Keeping Up With Alexa Commands

Keeping Up with Alexa Commands: May 18th

Having trouble thinking of new things to say or ask Alexa? Keeping up with the latest Alexa commands is getting harder, especially with the growing list of third-party commands through skills. That’s where this series comes in. 

Each week I assemble all the new–or newly promoted–Alexa commands that Amazon releases in its weekly newsletter, as well as through other promotional feeds. These commands work on various Alexa-enabled devices, like Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Fire TV, and others. I then test each command and weigh its usefulness, so you don’t have to. 

So go ahead, keep scrolling to see this week’s full lineup or use the table of contents below.    

Keeping Up with Alexa

Welcome to May’s third weekly roundup. In case you missed it, Keeping Up with Alexa Commands: May 11th featured voice commands related to Mother’s Day and fun children’s games to try out during social distancing, among other topics. You can also view the complete list of weekly roundups here.

What Can Alexa Do

Editor’s Note: While it may be new to you, not all 22 Alexa commands listed below are considered “new.” Amazon promotes a mix of new, newly updated, or newly promoted commands that are older but aren’t well known. I also comb through additional feeds to grab any I see that are worth noting. All of this to say: I’ll do my best to signal when a command isn’t in fact new to Alexa. 

Alarms

“Alexa, wake me up to morning music at 7 AM”

I covered a similar command early last month. What’s the difference? This time we’re waking up to playlists that Amazon considers “morning music.” 

Amazon rotates between these four similar, but different, playlists:

It’s nice that Amazon rotates between different playlists, as you’re unlikely to get the same song each time you use this command.

Alexa Skills

“Alexa, open The Tonight Show”

With this command, you’ll start up the Alexa Skill called The Tonight Show. The Tonight Show is a late night show starring Jimmy Fallon. 

When I use this command on an Echo Show, I get a quick description of the skill and a list of different features of the skill, including: monologues, ‘Thank You’ notes, and the schedule. From these options, I picked monologues. Alexa then started a video with Jimmy Fallon from the night before. So the content is pretty recent.

Although the skill has been available for several years at this point–with reviews going back to as early as 2017–there are also more recent updates with it, including support for video on the Echo Show.

“Alexa, open Disney Stories”

We saw this command in the March 27th newsletter. As a refresher, Disney Stories is an Alexa Skill that provides a set of 50 children stories. And thankfully, these stores aren’t read by Alexa. Instead, you’ll get different narrators and sound effects for each story–so the production value is pretty high.

When I use this command, the skill immediately jumps into a story called, “Pop Star Minnie.” Turns out, Disney gives you four stories to try before you need to buy anything:

  • The Lion King: A Day Without Pumbaa
  • Monsters, Inc.: Boo on the Loose
  • Disney Princess: Cinderella’s Best Ever Creations
  • Pop Star Minnie

However, there are some problems with the skill. Navigation isn’t great. Once the story is completed, nothing happens for me. I’m not asked to play something else, or anything at all. I’m just left in silence. That said, it looks like the remaining negative reviews are more geared toward struggling to get the skill working or to approve a Kid Skill. Neither problem seems to be related to the skill itself.

Why is this skill promoted this week, you ask? Disney has a sale going on. Until the end of May, you can now purchase the full set of 50 Disney Stories for just a dollar.

Because of its high production value and current sale, I think it’s definitely worth checking out–if not for your little one, then for yourself. After all, who doesn’t love Disney? 

“Alexa, open daily music pick”
Daily Music Pick Logo

Here’s a new skill hot of the press. Daily Music Pick is an Amazon Music Unlimited skill that lets you listen to music picked by your favorite artists.

When I use this command, I’m given a description of the song “Check Your Phone” from Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz. The song then starts playing. Note: your mileage may vary, as this is geared toward user interests. While I’m not a huge fan of Fall Out Boy, truthfully, or the song he picked, I don’t have a ton of music on Amazon Prime, so Amazon doesn’t have much to go on regarding my music tastes.

An Amazon Music Unlimited subscription is required for this skill, but you can try it for free until this Thursday, May 21st. The skill has zero reviews and no rating yet, but as I mentioned above, it’s brand new.

