Keeping Up With Alexa Commands

Keeping Up with Alexa Commands: June 29th

Wondering what to say or ask Alexa next? Discovering the latest voice commands for Amazon’s Voice Assistant is challenging. That’s where this weekly series comes in. Listed below are all the new or newly-promoted Alexa commands that Amazon released this week, with added walk-throughs on how to use each and commentary on which are actually worth using. So if you’re wondering how to get the most out of your Echo Dot, Echo Show, or other Alexa-enabled device, look no further.

Today’s post outlines 21 commands Amazon released this week for Alexa, 9 of which are new to this series and serve to grow the extensive database of Alexa tips and tricks. 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 fifth and final newsletter of June. 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 of how each of these voice commands work or offer any tips for how to get the most out of each category. What’s more—there are sometimes duds or entirely broken commands thrown into the mix that are likely to trip you up. 

For this reason, I created the 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 weeding out the good from the bad (and rarely ugly), so you don’t have to.

In case you missed it, June 22nd featured Alexa commands related to Juneteenth, Flash Briefings, and dad podcasts. 

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 synopsis so you can quickly jump to it. Otherwise, all other Alexa commands Amazon releases this week will be covered directly within this post.

Alexa Skills

“Alexa, open Fan Sounds”

See the command’s breakdown from April 17th’s Alexa Skills Section.

For more options on using Alexa as a white noise machine, check out this post.

“Alexa, open Pride History”

Last week, Amazon presented a similar Alexa Skill for Pride facts. This week, Amazon has a new skill that’s similar, but this time it’s from the Amazon Music group. Pride History is a skill that focuses on sharing stories from the LGBTQ community paired with a song that plays after the story is finished.

When I use this command, I’m told about a march in Washington D.C. called The Ashes Actions where AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (or ACT UP) protesters scattered the ashes of those who died from AIDS on the White House lawn.

After the story is finished, a song hand picked for this story is played from Amazon Music. If you’re a Prime Member, you won’t have a problem listening; otherwise, a subscription is required to hear the song.

“Alexa, show me featured movies on Tubi”

See the command’s breakdown from April 17th’s Alexa Skills Section.

Communication

“Alexa, check my email”

See this command’s breakdown from May 25th’s Productivity Section.

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

Time to call grandma again. Last time we rang her up was in May 11th’s Productivity Section. But to be honest, you can never call your grandma too often.

“Alexa, make a call”

I’ll cut to the chase: this command is a dud. Getting a call to actually start with Alexa is really painful—more painful than it’s worth.

To give you a better idea, here’s the walk-through. When I use this command on an Echo Show, Alexa asks me to provide a phone number, contact name, or device that I want to call. To start, I give my wife’s first name. Alexa then asks me to clarify, wanting my wife’s full name—not once, but twice.  Then, after Alexa confirms my wife’s name to me, Alexa tells me she can’t complete the call because it’s unclear what person I want to contact.

What a frustrating experience. But I haven’t given up. Alexa also accepts phone numbers, right? When I use this command and give Alexa a phone number instead, I’m told to provide the full 10 digit number with area code. After racking my brain to remember my wife’s exact 10 digit number, Alexa then reads the number back to me—but with several errors. At this point, I’m throwing in the towel.

Don’t bother using Alexa to call your contacts. It’s more trouble than it’s worth. Between conflicts with contacts and misunderstandings with digits, you’re going to end up fighting Alexa to make this feature work for you. Instead, just pick up your Smartphone to call.

Cooking

“Alexa, what can I make with chicken and spinach?”
“Alexa, what temperature should chicken be cooked to?”

See what you can make with chicken in April 17th’s Cooking Section. These commands are especially great to use on an Echo Show, adding a screen component to Alexa’s answers. 

Donations

“Alexa, make a donation”

When I use this command, Alexa asks me who I want to make a donation to. Not too helpful without some extra guidance.

Luckily, donations come up pretty often in these newsletters, so here’s a few ideas:

  1. United Nations Foundation from April 24th
  2. American Red Cross from May 25th
  3. Save the Children from April 3rd
  4. Coronavirus Relief from April 10th

Amazon also keeps an exhaustive list of Alexa supported charities.

Information

“Alexa, tell me a fun fact of the day”

Oh boy, I don’t know about you, but I sure could use some fun facts today. Fortunately, Amazon has us covered—or so I originally thought with this command.

Turns out, Amazon is feeling a bit blue and needs help redefining the word “fun”. To illustrate, when I use this command, Alexa tells me that the short story “The Lottery” was released today (at the time of this writing). But wait, what’s the lottery for, you ask? Determining who in town gets to be stoned to death. Are we having fun yet?

