Keeping Up With Alexa Commands

Keeping Up with Alexa Commands: July 27th

Discover the latest Alexa commands you can give Echo devices 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 having trouble knowing what to say or ask Alexa next, you’ve come to the right place.

Today’s post covers 20 commands, growing the series’ current list of 350 commands to give Alexa. Keep scrolling to see the full list 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. 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 omits instructions for how to use each command and sometimes throws into the mix either duds or entirely broken commands, which frustrates Alexa users like you and me, especially me.

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 walk-through of how each works with added commentary on which commands are actually worth using and which you should skip. 

What Can Alexa Do

In case you missed it, the July 20th newsletter featured making your own Alexa Skill via Blueprints, setting up alarms with Smart Lights, and other useful Smart Home commands to try out.

That brings us to today—welcome to the final newsletter of July. Before diving in, please note that if a command has already been covered in a previous newsletter, I’ll include a link to the original walk-through. Otherwise, all other Alexa commands Amazon released this week are covered directly within this post.

Alarms

“Alexa, set a repeating alarm”

Since this command is so general, I expect Alexa will ask a few follow up questions to get the alarm details. Let’s see what the questions are.

When I use this command, Alexa asks for a time and a day. I give 9am and Monday. Then Alexa confirms with “alarm set for every Monday at 9am.” When I check alarms in the Alexa App (find Alarms in the Alexa App by opening Settings -> Reminders & Alarms), I see this:

Alarms in the Alexa App
Alarms in the Alexa App

So that’s how you can set up an alarm that repeats on a specific day of the week. 

Notice the other alarm in the screenshot? It uses Smart Lights with my alarm. To create one of your own, check out Alarm commands from last week, especially if you like waking up a bit more naturally with soft light.

Alexa Skills

“Alexa, I’m bored”

Here we find our first dud of the week.

When I use this command, Alexa suggests multiple categories: poems, rhymes, riddles, educational skills, and jokes. But sadly, that’s as far as Alexa goes. For instance, when I choose the option “rhymes,” Alexa fails and gives the error message: “Sorry, Alexa Skill Finder is having problems.”

Skip this command for now. If you’re looking to erase boredom, try these other commands instead: 

“Alexa, open Word Pop”
Word Pop Alexa Skill Icon

Here’s a new game to try out. This command opens the Alexa Skill Words with Friends Word Pop. With this game, I’m given a handful of letters and asked to come up with as many words as I can before time is up.

While playing, I call out words that can be made with the letters given. Each word is understood by Alexa correctly, like friend, cat, and so on. The one downside is I have to use the wake word, “Alexa,” to give each new word. Ideally Alexa would listen for new words during the game.

After I complete the round, Alexa asks if I want to play again. No other feedback is given.

The skill has 3.6 out of 5 stars with 33 reviews. One thing to be mindful of is that the skill does have a “Guidance Suggested” rating, which means it can collect some personal information about you, like your email address.

Overall, this is a fun game and similar to the game with the same name on Smartphones. So if you’re looking to pass the time and sharpen your vocabulary in the process, try it out.

“Alexa, ask Headspace for today’s meditation”

When I use this command, Alexa begins Headspace’s daily meditation.

That’s about all you can do with the skill without putting in some more effort. If you want more out of Headspace, you’ll need to create an account and link it to your Alexa account. For more info on Headspace, view Alexa Skills commands from May 4th.

“Alexa, how do you say ‘love’ in French?”
Translate Alexa Skill Icon

When I give this command, Alexa opens the Alexa Skill called Translated and gives me the word for love in French. This command is very impressive and shows a subtle, yet drastic, improvement from its predecessor—this old clunky command.

Notice the difference? You no longer have to specify the skill name Translated. Alexa now knows you want to use translation and opens the right skill for you, all without relying on you to be prescriptive in your request. This ultimately results in a more natural way to ask for translations.  

Let’s hope Amazon continues to make skills easier to use.

“Alexa, let’s play a game”

Here’s another command that lets you discover new Alexa Skills with Alexa. But unlike the “I’m bored” command from above, this command actually works.

For instance, once given the command, Alexa provides a list of game categories to choose from, such as: music, animals, and class. After selecting a category, Alexa then suggests a game to try.

