Keeping Up With Alexa Commands

Keeping Up with Alexa Commands: July 6th

Discover the latest commands you can give Alexa in this weekly series. Listed below are all the new or newly-promoted Alexa commands that Amazon released this week, with instructions on how to use each and added commentary on which are actually worth using. 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 Dot, Echo Show, or other Alexa-enabled device, continue reading.

Today’s post outlines 20 commands Amazon released this week for Alexa, most of which are new to this series and add to the extensive list of Alexa tips and tricks that have been covered. Keep scrolling to see the full roster or use the table of contents to skip to a category that most interests you.

Keeping Up With Alexa

Welcome to the first newsletter of July and the start of the second half of 2020. 

As a refresher, each week Amazon releases Alexa commands—whether 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 explanations and doesn’t offer any tips for how to get the most out of each category. What’s more—there are sometimes duds or entirely broken commands altogether that are thrown into the mix that are likely to trip you up. 

To that end, 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 from me on what’s worth using so you don’t have to test them all yourself.

In case you missed it, June 29th featured Alexa commands related to playing music everywhere, long form news, and a not-so-fun fact of the day.

What Can Alexa Do

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

Alexa Skills

“Alexa, open Guided Meditation”

Guided Meditation is an Alexa Skill that provides a large list of free meditations ranging from one to nine minutes in duration. With over 350 reviews and a 4.4 out of 5 star rating, this skill seems to deliver on its promise. Let’s see how it works.

When I use the above command, Alexa immediately tells me about today’s meditation called “One Minute to Compassion.” Alexa then prompts me to start the meditation by asking me to use the command “play meditation.” When I do, the meditation starts up.

After the one minute meditation is finished, nothing else happens. No upsell or further confirmation that the mediation is done. This abrupt ending is a bit surprising, but it’s also nice not to be bombarded with further dialogue right after a meditation.

In short, Guided Meditation is the most straightforward Alexa Skill for mediation that I’ve encountered. Even more so than Headspace, which I’ve tried in the past. So if you’re looking for a no nonsense mediation skill, give this one a shot.

“Alexa, play King of the Hill on Hulu”

Head over to May 4th’s Alexa Skill section to get more info about the Hulu Alexa Skill. Fair warning: don’t expect too much from this command.

Communication

“Alexa, send a message”

This week, Alexa shows off the ability to send messages to your contacts—and does so in a way that is unexpected. In fact, messages might even work surprisingly better than what you first expect. Have I piqued your interest? Let’s dive in.

When I give this command, Alexa asks me for a contact name (from my phone contacts) and a message. Then Alexa asks me if I want to send the message. One important thing to note here is that Alexa doesn’t convert my message to text or even to Alexa’s voice, like you would see with an Announcement. Instead, Alexa records my message, like a voicemail, and saves it as a message on my Echo Show.

After the message is saved, Alexa sends a notification to my Alexa devices to my wife who I sent a message to. Now, when I ask, “Alexa, what are my messages,” Alexa says Jessica has a message and plays the recording I left.

This feature is pretty handy. For one thing, I like that Alexa doesn’t try to transcribe my message. It doesn’t matter if my message is spoken from Alexa’s voice. Not transcribing is important as it removes the chance of Alexa getting something wrong.

I can see the feature being useful for leaving messages for someone who isn’t home yet, like letting my wife know that our dog has eaten dinner already (and much to her dismay, erasing the chance for second meals).

Cooking

“Alexa, find dinner recipes from Food Network”

Although you can use this command with any Alexa-enabled device, an Echo Show gives a much better experience.

For instance, when I use this command on an Echo Show, Alexa displays a list of 25 recipes—each with a picture, rating, and prep time required. Then when I tap on a recipe, I’m given more detail, including ingredients needed and recipe instructions. If I tap the “start recipe” button, Alexa tells me the first step in the recipe. And when I follow that action with the command “next step,” Alexa moves further into the recipe and reads the next step, as well as shows it on screen for me to follow along.

With Alexa-enabled devices that don’t have a screen, Alexa is much more talkative. When given the above command, Alexa explains each recipe option in detail and asks if you want more info. The experience isn’t nearly as helpful, especially with cooking.

Bonus note: This might be helpful for you if you spend a ton of time in the kitchen. Alexa is currently offering a free one year subscription to a premium service from Food Kitchen that has a large amount of new recipes available and the ability to watch Food Network shows. If interested, head over to Amazon.com for more info. Just don’t forget the subscription automates billing after the first year, costing you $5 a month in year two.