Have you read this short story? Should I give it a try? Let’s hope the fun fact you get from Alexa is a bit more cheerful. 

All joking aside, this command is pretty cool. It’s easy to use and doesn’t involve a large time commitment to get offered an interesting fact. I’d recommend adding this command to a “Good Morning” routine.

“Alexa, what’s the news?”

Amazon has updated this old command with new functionality. But there’s still kinks to work out. 

In short, Alexa now decides two choices for you that she thinks you’ll like: the first is whether or not you want to hear short or long-form content; the second is what news source you want to hear from. While long form news content is not new, Alexa proactively determining if you want short snippets from multiple providers vs a long-form outlook from a single provider is new. 

Now here’s the wonky part—Alexa’s response to this command changes but you aren’t able to change your preferences yourself. For instance, sometimes when I use this command, Alexa triggers my Flash Briefing. I covered this in more detail last week with the alternative command “Alexa, tell me the news.” But that output is not always what happens with this command. Other times when I ask “what’s the news”, I’m given a different, longer news update instead. Not my Flash Briefing. And Alexa proactively sets my default provider to Bloomberg as the long-form news source without offering me the option to change it.

In looking into this further, I see Amazon did add the feature Long Form News about a year ago, where you can specify one of these providers: NPR, Fox News, CNN, Newsy, Bloomberg, or CNBC. For some reason, Alexa now decided Bloomberg is my default. But what’s frustrating is Alexa doesn’t give an option to change this default.

Taking a step back, it appears Amazon is now combining two different commands for getting the news:

  • “Alexa, play my flash briefing” for smaller updates from multiple sources
  • “Alexa, tell me the news from <source>” to get longer updates from a specific source

I’m not sure how I feel about this newly-updated command yet. At first blush, I don’t like getting a different news experience from Alexa depending on when I ask “what’s the news.”. For now, I think I’ll stick to the specific commands bulleted above in order to activate the news. 

What do you think? Do you like Alexa taking the guesswork from you of selecting the format and source of your news? Share in the comments below. 

Jokes

“Alexa, are you left handed?”

Well, what do you think? Find a hint in May 15th’s Joke Section.

“Alexa, tell me a dinosaur limerick”
Rawr

When I use this command, Alexa gives me a limerick that describes a type of dinosaur. In my case, the Triceratops.

But of course, I envisioned the above picture instead. Looks like a T-Rex…erm, I mean, Triceratops in its natural habitat to me. If you have pictures of an actual Triceratops in the wild, let me know.

Music

“Alexa, play music everywhere”

Here’s a new command Alexa now supports and my favorite command to wrap up June. 

You can now play music on groups of speakers. Amazon highlighted the similar command “read Audible everywhere” a few weeks ago. This week, it’s now possible to play music everywhere, as well. I think between the two, this command is far more useful. 

As a walk-through for how to use this, when I give this command, Alexa plays the “Liked Songs” playlist from my Spotify account on the group named “Everywhere.”

The speakers in the “Everywhere” group might surprise you, as devices are added to it automatically when you link devices with Alexa. In my group, I see a few Echo devices and a Fire TV. So when I use this command, my TV also comes on and starts playing music.

Pretty cool. I do suggest you tweak your Alexa group to make sure the right speakers are included. Going a step further, you could even create a new speaker group and play music to that, as well. 

Here’s how you find the “Everywhere” group:

  1. Open the Alexa App
  2. Tap Devices in the bottom left
  3. Scroll to the bottom
  4. Tap on the “Everywhere” Speaker group

From there, you tap Edit in the top left to make changes or make an entirely new group.

“Alexa, play the Cocina Latina playlist on Amazon Music”

This week Amazon offers a  curated playlist to check out titled Cocina Latina

“Alexa, reset the equalizer”

Find out how to do this in the Alexa App in April 4th’s Music Section.

Shopping

“Alexa, add roses to my list”

See the command’s breakdown from May 11th’s Shopping Section.

“Alexa, recommend me a book”

The short of it: don’t bother with asking Alexa for book recommendations. 

Want the longer version? See the command’s breakdown from May 25th’s Shopping Section.

Smart Home

“Alexa, set the background to my photos”

If you have a device with a screen, like a Fire TV or an Echo Show, you can use this command to change the background and screensaver to photos from your Amazon account or from whatever photo account you linked to Alexa. More info can be found from April 10th’s Smart Home Section.

Timers

“Alexa, set a sleep timer for 30 minutes”

Learn about sleep timers in the Timers Section from April 10th.

