10 Top Tips to Make Alexa Work Best for You!


Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant, is a helpful tool that can make your life easier and perhaps even more fun. But like any tool, Alexa’s usefulness depends on you making the most of it. By taking a few minutes to check out these 10 simple tips, you can make the most of Alexa.

Know Where You Can Use Alexa

Alexa first appeared in Echo, Amazon’s smart speaker but now has come to many more devices. Since then Alexa has expanded to other Echo devices, such as the Echo Show and Spot, and to Amazon devices including the Fire TV and last month then Fire TV Cube.

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Alexa is also now available in the Amazon Music app so you can use Alexa to request your favorite tunes and playlists.

Last week, Amazon announced Alexa is coming to the Fire HD 8 and the Fire HD 10 tablets. Beginning on July 12, a Show Dock will be available that will turn these Fire tablets into an Echo Show. By attaching these Fire tablets to a Show Dock, you’ll be able to use Alexa on them just as you would on an Echo Show.

The Show Dock is available from Amazon on July 12:

Search for Alexa Skills

While Alexa is able to do many things such as search and weather, she becomes even more useful when you add skills. With hundreds of thousands of skills and more being added each week, Alexa becomes even more useful.

You can search for Alexa skills to find the ones that will work best for you. Or browse through her skills to discover ones you may not have found on your own.

Search through New Arrivals, Staff Picks or categories such as:

  • Business & Finance
  • Communication
  • Connected Car
  • Education & Reference
  • Food & Drink
  • Games, Trivia & Accessories
  • Health & Fitness
  • Home Services

Use Alexa to Make Voice and Video Calls

Alexa can make video and voice calls using either an Echo device or the Alexa app on your phone.  You can either ask Alexa to call one of your contacts or ask her to call a phone number for a cell phone or land line.

Enable Drop In (Or Not)

Drop In can be a handy tool, or a creepy intrusion. You get to decide.

With Drop In you can ask Alexa to Drop In on another Echo device in your home or the home of one of your contacts (with their permission). Alexa will alert the Echo device who is dropping in on them and will allow the devices to connect unless the Drop In is cancelled. This can be handy when you want to use two Echo devices as a baby monitor, for example,

You must give permission for Drop In to be used with a contact for them to Drop In using an Echo device outside your home.

Last week, Amazon updated Alexa to allow you to use your voice to give permission to use Drop In on devices within your home.

From Amazon:

Previously, you needed to register for Alexa Calling and Messaging, enable Drop In from the Alexa app, and remember the names of your Echo devices. Now, you can start using Drop In to reach devices in your home from another device by just asking, ‘Alexa, drop in.’ Alexa will ask you to confirm that you want to enable Drop In for in-home use, then list the devices in your home that are available for Drop In.â€

With this change to Drop In permissions, someone could give permission to Alexa to use Drop In within your household without using the Alexa app. Think of kids dropping in on their parents or vice versa.

Be sure to check your Alexa app to see whether Drop In permission has been granted. Go to Settings and choose the Echo device you want to see permissions on. Under General choose Communications. Turn off Calling and Messaging to disable Drop In for that device. Unfortunately, that also turns off being able to make voice and video calls.

You can turn on and off Drop In permissions for each contact. In the Alexa app go to Contacts and search for the name of a contact who has an Echo device. Turn on or off Drop In permission under Permissions.

Learn more at the Alexa Drop In page on Amazon’s website.

Turn the Echo Microphone and Camera Off to Disable Alexa

Want privacy from Alexa? Turn off the Echo microphone and camera. Each Echo device has a button to turn off the microphone. Echo devices with screens have a button to turn off the camera.

You can also place clear tape over the camera to avoid the camera being turned on. (Note that opaque tape will result in Echo devices with screens going into sleep mode.)

If you want total privacy from Alexa, unplug your Echo device.

Be aware that with the microphone and camera turned off you will not be able to use Alexa.

Enable Multi-Room Music

If you have more than one Echo in your home, you can use Alexa to play music on multiple speakers throughout your home. The music will play in sync and you can use Alexa on any Echo to play music on all of your Echo devices.

Check (and Clear) Your Alexa History

Alexa keeps a record of what you’ve asked her, both as text and as an audio file. You can check your Alexa history and delete any or all of it in the Alexa app.

Change Alexa’s Name

Alexa doesn’t have to be called Alexa. If you have a family member whose name sounds like “Alexa,†you want to confound guests, or you don’t want Alexa triggered by commercials or videos using her name, change her name.

You don’t get to call her anything you want, but the Alexa app does give you choices other than Alexa.  Choose from:

  • Alexa
  • Amazon
  • Echo
  • Computer

To change Alexa’s name, open the Alexa app, go to Settings, then tap the device you want to change her name on. Under General, tap Wake Word, then choose one of the four options.

Any change you make will only apply to that device.

Turn On/Off Voice Purchasing

Alexa can make purchasing from Amazon as easy as possible. By using your voice you can ask Alexa to buy something from Amazon and send it to your home.

This video from Amazon shows you how voice purchasing works:

You can learn how to set up voice purchasing with Alexa at the Place Orders with Alexa page at Amazon.

This may be a convenient tool for you, or a recipe for disaster. To turn off voice purchasing with Alexa, go to your Alexa app: Settings => Alexa Account => Voice Purchasing => Purchase by voice => Off.

You can also set up a four-digit passcode to be required before a voice purchase is made. Go to the Alexa app: Settings => Alexa Account => Voice Purchasing => Voice Code => On Enter a 4-digit code.

Teach Alexa to Recognize Your Voice

If more than one person uses Alexa in your household, she may become confused when you ask her about upcoming events on your calendar or to call one of your contacts.

Solve this problem by teaching Alexa to recognize your voice. By going through a few steps, you can teach Alexa your voice so that she knows who is asking her questions.

Play Games with Alexa

Have fun with Alexa. With thousands of useful skills, Alexa is a handy assistant to have around the house. But she can be a lot of fun too.

Ask “Alexa, what are your game skills?â€

Or you can find fun games at the Alexa Games, Trivia & Accessories page at Amazon. Also see, Tom’s Guide, 27 Best Alexa Games to Keep You Entertained.

Your Thoughts

Are you making the most of Alexa? What do you call Alexa? Do you use the Drop In feature of Alexa? Do you have any other suggestions to make the most of Alexa?

Share your thoughts in the Comments section below!

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