Luckily, Alexa can help you with remembering when you’ll be charged for the subscription. Just set up an Alexa reminder for 10 months to remind you the free year is ending. To do so, simply use this command: “Alexa, remind me about the Food Kitchen subscription in 10 months.”

Information

“Alexa, inspire me”

Use this command if you’re in need of an inspirational quote. For instance, when I use this command, I get the below:

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.”

Overall, I think this command is more suitable for Routines rather than using it on its own, as sometimes a good inspirational quote can give you enough motivation to finish up a hard task. Perhaps the Routine could even be named, “Give Me Strength.”

Have a better Routine idea that this command could fit into? Comment below. 

“Alexa, what’s up?”

First covered in early April, this command is an alternative way to trigger a Flash Briefing. Personally, I prefer the command “Alexa, tell me the news” to trigger the same thing.

And in testing this command even further, I came across something really odd. If you slightly tweak the command to “what’s the news” instead, you won’t get your Flash Briefing. Rather, Alexa gives you something else entirely. This is how I learned about Long Form News the hard way last week.

Jokes

“Alexa, E.T. phone home”

Curious where E.T. considers home? I talked about E.T. at the start of last month in the Jokes section, including where he hails from. 

“Alexa, flatter me”

Use this command if you’re looking for a pick-me-up, or if you want ideas for cheesy pickup lines. Or better still, use this command like I do for winner responses to when your wife asks “how do I look” when she’s nine months pregnant.

When I use this command, Alexa responds with:

“You’re so swell, when you go for a walk, surfers ride in your wake.”

This level of cheese could also pass nicely as a Dad Joke. And bonus points given to Alexa for having the joke relate to summer as it’s July. 

All joking aside, this isn’t a bad command to use. It would be nice to add it to a Good Morning Routine. After all, everyone could use a daily complement.

Lingering thoughts: wouldn’t it be even cooler if Alexa would know when you needed a good flattering remark, instead of you having to fish for compliments by using this command? That would get us one step closer to Iron Man’s Jarvis. One day, we’ll get there!

Music

“Alexa, play music for meditation”

Here’s one important thing to notice off the bat with this command. It doesn’t specify a music provider, like Spotify or Prime Music. That means your default music service listed in settings will be used.

When I give this command, Alexa starts playing a playlist from Spotify related to meditation. The playlist isn’t anything particularly interesting. But let’s see what Prime Music has to offer instead, as I think that’s really what Amazon intended here.

When I use this command and specify “Prime Music” as the music provider, I get a very different result. Alexa starts playing a radio station called “Mediation.”

Up first is the song “The White Feather” by Diane and David Arkenstone. That’s a very epic last name, by the way. It reminds me of this guy:

Mr. Oakenshield
Mr. Oakenshield

I’m guessing they aren’t related though.

The music from Prime Music is good, better than the results Spotify gave me. So if you’re looking for some calming music, and lots of it, try this command, but make sure you specify “Prime Music.”

“Alexa, sing a song for the Fourth of July”

I would be disappointed if Alexa didn’t have at least one command this week related to July 4th. Luckily, Amazon delivered for us.

When I use this command, Alexa sings “The Star-Spangled Banner” in her own voice. Since there’s not much in the way of sports these days, and I’m not in grade school anymore, it’s fair to assume I haven’t heard this song sung in a long while. So it was quite nice. Give this command a try if you’d like more red, white, and blue celebration.

Oh, and happy (belated) 4th of July!

Sheet Music, credit: Wikipedia

Podcasts

“Alexa, play the podcast Code Switch”

Here’s a command that comes in the wake of U.S. protests that continue this week. Code Switch is a podcast that contains “fearless conversations about race” from NPR.

When I use this command, Alexa pulls the latest episode from Apple Podcasts, my default podcast service, and plays it.

“Alexa, recommend a science podcast”

Alexa has a handful of podcasts it can recommend based on genres. This week, we now know science is one of them.

When I use this command, Alexa recommends Short Wave, another podcast from NPR. After a quick description, Alexa asks if I want to start playing it.

Short Wave focuses on short episodes with explanations of mysteries using science. It’s worth checking out especially if you like a short format since each episode is roughly 10 minutes long. 