As a last parting thought, note that this skill has a rating of “Guidance Suggested.” This means it has access to your personal information. Given that this skill is created by Amazon directly, and not a third-party like many other skills in the marketplace, I’m not concerned. The rating is most likely necessary because the skill needs access to your music library.

Audible

“Alexa, read Audible everywhere”

Not surprising, we have an Audible command this week, as with every week’s newsletter. This one is highlighted as a new command, but it’s a bit puzzling to me. Basically, when you use this command, Alexa plays Audible from all of the Alexa-enabled devices you own. But I’m left wondering–when would someone use this?

The only situation I can think of is if you’re walking around your house, between multiple rooms, and you’re doing something like laundry. This command would let you listen to your audiobook while you move around–but at the same time, annoy everyone else in your house. 

Help me out here. What do you think? Maybe I’m missing a better scenario? Drop me a comment below. 

Productivity

“Alexa, add ‘Family Dinner’ to the schedule tonight at 7 PM”

What do you think this command does? If you guessed it adds an event to your Calendar, you’d be wrong–just like I was! 

Initially, I thought this would add “Family Dinner” to my Google Calendar that’s linked to my Alexa account. But instead, this command adds an item to my pre-built To-Do list.

To-Do List result
To-Do List result

This is pretty strange to me as the word “schedule” doesn’t necessarily imply a list. But, hey, if you’re looking for more interchangeable verbs for adding items to your To-Do list, then look no further. “Schedule” is the new “Add,” apparently.

“Alexa, remind me to take my vitamins every day at 8 PM”

This command does as expected with adding a recurring item in the Reminders tab of the Alexa app. 

And here’s what the Reminder looks like on the Alexa App:

Reminder options
Reminder options

The surprising part is what I’ve circled in yellow. See what’s listed below the “Announces from” label? That option changes depending on what Alexa device received this command. For instance, if I told an Echo Dot this command, the value would change to say the Echo Dot instead.

What’s more, you can’t change this value while looking at the Reminder info in the Alexa App. Instead, you have to create a new Reminder. That’s pretty strange, but not too annoying to work around. Just keep in mind that the device you give this command to matters. 

Personally, while I think the command itself is basic, I’ve been using it more. My wife is currently pregnant and is having to take specific vitamins throughout the day. We use this command on our Echo Show in our kitchen to remind her when to take what pill. As she would say–pregnancy brain sucks. 

Cooking

“Alexa, how long do eggs last in the fridge?”

This command hovers between being categorized as Cooking and Information.

When I use this command, I get a no-nonsense answer from Alexa: “Eggs typically last from 3 to 5 weeks.” 

On Echo Show, you also get some extra information that lets you know it’s not recommended to put eggs in a freezer. But that part is a bit misleading. You can actually store eggs in a freezer under certain stipulations, just ask Alexa: “Alexa, can I store eggs in a freezer?” This is what you’ll get back:

Alexa snippet
Alexa snippet
“Alexa, what should I make for dinner?”

This command gives you a very different experience depending on if you have a screen-enabled Alexa device, like an Echo Show, or not. 

For instance, when I use this command on an Echo Show, Alexa shows me a list of recipes and lists off the top four. 

Recipe list on the Echo Show
Recipe list on the Echo Show

And when I ask on an Echo Dot instead (with no screen component), Alexa recommends just one recipe for Slow Cooker Ribs and asks if I want to send that recipe to my phone to see more info.

So essentially–as with other Cooking category commands–this command is most optimal when using an Echo Show. 

Information

“Alexa, what can you do?”

This command was already covered in early April and is likely being recycled this week to raise more awareness on Alexa features. After asking Alexa this question, you’ll get info about other commands and skills. 

From what I can see, no new updates have been added since we last covered this command. That said, let’s take a few minutes diving in to see if we do find anything interesting.

Once saying this command, Alexa gives me a list of categories to choose from. Out of the bunch, I picked “Morning Activities.” From there, Alexa gives me another list of categories to select from, including “Weather.” By selecting “Weather,” Alexa then tells me about the Alexa Skill Big Sky–which we also covered in April. Sadly, it looks like this command isn’t smart enough to realize it should serve up something else since I already have that skill enabled. 

