Alexa For Dummies

Alexa For Dummies

by Paul McFedries


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Upgrade your Echo expertise with this Dummies guide to all things Alexa

Amazon's hugely popular family of Echo devices has made Alexa a household name. She can answer your questions, entertain you, and even help around the house. Alexa for Dummies is the perfect guide for Alexa users who want to get up and running with their Echo devices. From basic setup to making the most of Alexa’s powerful smart home capabilities, this is your one-stop resource to all things Alexa. 

Whether you’ll use Alexa to send text messages, play music, control your thermostat, look up recipes, replenish your pantry, or just search the internet for information, you’ll find detailed instructions in this fun and easy-to-understand guide.

  • Set up and personalize your Alexa device with an Amazon account and custom settings, including your preferred Alexa voice
  • Use Alexa to play music throughout your home, stream videos online, and meet all your entertainment needs
  • Unlock the power of advanced features like Alexa Skills and make your Alexa accessible
  • Turn your ordinary house into a modern smart home with advanced smart home features and Echo accessories
The virtual assistant you've dreamed of is now a reality with your favorite Echo device. Let Alexa For Dummies make your wish Alexa's command.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781119565864
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 01/07/2019
Series: For Dummies Books
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 299,996
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Paul McFedries has worked with, programmed, and, yes, talked to computers large and small since 1975. Although he's now primarily a writer, Paul has worked as a programmer, consultant, database developer, and website developer. He has written more than 95 books that have sold more than four million copies worldwide.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

