7/7/17 Alexa Fast Tips Friday

Welcome to LME’s 7/7/17 Alexa Fast Tips Friday. You may have heard some of these before, but I hope you learn at least one new thing here each week.

Please note: not being in the UK myself I can’t test any of these tips for UK Alexa users. If the functionality isn’t there yet, it should be coming to you soon.


Who is Alexa?


1. You can get thousands of FREE classic radio shows for your Alexa devices and other audio devices.
Thanks to the Old Time Radio Researchers Group (OTRRG) Library, thousands of individual episodes of such classic old time radio shows as Flash Gordon, Dead Reckoning, Suspense, ABC Theater and many more are available to stream online or download FOR FREE. Click here for a Love My Echo post that offers the step by step process for getting the shows you want and making them accessible via Alexa.


2. Use universal Alexa skill commands.
Amazon requires every skill to have a help file, which you can access by saying “Help” while interacting with the skill. Amazon has also made the “Quit” command universal for all skills.

In addition, there are LOTS of commands you can use with a skill that won’t be included in the skill’s description or even in its Help file. Amazon wants developers to anticipate as many potential user interactions as possible, and include a list of them when the skill is submitted for certification. These lists can have hundreds or even thousands of items in them. If you’re not sure you remember the exact wording of a command you may have read in the skill description, just try something similar. It will probably work.


3. Text to Speech on Alexa devices: it’s still a thing.
This one goes out especially to the many vision-impaired site visitors who’ve been reaching out to me all week, but it’s useful information for anyone who enjoys Kindle books. Alexa can read any Kindle book in your library that has Text to Speech enabled. You have to check the book’s product page to find out if TTS is enabled: it’s in the information block where Publisher, number of pages and similar information is listed. You don’t have to listen to the entire book in one sitting, either. Thanks to Whispersync, Alexa will always pick up on the page where you left off. Alexa’s reading can’t match a professional narrator, like you’d get with an Audible book, but it’s not bad at all.

Say the wake word followed by, “Read [book title].”


4. The green light means you have a message.
When you see a green light on your Alexa device, it means you have a message. If you’ve enabled messaging capability for your Alexa devices, people in your Alexa Contacts list can send messages in addition to making voice calls (or video calls, with the Echo Show). These are pretty much like voicemails: Alexa records the message on the sender’s end, then plays it for the recipient when prompted. Senders can also send a text message via the Alexa app, which can be viewed by the recipient in their own copy of the Alexa app or be read aloud by Alexa on an Alexa device.

To send a message to someone in your Alexa Contacts list say the wake word followed by, “Send a message to [contact name, as it appears in your Alexa Contacts list].” Alexa will prompt you for the message. When you’ve finished your message, just wait a couple of seconds: there’s no special ‘end message’ command you must use. Alexa will confirm your message was sent.

To retrieve a message on your Alexa device when you see the green light, say the wake word followed by, “Check messages.” You can also view new messages and delete old ones in the Alexa app.


5. Use Drop In to reach loved ones who have their phone turned off, or whose phone battery is dead.
Whether it’s a late night emergency or a morning wake up call, sometimes you need to reach someone whose phone is turned off for the night. If there’s an Alexa device in the room where they’re sleeping and they’ve enabled Drop In for you, you’re in luck. Say the wake word followed by, “Drop In on [Alexa Contact name].” It will also work later in the day in cases where the person you’re trying to reach isn’t near their phone or has a phone with a dead battery, so long as the person has an Alexa device in their main living area, kitchen, or anywhere else they’re likely to be hanging around when you are trying to reach them.

I use this one to reach my daughter at home when I’m at work if her phone’s off or has lost its charge. I enabled Drop In for the Dot in her bedroom as well as on our main Echo in the living room, so (much to her annoyance, I’m sure) I can reach her regardless of her phone status. Say the wake word followed by, “Drop In on [device name].”

Click here to read more about Drop In.


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The Echo Dot (UK site visitors, click here) is lots of Alexa device owners’ favorite. So compact, yet it offers the same Alexa features as the full-sized Echo. Pair via Bluetooth to your own speaker for high quality audio. Still (as of 7/6/17) priced at $49.99 (with an interest free, $10 x 5 payment plan for Amazon US customers in good standing now available) and rated 4.5/5 stars across over 31,600 reviews.


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