Master: Fine tuning
16) Let her learn your language
Is Alexa missing a few too many of your voice commands and queries? She might be having trouble understanding your particular accent or dialect, but there's something you can do to help: undergo Voice Training via the smartphone app.
It's found under settings, and each Voice Training session gives you a series of 25 commands to read out. You'll ask her to read certain Wikipedia topics, play various songs, add reminders, and more, but instead of actually following through, she'll just learn how you say various words and phrases. All of that is banked for later, and each set gives you new lines to read.
17) Confirm or deny
It's a seemingly small thing, but if Alexa isn't following through on your requests and Voice Training isn't helping, you can affirm or reject her responses via the smartphone app.
Every single time you engage Alexa with your voice, whether it's to play a song or order an item from Amazon, the heard request and Alexa's subsequent action will appear in the Alexa companion app. You can hit "Yes" or "No" when the app asks if Alexa did what you wanted, and every bit hopefully helps Amazon fine-tune the A.I.
18) Ask about new skills
Alexa is learning new things all the time, and has access to thousands of different skills – but you might not know about the latest and greatest unless you ask her.
Every so often, be sure to ask, "Alexa, what new features do you have?" She'll briefly describe the newest addition to her repertoire, which might give you a heads-up on some helpful new feature or amusing diversion to boost your experience. You can also find new skills from the Alexa app, under "Things to Try."
19) Stop repeating yourself
Issuing multiple commands to your Echo in a row quickly becomes a chore, but if you activate Follow-Up mode Alexa will keep listening for a bit after completing each one, so you can ask her to do multiple things without having to repeat the wake word all the time.
Head to the All Devices menu in the Alexa app, choose the one you want to turn it on for and just select Follow-Up mode from the list of options. That means you can activate it for the Echo devices you use most often, and leave it turned off for the rest.
20) Whisper it
The best thing about Alexa is that she’s always on hand to help you out – even at 4am when you’ve been lying awake trying to work out how old Garth Crooks is. The only problem is, her normal volume is often loud enough to wake up the whole neighbourhood.
There’s a simple solution to this. In the Alexa Voice Responses section of the Account Settings menu, activate Whisper Mode, or just ask Alexa to do it for you. Now, whenever you whisper a question or request to any of your Echos, Alexa will whisper the answer back to you. The only snag is, the noise it makes to indicate it’s listening is still just as loud.
21) Keep things brief
No, nothing to do with Alexa’s pants you filthy devil, Brief Mode cuts down on the amount of backchat you get from your Echo devices. Instead of responding to every request you make, some will just illicit an unobtrusive notification tone to signal that they’ve been carried out – like when you ask her to switch on a lamp. Much better than Alexa responding with “OK” to every little thing like some sort of subservient lapdog.
You’ll find Brief Mode in the Alexa Voice Responses menu, which you get to via Account Settings, or just by asking any of your Echo devices to switch it on.
Master: Plug in your house
22) Connect everything
The Echo can serve as the central hub to your connected home, allowing you to link in numerous devices and control them with your voice – and we're talking about everything from smart thermostats and lights to fans, locks, coffee machines, and more.
Amazon supports an array of brands, including Nest, Philips Hue, WeMo, SmartThings, Netatmo, Hive and plenty more, and you can add your devices via the Alexa app. Add the skill for your device's brand and then scan for the device - you should be able to voice control some of its features via the Echo.
23) Command and control
What's especially helpful is how granular the controls can be – these devices may never seem smarter than when they're under Echo's command. You can set the temperature of a certain room with the right setup, for example, or dim the lights in only one area of the home.
Sure, you can do all of this stuff with the device or its app, since all of the functionality is already baked into each device. But the ability to just speak out a command from anywhere within earshot of the Echo makes you feel like a master of the universe.
24) Make a scene
If you do have Philips Hue connected lights, the Echo makes it easy to get the exact lighting scenario whenever and wherever you'd like, thanks to controllable scenes.
Configure a scene within the Hue app, setting which lights are used, as well as the colour, brightness, and timing, and then save it. You can call it up with the Echo to shift the mood and style of a space in a heartbeat. And now you can also change the colour of individual lights without needing a separate IFTTT applet to enable that ability.
25) Go multiroom
If you’ve started a happy little Echo family with different speakers dotted around your gaff, grouping them is a good way of setting up an Alexa-powered multiroom speaker system.
Head to the Devices tab in the Alexa app, hit the + icon and choose Set Up Multi-Room Music. Then either choose one of the preselected groups or create new ones of your own, before telling it which of your Echo speakers live in each room. Devices can belong to multiple groups, and you can use the same groups to control all your smart kit too.
26) Create a home theatre
If you’ve got a recent Fire TV, TV Stick 4K or TV Cube, you can use certain Echo Speakers as wireless surround speakers, including the Echo Sub to add some proper low-end rumbles.
As long as everything is connected to the same network, tap the Devices icon in the Alexa app, hit the + symbol in the top corner and choose Set Up Audio System. Select Home Cinema from the menu, choose the Fire device you’ll be streaming the movies with and then select the Echo speakers you want to use. We’d recommend using something beefy like an Echo Studio, but it will actually work with the new Echo Dot. Can’t see that one keeping the neighbours up at night though.
Bonus: Level up with IFTTT
The Echo can do a lot of cool things, but for ones that it hasn't quite mastered you can turn to IFTTT. Essentially, IFTTT acts as the connective tissue between various connected services, allowing one device or platform to interact with another in surprising and unexpected ways.
Here are three that we're particularly fond of, although we've picked out a few more over here as well. And be sure to have a browse through IFTTT's Alexa channel for more inspiration - and if you get a bright idea, you can even try creating your own IFTTT applets.
Been keeping a list of everything you need to make one of those amazing, Echo-assisted meals? Well, if you're bolting to the store, you can just ask Alexa to send along your list via email. This IFTTT recipe automates the process and ensures the email ends up in the right place.
Other recipes are available to put your shopping or to-do lists into Evernote or iOS Reminders, for example, so you've got options.
We all misplace our phone, but if you don't have a mate nearby to call it, you might be fumbling around your flat for hours in search of the thing. Worry not: there's an IFTTT recipe designed to send a call to your phone whenever it's out of pocket.
It's the most popular Alexa recipe on IFTTT by far, so clearly a lot of people have experience with this situation, which is strangely reassuring.
You never know when it'll be time for an impromptu bash, and you don't want to be caught flat-footed. Be prepared with this recipe for Philips' Hue lights, allowing you to ask for "party time" and generate a loop of flashing colours from the connected lights.
Got a different kind of connected lights? Well, the beauty of IFTTT is that nearly any kind of combination is possible with enough tinkering. Just search IFTTT's hundreds of channels for your make of bulb.