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Most people have dreamed of having an assistant: someone to make lists, remind us of special events, and give us quick answers when our brains are too full of other things. Amazon's Alexa is that virtual assistant. Most people know the basics of this electronic wonder, but if you use our Alexa hacks, you'll get even more out of this new part of the family.

AN INTRODUCTION TO ALEXA

Amazon developed Alexa to revolutionize the way we use technology. This smart speaker is speech interactive and recognizes its own name and countless commands and questions. You can connect your Amazon music, other smart devices in your home, and Amazon's shopping network so you can order without touching a computer. These Alexa hacks will clue you in to even more features you can use at your command.

Why the name Alexa? Amazon says they chose the name because of the hard "X" sound that would be easily recognizable by the device. If your name happens to be Alexa, you can change the name in your Alexa settings to "Amazon" to avoid a bunch of confusion. If your name is Alexa and your family member's names are Amazon, Echo, and Computer, well--you've got a problem, as those are the only options available.

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ALEXA: FEATURES, TIPS & MORE

Let's get to the basics. Alexa is here to make your life easier. Remember the days of hooking your phone up to a Bluetooth speaker, opening a music app, finding your playlist, and remembering to hit "shuffle"? That's a lot of work you don't have to do when you have Alexa. One of the very first Alexa hacks was getting her to play your music. It's much easier now. You can just say, "Alexa-shuffle my 80s playlist," and you're jamming to Cyndi Lauper and Prince before you know it.

Make sure you place Alexa in a central point in your home, so you don't have to scream at her three rooms away. You can also hook up several echo dots throughout your house that will make Alexa accessible in multiple places. Let's look at the most basic of Alexa functions so you know the baseline of what she can do for you:

  • Set timers or alarms -- "Alexa, set a timer for 20 minutes"
  • Ask a general knowledge question -- "Alexa, who was the 30th president?"
  • Shop Amazon -- Set this up in your Alexa settings page through Amazon and then just say "Alexa, order Windex"
  • Know what the weather will be today -- "Alexa, what's the weather going to be today?"
  • Turn her volume up or down -- "Alexa, turn up," or "Alexa, volume "
  • Know what you're about to watch -- "Alexa, tell me about Planes, Trains, and Automobiles"
  • Get up on time -- "Alexa, wake me up every day at 7 am"
  • Get her to help out -- "Alexa, add walking the dog to my to-do list"

When you hear her say, "Sorry, I don't know that one," try saying it in a more direct way. If that still doesn't work, then what you're asking may not be on the web, which is where she draws her information from. You can have her remember personal information by telling her to make a note. Then you can have her repeat it later. If you want to know what else she can do, you can just ask her. Seriously.

15 ALEXA HACKS YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE KNOWN

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Now you know the basics, but like most kinds of smart technology, we have some pretty cool Alexa hacks that will make your life easier--or at least cooler and funnier.

1. ALEXA PLAYS GAMES

If you're throwing a party or you're just bored, this Alexa hack will entertain you. She'll play a gazillion games with you, you just have to ask. Here are a few that will keep the party going:

  • Rock, paper, scissors
  • Music quiz
  • Deal or no deal
  • Millionaire quiz
  • Would you rather
  • Jeopardy
  • Head's up

2. STRANGE NOISES

Yes, Alexa can make funny noises! She will bark, meow, and even, ahem, pass gas. Just ask.

3. SPELLING

If auto-correct isn't fast enough for you, you can just ask Alexa how to spell a word with one of the headier Alexa hacks.

4. FLIP A COIN

Trying to settle the "should we go out or stay in" dilemma? Have Alexa flip a coin for you.

5. TUNE AN INSTRUMENT

Yes, Alexa can act as a tuner. Just say, "Alexa, tune my guitar," and she'll run through the six notes with you. If you play another instrument, just specify and she'll help you out.

6. TRAFFIC UPDATE

From your Alexa app, just go to Menu>Settings>Traffic to set your home and work addresses. Every morning, you can ask Alexa what your commute time will be.

7. VOICE REMOTE CONTROL

If you have a smart TV or Amazon's Fire TV, you can hook Alexa up to control your television in one of the handiest Alexa hacks. Once you pair them, you can have Alexa turn your television on and off, change channels, and order movies. You just don't need remote controls anymore.

8. BAD DAY?

Having a bad day and no friends or family members are answering their phones? Not to worry! Just ask Alexa to cheer you up. She'll tell you a joke, give you an inspirational quote or throw some practical advice your way. Next time the dog doesn't want to do tricks for you, Alexa will.

9. WHAT'S THE NEWS?

You can control what news you get just like you can on social media. Just go into settings and flash briefing. From there you can choose the news outlets you're interested in. Next time you want to easily know what's going on in the world, you can just ask "Alexa, what's new?".

10. SMART HOME

What's that you say? Smart home? Yes. Now manufacturers have created everything from smart light bulbs, light switches, and alarm systems you can connect to Alexa. Install them, pair them on your Alexa app, and let the future happen.

You can ask Alexa to dim the lights, set light timers, or turn your home security system on. You can even ask Alexa what the last three security events were, so you'll know if your teenager is sneaking out and not telling you. The future is cool--unless you're that teenager.

11. PEOPLE ARE HOME

If you haven't sprung for a home security system yet and are allergic to dogs, one of our favorite Alexa hacks is "Away Mode." When you're leaving for the night, ask her to turn this mode on and she'll play everyday conversations that will leave a would-be burglar certain that someone is home. Alexa is cool.

12. PERSONAL TRAINER

Yep, Alexa can help get your mind and body in shape. Ask her to start a 7-minute workout and you can kick-start your metabolism from anywhere in your house. Stress of the day got you wound up? Ask her to help you meditate.

13. TELL ME A STORY

When you've already read the kiddos two or three bedtime stories and they're still asking for more, let Alexa take over. Ask her to tell a bedtime story to your child and she'll go right to work. This is one of the best Alexa hacks for adults that want to relive their childhood before falling asleep.

14. RELAX

Alexa can help relieve the stress of your day by providing you with some of the most relaxing sounds known to mankind. Ask her for the sounds of oceans, raining, or thunderstorms. She also has sleep and relaxation sounds to quiet your mind enough to fall into slumber.

15. MAKE ME SMARTER

Alexa can help you up your intellect game and make you look like a genius at work. You can ask her what happened this day in history and then take that nugget to work with you. You'll soon be the go-to history buff thanks to one of the cleverest Alexa hacks.

You can find out what's going on not only on earth or in history but also on Mars. That's right, Alexa knows what's happening on Mars and can answer questions you have about the planet.

You can ask Alexa just about anything you can find on the web and she'll clue you in. She's great for those fleeting questions you have and forget to look up after you put the dishes away. She's got your back. She's also handy when you're on the phone with a friend who's talking about a subject you don't know--just put the phone on mute, ask Alexa a few questions, and re-enter the conversation looking like a superstar.

CONCLUSION

Alexa can be a huge help, fun entertainment, and a great house manager. Our Alexa hacks help make her even greater, more fun, and a fully functioning member of the household that won't eat you out of house and home.

Our favorite feature is her ability to be your party planner: You can ask her for party recipes, have her play games, play your party playlist, and take the mood down by dimming the lights and reading everyone a story. Try each of our Alexa hacks and pick your favorite. Or don't--she won't make you choose.

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