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6 underused Alexa tricks to try with your Amazon Echo device

If you didn't know about these useful Alexa features, now's the time to try them out.

Katie Teague Writer II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
Expertise Personal Finance: Social Security and taxes
Katie Teague
5 min read

Alexa is full of fun and interesting things to discover.

Julie Snyder/CNET

Got a new Amazon Echo device? Or are you considering getting one -- like the Amazon Echo Show 10Echo DotEcho Flex or even the new Echo Show 15? You came to the right place. 

Your Alexa device is at your service all day everyday and makes life easier by performing tasks throughout the day, like playing music, making phone calls, entertaining your kids with fun games and even helping keep your house protected while you're away. But Amazon's  Alexa  voice assistant has so many practical yet underused skills that more people should know about and take advantage of. For example, did you know you can turn your Echo into a TV speaker? Or that you can put Alexa in your car?

Most of these require little setup and are pretty simple to use. Read on for six essential things you might not have tried with your Amazon Echo yet and how to get started today. 

Read more: Every Alexa command you can give your Amazon Echo device

Create custom Alexa responses

You've probably noticed that Alexa won't answer certain commands, like if you tell it to say a curse word or use other spicy language. However, you can certainly get Alexa to say whatever you want by creating custom responses. For example, you can set it up so that if you ask Alexa who has the best smile, it can say, "You, of course."

You'll need to go to Amazon's Blueprints page, select Custom Q&A and click Make Your Own. From here, you can create questions for Alexa to answer with whatever responses you want.

Want to get started? Read our article that explains how to craft your own custom voice commands for Amazon Echo's Alexa.


You can customize Alexa responses with ease. 

Screenshot by Macy Meyer/CNET

Turn your Echo into a TV speaker

It can be annoying when you're watching a movie that's extremely quiet and you have to turn the volume on your TV way up to hear. Fortunately, you can use your Amazon Echo as a speaker for your TV. It's convenient because you can place it on a side table next to you when you can't really hear what's happening on the show.

Your TV will need to have Bluetooth capabilities to connect to your Echo device (or you can connect your Fire TV to your Echo). Place your Echo speaker next to your TV and say, "Alexa, connect." Alexa will start checking for devices to connect to -- at this point, you'll need to navigate to the Bluetooth settings on your TV to find the Echo speaker. Next, you'll need to find the sound settings on your TV and change the sound output to your Echo.

Amazon Fire TV echo alexa

Place the Echo speaker next to your smart TV to connect.

David Katzmaier/CNET

Put Alexa in your car

Alexa is a great assistant for all of your smart home needs, but did you know you can also use it in your car? It'll allow you to be hands-free while driving rather than constantly pressing buttons all over your dash, and there are a couple of ways you can do it. If you've already got an Echo Dot , you can plug it into your car using a USB charger. However, you'll have to connect it to your phone's hotspot for it to work. Then you can pair it with your car's stereo using Bluetooth.

Or you can use an Amazon Echo Auto, the newest way to take Alexa with you in the car. It has the same capabilities as an Echo Dot, but it's designed for use in the car. You can plug it into a USB charger port or a lighter port, depending on what your car has. Be aware that you'll have to use your mobile data to power the Echo Auto device.

Read more: Amazon Echo tip: Put one in every room of your home


The Echo Auto works as your assistant in the car.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Alexa Cast to other Echo devices

It happens often -- you've been listening to your favorite playlist in your car, but now you're home and you want to continue listening on your Echo device. You can use Alexa Cast to transfer the music from your phone to your speaker so you can keep playing your favorite tunes.

From the Amazon Music app on your phone, select the playlist you want to listen to. Pull up the music controls and tap the button on the lower right side of your screen. Then select which Echo speaker you'd like to cast to.

Watch this: Amazon shows off a robot, a thermostat and more at its big 2021 event

Create a to-do list

How many times have you remembered you needed to grab paper towels at the grocery or pay a bill, and then forgot again because you didn't write it down? Instead of telling yourself you'll remember or scrambling to find a pen and paper, just create a to-do list with Alexa. Say, "Alexa, create a list" to get started. You'll want to name your lists to keep them organized. When you're finished, you can access them in the Alexa app or via one of your Echo devices.

Amazon Echo Show

Alexa can remember your to-do lists.


Make a decision with heads or tails

Having a hard time deciding between cooking dinner and ordering takeout? Let Alexa make the decision for you. You'll need to download a skill, like Heads or Tails, in the Alexa app. Here's how it works: Decide which option will be heads and which will be tails. For example, ordering pizza takeout is heads and making pasta is tails. Then say, "Alexa, ask Heads or Tails to flip a coin." If it says heads, you're eating pizza, and if it says tails, pasta it is.

Ready for more Amazon Echo tips? Here's how to opt out and delete your voice recordings on Amazon devices. Also, here are five surprising music hacks for your Amazon Echo and four Amazon Echo settings that make it easier to talk to Alexa.

More Alexa tips