9 ways to make Alexa break the rules

If you have an Alexa speaker and you aren't using it with IFTTT, you're missing out on a world of possibilities. Here are seven of the best applets at your disposal.

Taylor Martin CNET Contributor
Taylor Martin has covered technology online for over six years. He has reviewed smartphones for Pocketnow and Android Authority and loves building stuff on his YouTube channel, MOD. He has a dangerous obsession with coffee and is afraid of free time.
Taylor Martin
4 min read
Chris Monroe/CNET

Even with skills and a growing list of supported devices, Alexa can't do it all. There are still a ton of services and devices that Alexa doesn't play nicely with.

However, with the help of IFTTT -- a website that bridges the gap between devices that don't officially work together -- you can break the rules and control countless online services and third-party devices that aren't officially supported. Here are some of the best uses for IFTTT.

Find my phone

If you have the habit of misplacing your phone when you're at home, rest easy knowing you can use the power of IFTTT and Alexa to find your lost phone. In essence, all you have to do is create an IFTTT applet that triggers an alert on your phone when you say a specific phrase to Alexa, such as, "Alexa, trigger find my phone."

If you're an iOS user, you're limited to IFTTT sending a push notification to the IF app on your phone or calling you. If your phone is on silent, you're somewhat out of luck.

On the other hand, if you own an Android phone, you can link two applets to the same command for Alexa. The first applet will set the ringtone volume of your Android phone and the second can either call your phone or begin playing music.

Set the mood

One of the best uses for Alexa is controlling your other smart home devices. Recently, Amazon added native support for even more smart-home devices, but it doesn't cover everything. So if your smart-home device is compatible with IFTTT but not Alexa, you can use IFTTT to get the job done.

You can trigger a color loop with Hue lights, set the temperature with Nest and control activities with Harmony.

Visual timer or alarm clock

Getting a bit more creative, you can use the various native functions of Alexa to trigger different events with your lights.

For example, if you use Alexa as a timer or an alarm clock, you can use an IFTTT applet to change the color of the lights when the timer or alarm goes off to ensure you don't miss the alarm. This is especially helpful if you're going to be on the other side of the house or even outside where you may not hear the alarm go off.

Notify phone when Alexa timer goes off

Another precaution you could take if you're afraid you might not hear Alexa when its timer goes off is sending a push notification to your phone. Alternatively, you can have IFTTT call your phone when an Alexa alarm goes off.

Alexa grocery list to iOS Reminders

If you're as bad at making a grocery list as I am, this applet is for you.

With IFTTT, you can create an applet that adds all newly added items to your shopping list to iOS Reminders or a note in Evernote. Then, to build you shopping or grocery list, all you have to do is say something like, "Alexa, add eggs to my shopping list."

Each of these items will be added to the app you actually use for shopping lists. The same can be done with adding to-do items with Alexa, though Todoist and Any.do support were officially added last year.

Toggle power for your TV

With SmartThings or a smart-home remote like Harmony, you can actually have Alexa power on your television and home entertainment system. Just connect your SmartThings or Harmony account to IFTTT and create a trigger phrase for Alexa, like "Alexa, trigger TV time."

Keep a record of all the songs you listen to

While you're listening to a radio station or a new playlist on your Alexa speaker, you can keep track of everything that plays. This applet created by Amazon will append the song name, artist, album name and the time the song played to a Google Spreadsheet.

Now, if you ever forget to ask what song is playing, you can make note of the time and go look it up in Google Drive .

Lock the door

If you have one or more smart locks around your house, you can use Alexa to make sure all the doors are locked at night before going to bed, even if they aren't officially supported by Amazon.

All you will need is a lock that is compatible with SmartThings or IFTTT. Create an applet for a specific phrase for Alexa, such as, "Alexa, trigger door locks," or "Alexa, trigger lock down." IFTTT will then send the command to lock every exterior door to your house and save you from having to check each door individually.

Add your favorite team's next game to Google Calendar

If you don't want to forget your favorite sports team's upcoming game, you can ask Alexa when their next game is. Using an IFTTT applet, you can have the time and date of the next game added to your Google Calendar, Todoist or other app of choice, automatically.

Bonus: Multiple applets at once

One of the greatest features of IFTTT applets is the ability chain several applets together or trigger multiple applets with the same action. For example, with the single phrase "Alexa, trigger home," you can: