist name right? Is it possible to recreate the playlist, or rename it to something that’s shorter?

      Anyone else have any ideas that might help Helena out?

      1. Sounds like the music issue is a radio station, not a playlist, the user can’t change the names of those I don’t think

      2. “4 mins later Alexa, how long left on the timer?
        I’m sorry I don’t have an alarm set.
        THEN THE ALARM GOES OFF!!!!!”

        There’s a difference between alarms and timers… by her response, it looks like your question was “Alexa, how long left on the alarm?” I, too, had to learn that distinction! 🙂

  4. Hmpf, “Alexa, speak German” doesn’t work (in the UK) yet – she just tells me I can use the app to switch language completely.

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