20 of the first things you should say to your Echo or Echo Dot

Getting friendly with Alexa

Amazon Echo devices are popping up in living rooms, dining rooms, studies  and kitchens all around the world, and with the arrival of the smaller, cheaper Echo Dot (bring your own speaker) the appeal of Amazon's AI-powered gadget shows no signs of diminishing yet.

What you don't get with your brand new Echo is much in the way of an instruction manual, and there's no display to refer to of course. We're here to plug that gap by suggesting 20 of the most useful voice commands you can start barking at your device straight away.

You can change the trigger word if you want to, but by default you just say "Alexa...", and then a command, with the Echo or Echo Dot in earshot. We won't cover any of the setup process here - if you need help getting up and running then take a look at our other guide.

 1. "Alexa, what's the weather forecast?" 

Weather forecasting is the first thing AI bots learn at bot school and Alexa is no different. Also try asking what the weather will be tomorrow, or if you need to take an umbrella out.

2. "Alexa, set an alarm for <time>."

Those of you who struggle to get out of bed in the mornings can get some help from Alexa. You can easily tweak this phrase to set up a recurring alarm for weekdays or weekends.

3. "Alexa, what's the date?"

The all-seeing, all-knowing Alexa can certainly help you work out what day it is, and what the time is too. You can also ask "how many days until..." a particular date or event.

4. "Alexa, what's in the news?"

Your Echo or Echo Dot will gladly give you a quick snapshot of the day's current affairs, pulled from clips provided by the BBC. You can customise this through the Alexa app.

5. "Alexa, create a to do."

Creating a to do list is fairly straightforward and you can manage this through the accompanying phone app as well. Use the command above then speak out the task.

6. "Alexa, what's the traffic like?"

The Echo and Echo Dot aren't great at traffic updates or driving directions, but you can check journey times to one specific address, as along as you set it up in the Alexa app first.

7. "Alexa, what movies are playing?"

Alexa knows your location, so you can ask about films showing on screens near you. The most popular movies are listed first and then Alexa asks if you want to hear any more.

8. "Alexa, what's eight kilometres in miles?"

Alexa can tap into a wealth of data on the web - if you can type it into a search engine to get a result then chances are Alexa can help. Converting between units is one example.

9. "Alexa, how old is <person>."

Here's another example of searching the web for information: if Alexa can look something up quickly online (like an age listed on a Wikipedia page), it can be read back out to you.

10. "Alexa, tell me the recipe for <meal>."

We could go on and on with web queries but here's one more, one that might come in handy if you've got your hands full in the kitchen and you want to know what you need.

11. "Alexa, Wikipedia <article>."

Speaking of web searches, you can get your Echo or Echo Dot to read back Wikipedia articles. You get a summary first of all, then the option to hear more of the online text.

12. "Alexa, how do you spell <word>?"

Don't let spelling mistakes creep into your writing with this command. You can also ask "what's the definition of..." if you've come across a word that you don't understand.

13. "Alexa, tell me a joke."

Alexa has a sense of humour, of sorts, and will read back a random joke if you ask it. You can also try "Alexa, tell me a fact" if you want to learn something new from your device.

14. "What Chinese restaurants are close by?"

Alexa has a limited amount of tricks to take on the likes of Google Maps and Apple Maps. One of them is being able to look for a restaurant (or any other type of business) nearby.

15. "Alexa, what's on my calendar for tomorrow?"

Alexa can keep you abreast of everything coming up on your schedule, but you first need to link a calendar in the Alexa app, and the only platform currently supported is Google's.

16. "Alexa, what was the score of the <team> game?"

Alexa can do sports updates for you: you can use voice commands to check up on the most recent result, find out when the next fixture is, and get lots more sports information.

17. "Alexa, play <artist> on Spotify."

If you connect up a Spotify Premium account through the Alexa app, you can play songs from a particular artist, as well as specifying genres, individual playlists or certain tracks.

18. "Alexa set a sleep timer for 30 minutes."

When you've got some Spotify music or any other audio playing you might want to fall asleep to it, which is where the sleep timer comes in. Specify a duration and you're done.

19. "Alexa, turn up (or down) the volume."

The Echo devices have a physical volume ring on them, but you can also adjust the loudness of music and other audio with a voice command. "Alexa, mute" works too.

20. "Alexa, order <item>."

This being an Amazon product, it of course makes shopping easier, as long as you're a Prime member and you can make your Echo or Echo Dot understand what you're buying.