In my case, I selected animal games and got paired up with a game called Pikachu Talk where you can have conversations with the pokemon Pikachu.

Pikachu Talk Alexa Skill Icon

With a staggering 35,000 reviews and a 4 out of 5 star rating, this game is a huge success. The skill also has no in-skill purchases—it’s all free.

If your kids love Pokemon, it’s a disservice not to show them how to talk to Pikachu via Alexa. Not a bad find, and I’ve had some other great success with Alexa suggesting games in the past that’s worth noting, too.

“Alexa, open Puzzle of the Day”
Puzzle of the Day Alexa Skill Icon

If you’re a fan of the previous Word Pop command from above, then you’ll like this one as well. 

When I use this command, Alexa opens the skill Puzzle of the Day, a crossword-style game where Alexa offers the number of letters in a word and a hint for me to then guess what the word is. 

The game offers a Jeopardy-like point system where you wager points on guessing the word correctly and the theme of the puzzle. You’re also offered leaderboards to see where you match up with other players.

The skill has been around for some time with over 600 reviews and scoring a 4 out of 5 star rating. If that’s not convincing enough, I’ll add that it was indeed a fun game to test out. 

“Alexa, tell me a Comic-Con fun fact”
Comic Con Icon

This command gives you a quick fact about a comic hero, but really, it’s a way to introduce you to the Amazon Virtual-Con. 

Amazon Virtual-Con is a way to experience Comic-Con from home, which everyone will do this year due to the pandemic. It includes a bunch of content spread across Amazon, including live content on Twitch, new comics on Audible, and live panels from Imdb.

But by now, you’re late to the live party. Comic-Con was last weekend. Fortunately there’s still plenty of content to check out by visiting Comic-Con.

Audible

“Alexa, read me a mystery”

If you missed last week’s update, check out Audible commands for more info on this free mystery story.

Communication

“Alexa, make an announcement”

This command is a quick way to send a voice message to everyone in your house, or everyone connected to your Alexa account. It’s especially helpful if you have multiple Alexa-enabled devices in your home. On the other hand, if you don’t have multiple devices or have a large enough house, don’t bother with this command.

Now onto the walk-through. When I use this command, Alexa asks: “what’s the announcement?” I then respond with: “it’s lunch time.”

Next, all Alexa-enabled devices in my home wake up and play a recording of me saying: “it’s lunch time.” I also see a notification with the text, “it’s lunch time,” on my phone that has the Alexa App. 

What’s interesting to note is Alexa doesn’t translate the announcement on any device beyond Smartphones. The other devices just blare out my message versus having Alexa say the message in her own voice. 

“Alexa, find dinner recipes from Food Network”

Here’s a good command to get first class recipe ideas. For the best experience, use this command on an Echo Show. See the full write-up via Cooking commands from early July.  

Bonus note: Amazon still has a deal going on to get a 1 year subscription to the Food Network Kitchen for free. Take a look if you want more recipe ideas. Just keep in mind that the deal is a subscription and will charge you after a year. You can use this command to have Alexa remind you to revisit the subscription in the future, before your credit card is charged: “Alexa, remind me about the Food Kitchen subscription in 10 months.”

Information

“Alexa, what’s trending?”

If you’re looking for some quick news, but don’t want to use Flash Briefing, this command is for you.

When I use this command, Alexa reads out the headlines of 3 recent stories. From there, I can select a headline to hear more of the story, all in Alexa’s voice. The stories Alexa gives me are all very new, with one only being 30 minutes old. So each time you use this command, expect to get new stories.

Jokes

“Alexa, speak Klingon”
Mr. Warf---obviously impressed with Alexa’s accent
Mr. Warf—obviously impressed with Alexa’s accent.

Quick tangent: I sent this command to my Dad (an avid Trekkie) who quickly responded with, “but how do you know if Alexa is right?” He’s got me there. Any native Klingon speakers out there who can fact-check Alexa for us?

Use this command to get a taste of the Klingon language, spoken directly by Alexa. Also, this Joke command might help you with Mr Warf above, who is often seen firing photon torpedoes.

Last note: this command isn’t to be confused with commands like, “speak Spanish,” which behave very differently.

