A Complete Guide to Amazon Echo

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By Martin Driver 20 Mar 2018

We’ve written this guide to take you through everything you need about Amazon Alexa and Echo.

Whether you’ve just got one or you’ve been talking to Alexa for a while, we’re here to help you get the best from it.

What is Alexa?

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Alexa is the name of the voice assistant that’s built into all Amazon Echo devices.

You can ask it questions, play music from streaming apps, control your TV, manage smart devices, and more.

How do I set it up?

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Setting up your Echo is easy: just download the Alexa app to your phone, then switch the Echo on and follow the instructions.

 
 
 
 
Alexa Play Store
 
 
 
 
Alexa App Store

If you’ve bought something from Amazon before, use the email address and password you use when buying. If you don’t have one, you can make one on the Amazon website.

How does it work?

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When you’re within range of Alexa, say ‘Alexa’, followed by the command you want. The microphone is tuned to hear your voice over music and other background noise, so you don’t need to shout or over-enunciate.

Amazon call this ‘Far-Field Recognition’, but the important thing is that the Echo will hear you whenever you want it to.

 
 
 
 
alexa-far-field

You can ask general questions or ask Alexa to remind you of things at any time. More specific requests, like playing music or reading the news, need ‘Skills’ to be installed. You can find out more in the section below.

Skills

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Skills are apps that you add to your Echo to give it new features and abilities.

You download them for free from the Skills menu in the Alexa app. Once they’re installed, any new commands or features will work right away.

If you have a smart device that works with Alexa, like a Nest Thermostat or security camera, you’ll need to download the Skill for them to work as they should.

Alexa has loads of Skills already built in, so you don’t need to download anything to get started.

 
 
 
 
Alexa app
 
 
 
 
Alexa settings
 
 
 
 
Search skill
 
 
 
 

1. Open the app

2. Open the settings menu by pressing the top-left icon

3. Search for the Skill you want

4. Press 'Activate'

Skills to try

Try downloading these handy Skills to great new functionality to your Echo:

BBC News: ‘Alexa, what’s in the news?’
Sleep and Relaxation Sounds: ‘Alexa, ask Sleep Sounds to play heavy rain’
Hive Heating: ‘Alexa, set the heating to 23°C’
Deep Breath: ‘Alexa, start Deep Breath’
Allrecipes: ‘Alexa, Ask All Recipes for a quick lasagne recipe’

Can I change the 'Wake Word'?

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The Wake Word turns the speaker on and tells it to start listening. If you live with a person named Alexa, the TV keeps accidentally activating it, or you just want to use a different one, you can change it.

Menu < Settings < Alexa Devices < [Name of device] < Wake Word

 
 
 
 
How do I change the Echo wake word?
 
 
 
 
Alexa settings
 
 
 
 
Device menu
 
 
 
 
Wake word

1. Open the menu and press Settings

2. Press the name of the device you want to change

3. Scroll down and press 'Wake Word'

4. Press the arrow to see the words you can use

You have to choose from a list of words chosen by Amazon to make sure it works as consistently as ‘Alexa’ does.

It's doubtful that you'll ever be able to use a custom Wake Word, as the chance of picking one that can be accidently activated is too high.

Voice commands

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Alexa understands several different commands for common requests, so you don’t need to know the exact phrase for most basic functions to work. For example, if you want to know the time, you can ask Alexa…

What time is it?
Tell me the time
What hour is it?

However, some apps need a specific word order to work properly. You’ll find these on the app page when you download a new Skill.

We’ve listed our most used commands below. You can change the number on any commands to suit you.

Give them a try by saying ‘Alexa’ (or your Wake Word if you’ve changed it) and repeating the phrases as they’re written.

General

What time is it?
Let’s talk
Volume up/down
Tell me an interesting fact
What’s in the news?
What’s the weather like in Preston?
Make a to-do list
Remind me to buy milk in the morning

Quick answers

How do you spell ‘meticulous’
What does ‘meticulous’ mean?

Convert 8 kg to pounds
What is 20 x 129
Convert £20 into dollars

Who sings the song ‘Bedroom Calling’?
Who played Deidre in Coronation Street?

Alarms & timers

Set an alarm for 8 am
Set a repeating alarm 7 am
Wake me up at 6.30 am to Goodbye Horses on Spotify
Snooze for 10 minutes
Cancel all alarms
Turn on all alarms

Set a food timer for 12 minutes
How long is left on my timer?

Screens

Echo devices with a screen have unique commands that prompt them to show things on the screen.

Show my calendar
Show me the weather in Acton
Show me the weather for this weekend
Show me pictures of Group B rally cars
Show me my pictures
Show me my alarms

Music

Play
Pause
Stop
Volume up/down
Set volume to 9

If you have music on your phone, tablet, or computer, you can play it by saying:

Play [song] by [artist]

To play from an app, like Spotify or Amazon Music, the Skill needs to be installed. Once installed, you need to give this specific command:

Play [song/album] by [artist] on [app name]

e.g.        Play ‘Be Sweet’ by ‘The Bombpops’ on Spotify
                Play ‘Sagarmatha’ by ‘The Appleseed Cast’ on Amazon Music

It works with playlists too:

e.g.        Play the ‘Quiet’ playlist on Spotify

Hopefully this is everything you need to get started with Amazon Echo and Alexa. If there’s something we haven’t covered, let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

To speak to someone on the phone or via email, click our Contact Us page.

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