The 13 Best Alexa Hacks of 2019

These Amazon Echo tips make some tasks super easy

Best Alexa Hacks

 

Fabian Hurnaus / Pexels

If you share your home with one (or more) Alexa-enabled devices, you are not alone; Amazon has sold tens of millions of the smart speakers/virtual assistants. But, if you're only using your device to play music and set timers, you're missing out.

When you learn about some awesome Amazon Echo hidden features and find out how to give Alexa funny commands, you'll hit the tip of the iceberg of what your device can do. These hacks will help you save time, have fun, and simply live better.

01
of 13

Say 'Good Morning' and 'Good Afternoon'

Screenshot of Good Morning Skill page
What We Like
  • Response is always different.

  • Easy to use.

  • You do not need to enable the skill to use it.

What We Don't Like
  • Can only use "Good morning" before noon.

  • Can only use "Good afternoon" after 12 p.m.

Saying, "Alexa, good morning" or "Alexa, good afternoon" will emit a dynamic, entertaining response. In the morning, Alexa will provide motivational quotes and in the afternoon, Alexa will respond with a helpful tip or encouraging statement.

02
of 13

Change Alexa’s Voice

Screenshot of Change Alexa's Language
What We Like
  • A dozen languages available.

  • Specific to any device.

What We Don't Like
  • No character voices or other options.

  • Cannot apply to multiple devices at once.

Alexa can speak in a language other than English or use a different accent. To change Alexa's voice, open the Alexa app and select the device you want to apply the changes to. Select Language and choose an option from the drop-down menu.

03
of 13

Get Traffic Updates

Screenshot of Alexa traffic settings
What We Like
  • You can add stops on your route.

  • Basic setting, no skill involved.

What We Don't Like
  • Can only enter a single destination.

  • Destinations are not device-specific.

Check the traffic en route to school or work using Alexa's Traffic skill. To do so, you must enter a destination in the app. Select Settings from the menu, select Traffic under Alexa Preferences and enter both your home and destination addresses.

After you have entered this information, you can ask, "Alexa, how's traffic?" to receive real-time information.

04
of 13

Listen to Music Throughout the House

Screenshot of Create Group in Alexa app
What We Like
  • Can play multiple streams simultaneously to different groups with Music Unlimited and a Family Plan.

  • Will stream from multiple music services.

What We Don't Like
  • Amazon Prime Music or Amazon Music Unlimited account required.

  • Will not play over paired Bluetooth speakers.

If you have multiple Echo devices throughout your home, you can stream the same music to all of them simultaneously. In the Alexa app, go to Devices. Select the + (plus) icon and choose Add Multi-Room Music Speakers. Select the devices you want to include and then create the group.

05
of 13

Make Multiple Profiles

Screenshot of settings showing Amazon Household
What We Like
  • Use voice commands to switch profiles.

  • Manage profile-specific photos on devices with screens.

What We Don't Like
  • When you add an adult, they have access to Amazon purchase information.

  • Alexa might confuse similar voices.

Setting up profiles for everyone in the household helps customize the content Alexa provides for the user. You can set up household profiles in the Alexa app by going to Settings, choosing Amazon Household under Alexa Account and following the on-screen instructions.

Family members can also say, "Alexa, learn my voice," and Alexa will provide prompts so she can distinguish between different users.

06
of 13

Establish Parental Controls

Screenshot of FreeTime Parent Dashboard
What We Like
  • Access the Parent Dashboard on your computer.

  • Highly customizable.

What We Don't Like
  • Paid subscription.

  • Enabled on per-device basis.

Amazon offers a service called FreeTime, which can be used on Alexa. This feature lets parents restrict content, hours of usage and shopping features.

To use FreeTime, go to the list of devices under Settings in the Alexa app. Select the device to which you want to add parental controls. Select FreeTime and enable the service.

Amazon FreeTime Unlimited is a premium service with a monthly subscription fee.

07
of 13

Protect Purchases

Screenshot of Voice Purchasing
What We Like
  • Easy to set up.

  • View the code in the app if you forget it.

What We Don't Like
  • Kids can overhear the code.

  • Not device-specific.

Being able to shop with your voice is a cool feature of Alexa devices, but you might not want others to have this option. In the Alexa app Settings menu under Voice Purchasing, you can set up a four-digit voice code or disable voice purchasing altogether.

08
of 13

Whip up an IFTTT Recipe

Screenshot of IFTTT recipes for Alexa
What We Like
  • Easy to incorporate smart home devices.

  • Large collection of applets to choose from.

What We Don't Like
  • Requires the use of one or more third-party services.

  • Custom 'recipes' can be complex.

IFTTT (which means If This, Then That) recipes enable actions based on triggers; If this happens, then that should happen). You can use these applets to increase Alexa's abilities. For instance, you can use an IFTTT recipe to send the shopping list you created on Alexa to your phone or trigger smart lights to flash when a timer goes off.

09
of 13

Create Custom Routines

Screenshot of Alexa routine settings
What We Like
  • Device-specific.

  • Lots of choices.

What We Don't Like
  • No way to skip actions.

Routines tell Alexa to run multiple tasks at once based on a trigger. To create a new routine in the Alexa app, select Routines from the menu and click the + (plus) to go to the New Routine screen. Select the criteria, actions, and devices you want to use to create and access a custom routine for your device.

10
of 13

Check in While You’re Away

Screenshot of Drop-in
What We Like
  • Permission required to drop in.

  • Check in from any location with app.

What We Don't Like
  • Echo device with screen required to view surroundings.

  • Must enable to use.

With the drop-in feature, you can check in via any device, even when you are away from home. Once you have enabled the feature, select Drop-in from the Communicate screen and choose the device with which you want to connect.

11
of 13

Custom Flash Briefings

Screenshot of Flash Briefing settings
What We Like
  • Extensive list of available clips.

  • Customize the order in which they play.

What We Don't Like
  • No way to skip entries.

  • Many available entries are outdated or have no content.

Saying, "Alexa, play my flash briefing" will result in Alexa playing default news sound bites. You can customize these briefings in the Alexa app by adding and deleting sources.

Select Flash Briefing in the Settings menu and search for content that interests you. To change the order in which they play, tap Edit on the Flash Briefing screen and then drag and drop them in the desired order.

12
of 13

Build DIY Skills

Screenshot of Alexa Blueprint site
What We Like
  • Dozens of templates available.

  • Fun and useful.

What We Don't Like
  • Limited customization.

  • Amazon must approve skills if you want to publish them.

Alexa has added a cool feature called Alexa Skill Blueprints. You can use these templates to create your own custom Alexa skill for home, business, or anything else. To get started, log in with your Amazon user name at blueprints.alexa.com.

13
of 13

Turn on a Night Light

Screenshot of Night Light skill
What We Like
  • Set amount of time, if desired.

  • Use on multiple devices at same time.

What We Don't Like
  • Cannot use simultaneously with music or other skills.

  • Unable to customize light color.

Alexa can help kids (and adults) sleep more soundly or find their way to the bathroom at night. Say, "Alexa, open Night Light" and Alexa's notification ring or bar will be illuminated.