Ultimately, I don’t recommend this command as the best discovery tool for finding new things to ask Alexa. Instead, spend some more time with me in these weekly roundups or jump right into the Alexa Skill Store and explore from there. 

“Alexa, what’s up?”

Here’s another recycled command from early April. You essentially use this command to trigger Flash Briefings. Personally, I prefer the command, “Alexa, tell me the news,” to trigger the same thing.

Jokes

“Alexa, are you left-handed?”

Here’s a hint. Alexa isn’t exactly left-handed. But is she right-handed? Ask Alexa to find out.

“Alexa, what’s your favorite hobby?”

Alexa does indeed have a favorite hobby. And it makes sense for a Voice Assistant… sort of. I won’t spoil the fun for you, so go ahead and ask Alexa.

“Alexa, tell me a joke”

Use this command to get a random joke from Alexa. The list of jokes is huge, so you’re unlikely to get the same joke twice. 

As an example, here’s the joke I got from Alexa:

Q: “What is heavy forward but not backward?”

A: “A ‘ton’”

I’m confused… Do you get it?

By the way–there’s one cool, yet subtle, feature with this command. You can also filter with Alexa for more specific jokes. For example, in early April, we learned the command: “tell me a joke about jazz.”

Music

“Alexa, reset the equalizer”

This command is from early April, as well. But really, you only need this if you start adjusting your Audio Settings. You can also do that with commands like, “turn up the bass.” Check out the previous newsletter to learn how to find Audio Settings.

“Alexa, play music by Ed Sheeran from Amazon Music”

The best part about this command? You don’t need an Amazon Unlimited Music subscription to use it. This command shuffles songs from Ed Sheeran from Amazon Music. If you use it on an Echo Show, you’ll also get lyrics for each song.

Who’s Ed Sheeran?
Who’s Ed Sheeran? 

When I think of Ed Sheeran, my first thought is of his cameo in the show Game of Thrones. But I don’t think that cameo went over too well for him or the show’s fans, sadly.

“Alexa, play the Trolls World Tour soundtrack”

Have you seen the Trolls movie with your family? If not, let me explain. Trolls World Tour is a recent kids movie that was released in March right before quarantine orders were set into place, and the movie was met with a surprising amount of success. Since my kid is still in utero, I haven’t seen it yet. Give me a few more years though, and I’ll be in-the-know for all these latest kid movies–for better or worse!

When I use this command, the movie’s soundtrack begins playing on Spotify. Note that if you don’t specify a service, like Amazon Music or Spotify, the command will use your default music player. 

You can also find the soundtrack on Amazon Music. And good news to those who already have Prime, no further subscription is required.

Reading

“Alexa, tell me a poem by Rudyard Kipling”

Here’s an interesting functionality I didn’t know Alexa had, and my favorite command for this newsletter! I love commands that teach me a bit about Alexa and about the world in general. For me, it’s a win-win.

To know what I mean, just use this command. When I do, Alexa reads a poem to you by Rudyard Kipling (pronounced RUD-yərd). On the Echo Show, you’ll also see the written poem–just like you would lyrics from a song–with Alexa highlighting the words for you to follow along to.

Rudyard Kipling headshot via Wikipedia

Rudyard Kipling headshot via Wikipedia 

Who is Rudyard Kipling? For those of you like me who didn’t know, I did some digging. Turns out, Rudyard is a British author from the 1900s who is most known for writing the children’s book The Jungle Book. What’s more, he also wrote a lot of noteworthy poetry. For instance, when I used this command, Alexa reads his poem “If–.” 

Although it’s convenient to call on Alexa to read his poetry, you’ll get much more out of this rendition instead. As I’ve mentioned before in past newsletters, Alexa is not great at reading long-form content. Her pacing and tone variation isn’t as nuanced as you’d like, especially in regard to poetry, which is all about rhythm. 

Also noted, this command gives you a random poem from Rudyard. Sadly, Alexa doesn’t allow you to play a specific poem, like with requesting “If”,  without an Audible subscription. That’s too bad as he has a ton of great work to choose from. 