Productivity

“Alexa, add ‘call with Sarah’ to my calendar today at 4 PM”

Although I haven’t covered this exact command before, I did cover a similar one back in early May that showed how to video call Grandma. The only difference between these two commands? The message itself in the event… well, that and the fact that the contact “Sarah” seems like a more realistic contact to add to your calendar. 

Shopping

“Alexa, add popcorn to my shopping list”

Head back to May 4th’s Shopping section to uncover the pros and cons of this command.

“Alexa, where’s my stuff?”

An older, yet handy command for Amazon users. Checkout some hints on how to set up notifications from April 24th’s Shopping section.

Smart Home

“Alexa, learn my voice”

Did you know you can teach Alexa your voice? Once Alexa knows your voice, you’ll get more personalized responses. That comes in handy when you have multiple people in your house using Alexa. For example, things like messaging and music become a bit more specific to you, instead of everyone in the house.

You can also set this up in the Alexa App, which I find to be a better experience. Here’s how:

  1. Open the Alexa App
  2. Tap Settings
  3. Tap Your Profile
  4. Tap Voice
Alexa App Voice Profile Settings
Alexa App Voice Profile Settings
“Alexa, open Photo Booth”

Photo Booth is a cute App for your Echo Show that lets you take selfies and a few other picture types. Find out more info on the pros/cons from June 1st. But if you don’t have an Echo Show, I wouldn’t waste time looking further into this command.

“Alexa, turn on the lights”

This isn’t a new command by any means, but it’s still one of my favorite and most used commands with Alexa. I use this command on a daily basis and consider it to be one of the most useful tricks you can do with Alexa and a couple of Smart Lights that support Alexa.

What’s even better is you can do much more with Smart Lights than just turn them on and off with Alexa. Alexa supports a ton of different colors, as well. But personally, the real fun for me comes when I start using my lights with Home Automation or Routines with Alexa.

Timers

“Alexa, help me get started with timers”
“Alexa, pause my timer”

Here we have two core timer commands, originally covered back in late April. Take a look if you want to up your game with timers—which happens to be one of the most useful areas for a Voice Assistant.

Takeaways

Command Category Breakdown

July starts out with a bang as this week’s lineup includes quite a few interesting commands ranging from multiple different categories. 

Topping the list is definitely the command from the Smart Home section. If you haven’t tried out Smart Lights yet, you should! When you add Alexa (or any other Voice Assistant for that matter) it creates a delightful and helpful experience.

Next up, Alexa shows off some cool functionality in the Communication section, with a deep dive into messages.

What’s more, in the Alexa Skills section, I find my favorite meditation skill to date. If you’re needing a simple session without the frills, look no further than this one. And speaking of meditation, Amazon offers a solid playlist for Mediation in the Music section

Last but certainly not least, you’ll also find within the music section a hat tip to the 4th of July. I continue to be impressed with commands where Alexa sings in her own voice; what about you?

With the above in mind, I think we’re off to a good start for July. 

Do you have a favorite Alexa command from this week? Or have you learned a new one you’d like to share? Don’t keep it to yourself! Throw a comment up and let’s discuss.

2 thoughts on “Keeping Up with Alexa Commands: July 6th”

  1. Hi Support,
    I have 2 ring indoor cameras and I believe Amazon own ring.
    Alexa says “you have a visiter at the front door” and I say “Alexa show me the front door”.
    And it does.
    How can I get my show 8 to alert me and show me the image when the camera is activated.
    Regards.
    Bob.

    1. Hey Bob! Welcome to Smart Home Explained. While I am a big fan of Amazon, I don’t actually work for them. If you’re looking for Amazon support, try this out: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/contact-us

      That said, here’s how you can enable motion sensor notifications via Echo Show:

      How do I opt-in to get doorbell, person and motion notifications through my Alexa?
      Opting-in to the Announcement feature in your Alexa is easy. Just follow the instructions below:

      Download the latest Alexa app.
      1. Tap the Devices tab at the lower right-hand section of your screen.
      2. Tap All Devices.
      3. Tap the security camera or doorbell camera you wish to be notified about.
      4. Turn on the Doorbell Press (for doorbells) or the Motion toggle and/or the Person toggle (for both doorbells and security cameras).

      Source: https://support.ring.com/hc/en-us/articles/360018032731-Doorbell-Announcement-Notifications-Through-Amazon-Alexa

      Let me know if that works for you!

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