About This Book 1

Foolish Assumptions 2

Icons Used in This Book 2

Beyond the Book 3

Where to Go from Here 3

Part 1: Getting Started with Alexa 5

Chapter 1: Getting to Know Alexa 7

What Is This Alexa That Everyone’s Talking About (Or, Really, To)? 7

Meet your new assistant 8

Alexa’s components 9

How Alexa works 11

Where Do You Get Alexa? 12

Figuring Out Which Alexa Device You Need 12

Checking out Amazon’s Echo devices 13

Choosing an Alexa device 16

Learning What Alexa Can Do 17

Playing media 17

Communicating 18

Shopping 18

Getting help around the home 18

Getting news and information 18

Answering your questions 18

Accessing skills 19

Automating your home 19

Having fun 19

Chapter 2: Setting Up Alexa and Your Devices 21

Installing the Alexa App 21

Signing in to your Amazon account 22

Taking a tour of the Alexa app 25

Giving Alexa access to your device microphone 26

Alexa Feng Shui: Positioning Your Alexa Device 27

Adding Your Alexa Device 27

Adding your Echo device 28

Adding a third-party Alexa device 32

Personalizing Your Alexa Device 33

Creating a voice profile 33

Giving the device a fun name 34

Setting the device location 34

Setting the device time zone 35

Changing the device language 36

Changing the measurement units 36

Changing the background image if your device has a screen 37

Connecting External Speakers to Your Alexa Device 37

Connecting speakers or headphones using a cable 38

Connecting speakers or headphones via Bluetooth 39

Disconnecting paired Bluetooth speakers or headphones 40

Chapter 3: Learning Alexa Basics 43

Getting to Know Your Echo 43

Taking a closeup look at the far-field microphone 44

Pushing the Echo’s buttons 45

Getting feedback from Alexa 46

Operating the Echo touchscreen 47

Getting to Know Alexa 48

Getting Alexa’s attention 48

Keeping Alexa’s attention 49

Ending the conversation 50

Enabling Brief mode 50

Some Useful Alexa Commands 51

Everyday-info commands 51

Information requests 52

Audio commands 52

Video commands 53

Alarm and timer commands 53

Calendar, reminder, and list commands 54

Communication commands 54

Shopping commands 55

Smart-home commands 55

Part 2: Having Fun with Alexa 57

Chapter 4: Playing Media 59

Listening to Music on Alexa 60

Playing music through Alexa 60

Linking to a music provider 60

Setting up a default music provider 61

Voice commands for controlling music 63

Accessing Alexa via the Amazon Music app 68

Playing third-party music through Alexa 69

Adjusting music quality 70

Listening to Other Audio Sources on Alexa 71

Tuning in to a radio station 71

Listening to a podcast 74

Hearing an audiobook 75

Having a Kindle book read out loud 77

Streaming Mobile Device Audio through Alexa 78

Watching Video on Alexa 79

Watching a movie trailer 80

Locating and playing web videos 80

Watching Amazon’s Prime Video 81

Taking Photos with Alexa 81

Chapter 5: Communicating with Alexa 83

Managing Your Alexa Contacts List 84

Giving Alexa access to your contacts 84

Giving a contact a nickname 85

Editing contacts 86

Blocking a contact 86

Managing your profile and settings 86

Exchanging Text Messages 87

Sending a text using voice commands 87

Sending a text using the Alexa app 88

Receiving a text message 88

Making Voice or Video Calls 89

Making voice calls with voice commands 90

Making voice calls using the Alexa app 92

Making video calls with voice commands 93

Making video calls using the Alexa app 93

Connecting Alexa to your landline with an Echo Connect 94

Answering an incoming Alexa-to-Alexa call 94

Ending a call 95

Dropping In on Other Alexa Users 96

Letting folks drop in on you 96

Dropping in on someone using voice commands 97

Dropping in on someone using the Alexa app 98

Configuring global Drop In settings for your Alexa device 98

Using Your Alexa Device as an Intercom 100

Chapter 6: Using Alexa at Home 101

A Quick Word about Household Profiles 101

Shopping with Alexa 102

Enabling voice purchases 102

Getting product recommendations 103

Placing an order 103

Reordering an item 104

Ordering multiple items 104

Setting up a Voice Code for purchases 104

Check your delivery status 105

Getting delivery notifications 106

Making a donation 107

Creating Lists 107

Creating and managing lists 109

Adding and managing list items 111

Getting the Information You Need 112

Getting the weather forecast 113

Checking traffic 113

Hearing the latest news with the Flash Briefing 114

Configuring Alexa’s sports update 116

Letting Alexa Manage Your Calendar 117

Linking your calendar to Alexa 118

Setting the default calendar 119

Unlinking a calendar 119

Managing calendar events 119

Setting Alexa Alerts 121

Getting Alexa to remind you of something 121

Setting an alarm 124

Running a timer 125

Customizing your alarm sounds 127

Putting Alexa in Do Not Disturb Mode 128

Part 3: Getting More out of Your Relationship with Alexa 131

