Getting Amazon’s virtual assistant’s attention when using connected speakers is quite simple. All you need to say is “Alexa” and she is ready to execute your command. Let’s start with the basics.

Basic commands

  • Alexa, help
  • Alexa, mute
  • Alexa, unmute
  • Alexa, stop
  • Alexa, turn up/down the volume
  • Alexa, go to sleep

Alarm clock and calendar

  • Alexa, what time is it?
  • Alexa, what’s the date?
  • Alexa, set an alarm for 6 a.m.
  • Alexa, snooze
  • Alexa, set a repeating alarm for 6 a.m. weekdays
  • Alexa, when’s my next alarm?
  • Alexa, cancel my alarm for 8 a.m.
  • Alexa, cancel all alarms
  • Alexa, set a timer for 30 minutes
  • Alexa, set a second timer for 10 minutes
  • Alexa, add an event to my calendar
  • Alexa, what’s on my calendar for today?

Flash Briefings

A Flash Briefing is a quick overview of news and other content that you can discover and enable in the Skills section of the Alexa app. Alexa reads text or plays audio content provided by each enabled skill. Flash Briefing’s typically become a regular part of your day.

  • Alexa, give me my Flash Briefing
  • Alexa, what’s in the news?
  • Alexa, open USA Today 
  • Alexa, next
  • Alexa, previous
  • Alexa, pause

Local and traffic information

  • Alexa, how is traffic?
  • Alexa, what’s my commute like?
  • Alexa, what restaurants are nearby?
  • Alexa, what are the hours for the grocery store?
  • Alexa, is the pharmacy open?
  • Alexa, what time is the movie, “Rogue One” playing?


  • Alexa, what’s the temperature?
  • Alexa, will it snow tomorrow?
  • Alexa, what’s the forecast for this weekend?
  • Alexa, what’s the weather in Seattle?
  • Alexa, what will the weather be like in New York tomorrow?
  • Alexa, is it going to rain today?
  • Alexa, what’s the extended forecast for Las Vegas?

Smart home commands

  • Alexa, discover my smart home devices
  • Alexa, connect to my phone
  • Alexa, Bluetooth – this will pair a Bluetooth gadget
  • Alexa, turn on the lights
  • Alexa, turn on the TV
  • Alexa, raise the temperature 5 degrees
  • Alexa, set the temperature to 75
  • Alexa, lock my front door
  • Alexa, tell Geneva to preheat my oven to 350 degrees – You can control GE appliances with the Geneva skill

Music commands

  • Alexa, play my Oldies playlist
  • Alexa, play the Top Pop station
  • Alexa, what’s playing?
  • Alexa, what’s this song?
  • Alexa, play music by Elvis
  • Alexa, play the top songs this week
  • Alexa, turn it up/down
  • Alexa, stop the music
  • Alexa, resume
  • Alexa, shuffle my new music
  • Alexa, play the Frank Sinatra station on Pandora
  • Alexa, add this song to my Prime Music library
  • Alexa, play some blues
  • Alexa, shop for new music by Ed Sheeran
  • Alexa, what’s popular from U2?
  • Alexa, play samples by Louis Armstrong
  • Alexa, buy Nevermind by Nirvana

Order products from Amazon

  • Alexa, order laundry detergent
  • Alexa, buy bathroom tissue
  • Alexa, reorder toothpaste
  • Alexa, add protein bars to my cart
  • Alexa, track my order
  • Alexa, where’s my stuff?
  • Alexa, order an Echo Dot

To-do lists

  • Alexa, create a to-do list
  • Alexa, I need to make a doctor appointment
  • Alexa, I need to wash clothes
  • Alexa, add milk to my shopping list
  • Alexa, put get an oil change on my to-do list

Those are just a few of the Alexa commands that are available now. The list of commands will inevitably expand in the future.

Take control of your home with Amazon Alexa and your voice

A long time ago, science fiction brought us the futuristic idea of controlling your home with your voice. In recent years, home automation has emerged from the realm of maybe-someday into a more widespread reality. The popularity of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant is helping to shepherd this tech revolution into the mainstream.