Weather

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

Severe weather alerts from Alexa are really nice. You can also set these up in the Alexa App. Check out how in May 18th’s Weather Section.

Takeaways

Command Category Breakdown

My favorite command this week is easily from the Music section. Playing music to a speaker group, and not just a single Echo device, is pretty handy.

Additionally, if you’re a fan of news updates, you may be intrigued to know how Amazon is choosing whether you’d like to hear Flash Briefings or Long Form News content. What’s more—Alexa also provides fun facts to start your day off, often giving you a re-imagined look at the word “fun”. Find out more about both capabilities in the Information section.

Last, but not least, Amazon closes out its June commands with one more to celebrate Pride Month. In the Alexa Skills section, hear LGBTQ+ history being paired up with hand-selected songs from the time period.

That’s a wrap for June! Have a favorite Alexa command from June’s full lineup? Don’t keep it to yourself! Throw a comment up and let’s discuss.

9 thoughts on “Keeping Up with Alexa Commands: June 29th”

  1. Where did the loop go on Amazon music. When I went to sleep for the last two years I would tell her to play one particular nature track and then say Alexa loop. It no longer loops with that. Frustrating

  2. I’m New to Alexa as well as your article. In the Takeaway section, can you tell me what the numbers inside the pie chart means? (i.e. Alexa Skills 4; Music 3)? Also, I’ve purchased a new (10th Gen) 8″ Fire Tablet. So in lieu of purchasing a new Echo Show for the kitchen, id like to use my prior (Gen 8) Fire 8HD Tablet instead. I heard that if I buy a charging dock, it will turn the tablet into a SHOW. Will the charging dock also let me take advantage of the “Alexa, play music everywhere” feature? If not, what would be the advantage of buying the charging dock vs just keeping the tablet plugged directly into the wall?

    1. Hi Dianne, Welcome to the blog and weekly roundups. The chart breaks down the 21 commands released this week and notes the type of commands reviewed. This is helpful if you’re wanting to get a glimpse into what the popular categories are (i.e. Alexa Skills, Music, and Communication are all at the top beating out Productivity commands this week).

      Bad news on your Fire Table question. I’ve looked into this further for you, and sadly, a Fire Tablet is not considered a smart speaker. For the command “Alexa, play music everywhere,” you unfortunately won’t be able to add your Fire tablet to the “Everywhere” speaker group in the Alexa App. So when you use the command, it won’t include your tablet.

      This is still the case if you should purchase the Show Mode Dock. While the dock turns your tablet into an Echo Show “alternative,” it’s not a replacement for an Echo Show completely.

      You can reach out to Amazon Customer Service for more info: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html

      Thanks for the questions, and I hope to hear more from you!

  3. Edwyn Stevenson-Bryan

    I was rather concerned you had Pride on Alexa, without any of the mature restrictions added to this. It is not something I was care for my children to get access to without permission… Years ago it was Gay Pride… but they seem have got it out there no with no mention of homosexually whatsoever… makeing it rather more palatable for the susceptible . I’m gay myself and I cringe nowadays at what is considered tasteful for Gay life… trust me it’s not all rainbows and never has been… But please monitor dear Alexa… Thank for the good work… Best Wishes during these difficult times… Edwyn… 🐱

  4. I am new to using Alexa, I just got an exho dot and wanted to be able to turn my tv on and off with Alexa. I have a Sanyo smart tv and haven’t been able to. Can you please explain how to do that?
    Another thing, I tried playing songs using my Pandora link account but Alexa doesn’t understand the command either.

    1. Hey and welcome to Alexa and Smart Home Explained!

      I don’t think Sanyo has added support for Alexa yet. Setup is a bit tough to explain in a comment. I’ll work on an article to get the details. But one thing that might help you out.

      1. Go to the Alexa App
      2. Tap on Devices
      3. Tap the “+” in the top right
      4. Scroll down and tap on TV

      From here you can try to connect your Smart TV. It looks like Sony, TCL, and LG are the major supported brands currently.

      For your music question. What command are you trying?

      -Isaac

  5. I use an Echo Dot. I have two of them, one in the living room and one in the master bedroom. They work great. I tell Alexa: “Alexa, call John’s mobile” and it works perfectly. On some names, it’s a little challenging but otherwise, works great. I also tell it to dial ###-###-#### and it also works perfectly. And I mean perfectly every time. Cells, land lines; it doesn’t matter. I don’t understand why people are having issues with Alexa making phone calls.

    1. No problems with Alex misunderstanding any digit? Very impressive. Do you slowly pronounce each digit? Do you say “dash”? Maybe there’s a trick to help Alexa along.

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