Chapter 7: Asking Alexa Questions 133

Searching for Nearby Places 134

Asking for Financial Info 134

Getting Symptoms and Other Medical Facts 135

Asking Alexa to Do the Math 135

Converting Units 136

Getting Science Answers 137

Quizzing Alexa about the Culture 138

Bugging Alexa about Books 138

Asking Linguistic Questions 139

Asking Questions about Companies 140

Asking about Dates and Times 140

For Everything Else: Querying Wikipedia 141

Chapter 8: Adding Skills to Alexa 143

Understanding What a Skill Is 143

Checking Out Amazon’s Alexa Skills Department 144

Enabling a Skill 147

Enabling a skill with a voice command 147

Enabling a skill using the Alexa app 148

Working with Skills 149

Invoking a skill 149

Viewing your enabled skills 150

Changing skill settings 151

Disabling a skill 152

Thirty Cool Alexa Skills to Try 153

Building Your Own Skill 155

Chapter 9: Making Alexa Accessible 159

Controlling Alexa If You Have a Speech Impairment 159

Making Alexa more speech accessible 160

Installing a text-to-speech app 160

Using Tap to Alexa 160

Texting without speech 162

Checking Out Alexa’s Features for the Hearing Impaired 163

Making Alexa more hearing accessible 163

Enabling Closed Captioning 165

Enabling Alexa Captioning 165

Enabling Alexa’s Features for the Vision Impaired 166

Making Alexa more vision accessible 166

Navigating with VoiceView 168

Zooming in with Screen Magnifier 170

Part 4: Controlling Your Smart Home 173

Chapter 10: Setting Up Your Smart Home 175

What’s So Smart about a Smart Home? 176

Working with smart-home devices 177

Understanding smart-home connections 178

How does Alexa fit in? 179

Do you need a smart-home hub? 179

Setting Up Your Smart-Home Devices 180

Installing a Wi-Fi smart-home device 180

Understanding Wi-Fi Simple Setup 182

Discovering smart-home devices using an Alexa skill 182

Discovering Zigbee smart-home devices 184

Managing Smart-Home Devices 185

Viewing your smart-home devices 185

Renaming a smart-home device 187

Changing the device type 188

Disabling or deleting a smart-home device 189

Working with Smart-Home Devices 189

Controlling a smart-home device 189

Working with device scenes 190

Turning smart plugs on and off 192

Working with smart lights 192

Controlling smart thermostats 193

Keeping an eye on things with smart cameras 194

Other types of smart-home gear 195

Chapter 11: Uncovering Some Smarter Smart-Home Techniques 197

Creating Device Groups 198

Creating a smart-home group 198

Controlling a smart-home group 200

Managing a smart-home group 201

Alexa in Stereo: Working with Speaker Sets 202

Creating a speaker set 203

Playing music through a speaker set 205

Streaming Music to Multiple Rooms 207

Setting up multi-room music 208

Playing multi-room music 209

Fixing multi-room music sync problems 210

Automating Alexa with Routines 211

Understanding routine actions 212

Creating a routine 212

Running a routine 214

Working with IFTTT Applets 215

Connecting your IFTTT and Amazon accounts 216

Enabling an IFTTT applet 216

Checking out some Alexa applets 218

Part 5: The Part of Tens 219

Chapter 12: Ten (Times Ten) Ridiculously Fun Alexa Tricks 221

Ten Ways to Ask Alexa to Tell a Joke 222

Ten Alexa Wordplay Tricks 222

Ten Ways to Get Alexa to Sing 223

Ten Oddball Things to Ask Alexa to Do 224

Ten Funny Questions to Ask Alexa 224

Ten Ways to Get Alexa to Tell a Story 225

Ten Ways to Get Personal with Alexa 226

Ten Movie Easter Eggs 226

Ten TV Easter Eggs 227

Ten Music Easter Eggs 228

Chapter 13: Ten Things That Can Go Wrong with Alexa (And How to Fix Them) 229

Troubleshooting 101 230

Restarting your Echo 230

Updating your Echo 230

Resetting your Echo 231

Alexa or Your Echo Device is Unresponsive 232

Your Echo Device Isn’t Using the Latest Software 233

You Can’t Connect to Your Wi-Fi Network 234

You’re Having Trouble Streaming Media 236

You’re Having Trouble Connecting a Bluetooth Device 237

You don’t see a Bluetooth device 237

You can’t pair with a Bluetooth device 238

You Ordered Something Accidentally 238

Alexa Doesn’t Understand Your Commands 240

You’re Having Trouble Making Calls 241

You Changed Your Wi-Fi Network Password 242

A Smart-Home Device Doesn’t Work Properly 243

Chapter 14: Ten Ways to Beef Up Alexa Security and Privacy 245

Make Sure Your Wi-Fi Network Is Locked Up Tight 246

Change Alexa’s Wake Word 248

Stop Alexa from Listening (And Watching) 250

Trash Sensitive Alexa Recordings 250

Configure Alexa Not to Use Your Personal Data 252

Shut Down Alexa’s Communications 254

Turn communications off 254

Revoke access to your contacts 255

Secure Your Amazon Account 255

Give your Amazon account a bulletproof password 256

Turn on Amazon’s Two-Step Verification 257

Delete Your Saved Wi-Fi Passwords 258

Revoke a Skill’s Permissions 260

Deregister Your Alexa Device 260

Index 263

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