Alexa isn’t just about playing your music, giving you the weather forecast, or telling silly jokes. It can also be about embracing a “Star Trek”-like world where your voice becomes a remote control for your home. Where once you had to reach for a light switch, you can now walk into your house with your arms full of groceries and say, “Alexa, turn on the kitchen light.”

Tip within a tip: Not sure what Amazon Alexa can do? Click here for a list of commands you’re missing out on.

Alexa-enabled devices like the Echo and Dot are the cornerstones of your voice-activated home, but you will still need to invest in other gadgets to get your “Jetsons” house up and running. You can go all-out and control everything from your thermostat to your door locks with Alexa, or you can take a more measured approach, set up a couple convenient lights, and add more devices to your collection down the line.


Let’s start simple. One of the quickest and cheapest ways to get going is with a TP-Link Smart Plug. This device, available in a few different styles, plugs into an electrical outlet. You then connect whatever you want to control into the Smart Plug. You can schedule and control the outlets using TP-Link’s Kasa app, but the real fun is in connecting it with Alexa and using your voice instead.

TP-Link also offers an in-the-wall light switch to replace standard switches. Belkin’s WeMo line is a similar Alexa-friendly alternative with both plug and wall switches available. This is an easy way to use Alexa with electrical devices like lamps, stereos, and appliances without having to invest in a larger system.


One of the perks of having a smart thermostat is saving money on your energy use, but voice control is a fun feature. You have a handful of options when it comes to thermostats that work with Alexa, including offerings from Nest, Honeywell, GoControl, Sensi, and First Alert.

One of the most visible options on the market is the Nest Learning Thermostat, but it’s also one of the most expensive. It learns and adapts to your schedule, adjusting your home heating and cooling to match your lifestyle. That’s nice all on its own, but you can hook it up with Alexa and then command it to set specific target temperatures or raise or lower the temperature by a set number of degrees. You can also control multiple Nest thermostats, so you can ask Alexa to warm up the living room while turning down the temp upstairs.


Voice-controlled smart locks are an intriguing new development in the Alexa world, but they’re mainly of interest to early adopters right now. The August Smart Lock brought us Alexa’s first smart-lock skill in mid-2016, but the voice commands are limited for good reason. You can tell Alexa to check if your door is locked or to go ahead and lock your door, but you can’t unlock it with your voice. That’s for your own security. You wouldn’t want a stranger standing outside your window telling Alexa to unlock your house.

Another caveat for the August lock is the need to use the August Connect Wi-Fi bridge to make it integrate with Alexa. That brings the price of the lock system up to around $300 with limited voice functionality. If you were planning to buy and install a smart lock anyway, then you could look at the Alexa feature as a bonus, rather than a driving factor in your purchasing decision.


A smart-home hub is like a brain that operates multiple devices in a house. These hubs can control everything from thermostats to light bulbs to light switches to security cameras. There are many options to choose from, including offerings from Samsung, Wink, Logitech, Insteon,, and Vivint. Some of these hubs (like the ones from Vivint and require dealer installation, but others you can do yourself.

We’ll take a closer look at the Samsung SmartThings Hub as an example of what to expect. The hub works with compatible light switches, smart bulbs, motion sensors, water leak sensors, fan controllers, video doorbells, cameras, and door locks. While the SmartThings app gives you ultimate control over all those devices, the Alexa feature means you can use your voice to turn lights off and on and adjust the thermostat. You can also use Alexa to control what Samsung calls “Routines,” a set of interconnected commands such as adjusting the lighting and raising the heat across your entire house for when you get up in the morning.


This is just a sampling of some of the home automation devices that play nice with Alexa. The ecosystem is constantly growing. For example, LG announced an Alexa-enabled smart refrigerator earlier this year. Samsung’s Powerbot VR7000 joins Neato’s Botvac Connect as a voice-controlled vacuum cleaner option.

There are very few home frontiers left untouched by Alexa now. It’s just a matter of how many and what kinds of gadgets and appliances you want to invest in. You don’t have to go out and replace all your household machines, but you might look to see which products offer Alexa integration as you naturally upgrade and update your home.