Either way, if you have a few minutes and a screen-enabled Alexa device on-hand, give this command a shot. 

Shopping

“Alexa, remove milk from my shopping list”

Last week we removed chicken wings. This week it’s milk. The command works the same way for both items. Nothing new to see here. 

Smart Home

“Alexa, show my Facebook photos”

Nothing new for this command. I showed you how to link different accounts to Alexa Photos about a month back. Check out the Smart Home section from April 10th for more info on how to set it up.

“Alexa, set Echo Glow to Campfire mode”

Nothing new from this command, either, since last we saw it pop up on April 3rd. Essentially, this command highlights the abilities of Amazon’s Smart Lamp called Echo Glow.

Weather

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

While this command hasn’t been featured before in Amazon’s newsletters, its cousin command has on April 3rd: “how’s the weather this evening?” Both commands work out pretty well. The difference is this week’s command proactively notifies you via an Alexa Notification. 

This came in handy as a few weeks ago, a large thunderstorm came through, and Alexa notified me before it started booming.

When you use this command, Alexa adds a special Reminder in the Reminders tab in your Alexa App. To find it:

  1. Open the Alexa App
  2. Tap Settings
  3. Tap Reminders & Alarms
  4. Tap Reminders

You’ll see the new Reminder at the bottom. It looks like this:

Severe Weather Reminder

Severe Weather Reminder

However, if you find this notification not very useful, it’s possible to disable it altogether. Here’s the best way to get rid of this specific notification:

  1. Go back to your Reminders on the Alexa App
  2. Click on the Reminder at the bottom that says “Severe Weather Alert in XX”
  3. Tap “DELETE” at the bottom

That way you only delete this notification, while leaving your other notifications enabled.

Takeaways

Command Category Breakdown

Just like last week, we’re starting to see more and more recycled commands from April. Out of the five from this week, only one is really worth calling out again. If you’re a fan of Disney, check out Disney Stories in the Alexa Skills section. You can purchase the skill for just a dollar until the end of May, which seems like a great deal to me.

My favorite command from this week is by far related to Alexa’s ability to read poetry. While Voice Assistants have more ground to cover when reading long-form content, I’m a big fan of Alexa reading poetry with a screen component. In the Reading section, you’ll find more info about Rudyard Kipling and how Alexa will read his work aloud to you–and the best part is, it’s free.

Beyond that, Amazon is definitely highlighting music and pop culture this week with a release of a new skill called Daily Music Pick in the Alexa Skills section. We also see several popular music playlists highlighted this week in the Music section.

Last but not least, I have some Smart Home Explained news to share with you. It’s not unusual to see me tinkering with new post ideas each week, and your thoughts on these posts really help me know when I’m moving in the right direction. With that in mind, I welcome you to check out the newest series called Alexa Skill Spotlight. If you’d like to share your thoughts, drop me a comment below.

And so ends our third newsletter for May. See you next week as I review more voice commands you can try with your Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Fire TV, and other Alexa-enabled devices.

4 thoughts on “Keeping Up with Alexa Commands: May 18th”

  1. I wanted to ask Alexa to play my Broken Bells radio station from Pandora which she does just fine. Instead, I paused too long between “Alexa play” and “my Broken Bells radio station from Pandora” so she just started playing some station she figured I might like, and I do.
    But when I ask her the name of the station/playlist, etc all she does is tell me the name of the currently playing song.
    I went to Alexa on both my computer and my phone and it didn’t show the playlist so I could ask for it again. What is the correct command to get this info or where can I look it up?
    Thanks!
    Rich

    1. Hey Rich,

      Sadly I don’t think Alexa has a command like “Alexa, what playlist is playing”. Very annoying.

      Here’s an idea though. You might be able to find out via an Echo Show. When I start a playlist using Spotify on an Echo Show, I get some extra info on the screen, including the playlist.

      One more idea. When Alexa is playing a Pandora playlist, try opening the Pandora app on your smartphone. It most likely shows you what is currently playing from there as well.

      Let me know if that helps

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