Music

“Alexa, play electronic music”

This command works best with Prime Music. To make sure you target Prime Music, use this command instead: “Alexa, play electronic music on Amazon.”

When I use this command, Alexa starts a music station called Top Dance. Music stations are a way for Amazon to stream music to you based on a theme. Think of music stations like playlists that change over time, like radio stations in your car. Amazon will keep the station updated with new music, so you don’t have to.

“Alexa, sing me a song”

This command is targeted to kids. That is, unless you want Alexa to sing silly songs to you. 

When I use this command, Alexa sings the song “Paper Airplanes.” How catchy is this song, you ask? I’ve heard better, but your little one might think I’m very wrong. I do think it has a leg up on this kid favorite*.

*I’m sorry in advance for those who click as it’s likely to get stuck in your head.

Podcasts

“Alexa, play a family podcast”
Stuff You Missed In History Class Icon

When I use this command, Alexa recommends the podcast Stuff you Missed in History Class. This podcast is one of the most popular shows around and one I’ve listened to in the past. The hosts go into some interesting and obscure stories from history.

The podcast has been around for a long time, too. With over 300 episodes, most of which over 45 minutes long, there’s plenty of content to check out. 

If your kids are getting restless during their summer break, give this podcast a shot. It’s a good way to hear some interesting stories on the go.

Productivity

“Alexa, check my email”

This command and others like it are covered in Productivity commands from May. The general gist is that Alexa can read your emails back to you. But for this command to work, you need to first link your email account, like Gmail, with Alexa via the Alexa App.

To add an email account:

  1. Open the Alexa App
  2. Tap Settings
  3. Scroll down and Tap Calendar & Email
  4. Tap Add Account
Account Linking In the Alexa App
Account Linking In the Alexa App

Shopping

“Alexa, add pencils to my shopping list”
“Alexa, add milk to my shopping list”

Do you think Amazon is going for a Back-to-School theme here? Both these commands behave exactly the same, save for the item that is added to your shopping list. That’s not very interesting…

But wait! I have a trick up my sleeve. Now where did I put it…

Hermonie casting a spell
Abracadabra!

Ah, there it is! Did you know you can combine these two commands together? No need to ask Alexa to add each item individually. Instead, try saying: “Alexa, add milk and pencils to my shopping list.” Much easier and quicker to say. Alexa then responds with: “OK, I’ve added milk and pencils to your shopping list.” 

And here’s what I see in the Alexa App, under: 

  1. Tap Settings
  2. Tap Lists & Notes
  3. Tap Shopping
Alexa App Shopping List
Alexa App Shopping List

By the way, I know Hermonie doesn’t say Abracadabra. But hey, don’t spoil the magic trick.

Smart Home

“Alexa, set the background to my photos”

I really like this feature. I love having pictures shuffle throughout the day on my Echo Show. And on Fire TV, you can set your photos as a slideshow when you aren’t watching something, as well.

To use this command, you’ll need to have an Echo Show or a Fire TV. You’ll also need your photos to be on Amazon Photos or link an account, like Facebook, to Alexa. For a walk-through on how to do this, visit Smart Home commands from April.

Highlights

Alexa Command Categories

With a whopping seven new commands to try, Alexa Skills takes the prize even more so than usual for the largest command category Amazon adds to this week. And this trend is poised to grow even more as Amazon announced its increased focus on Alexa Skills during Alexa Live.  

If word games are your thing, this week’s newsletter is a big win for you, starting with the skills section. Jump to Alexa Skills to find several vetted word games and even a Pokemon game to play.

But if you’re rushed for time, be sure to check out how Alexa can translate french (and other languages!) for you using the Translated Skill. This is by far my favorite command from this week, as the functionality has significantly improved since the last time it was covered. Scroll to Alexa Skills here. Overall, this command is a glimpse of what’s to come for other skills as Amazon announced skill names will become less important.  

Or, if you want to learn an entirely new language, why not try Klingon? Jump to Jokes.

Last but not least, if you’ve started your Back-to-School shopping for your little ones and need help keeping your shopping list updated, jump to Shopping. With a little bit of magic, I cover a way to make adding multiple items even easier. 

Have a favorite Alexa command from this week? Or would you like to weigh in on any of the highlights from above? Leave a comment below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *