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7 things Alexa can do that will keep you from ever picking up your phone

Give these commands to Alexa when you want something done quick.

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You can change some Amazon Echo settings without going into the Alexa app.

Sarah Tew/CNET

When you bought your Amazon Echo, you knew it would help give you some relief when it comes to remembering things or doing something hands-free. And when you need to get something done, you don't always have time to fiddle with an app on your phone. Fortunately, there are many commands you can give Alexa when you don't have the time -- or inclination -- to pick up your phone.

For example, when you've got your hands full and need to make a last-minute call before you head out the door, you can ask Alexa to do it. Or if you realize you're out of paper towels, you can get Alexa to order you more.

Some of these commands and settings will need to be set up before you can use them -- for example, you may need to link certain accounts to give Alexa permission to do things on your behalf. Here's a list of what you can tell Alexa to do instead of using the app every time.

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Alexa can delete your voice recordings

You don't have to go into the app to delete your recordings every time you talk to your Amazon Echo ($65 at Google Store). Last year, Amazon announced two new Alexa commands that will let you delete your voice transcripts by asking Alexa. Just say, "Alexa, delete everything I said today" or "Alexa, delete what I just said."

Have Alexa make calls or sends texts

Once your Amazon Echo is set up, you've got the option to share your phone contacts. If you've selected yes, you can ask Alexa to call or text your friends and family. To make a phone call, say something like "Alexa, call Dad."

If you want to send a text to someone, they will need to have the Alexa app to receive the message. Once you've confirmed they have the app, say "Alexa, text [friend]" and tell Alexa what to send.

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Call friends and family without picking up your phone.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Play music

Whenever you want to listen to music, you don't have to open the app. Instead, just tell Alexa what song or playlist you want to listen to. Amazon Echo can play songs from Prime Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and more.

Of course, if you want to listen to music from a music streaming service other than Amazon, you'll need to enable the skill and link to your preferred music account.

Control your smart home devices

We've all seen those movies where someone claps their hands and the lights turn off -- and we were all envious of that person. And now that we have voice assistants, we can do that -- kind of. With Alexa, you can verbally turn your lights (and other smart devices) on and off with a command.

You have to connect your device to your Amazon Echo first, and then you can say something like "Alexa, turn the living room fan on" or "Alexa, tell the robot vacuum to start cleaning." It kind of feels like magic when you don't have to lift a finger to get things done around the house.

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Your Amazon Echo works with tons of smart home devices.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Set reminders and alarms

It used to be that you'd have to open the alarm clock app on your phone to set an alarm for the next day. However, if you're forgetful like me (no shame), you may forget to turn your alarm on before you fall asleep. Fortunately, Alexa can help you when you're already cozied up in bed and don't want your phone's blinding light to keep you awake. Just say "Alexa set an alarm for 7 a.m. tomorrow" to avoid getting out of bed.

Create shopping and to-do lists

It can be a hassle trying to remember everything you need to grab at the store -- especially when you're making the list right before you go. So instead of trying to jot everything down as fast as you can, ask Alexa to add it to your list. This helps when you randomly remember that you need eggs or if you realize you're out of milk. When you're ready to know what's on your shopping list, you can ask Alexa, but it's also available in the app if you'd rather look at it.

You can also create to-do lists to remember tasks you need to complete for the day or week. For example, you can say, "Alexa, add X project to my to-do list" or "Alexa, create a to-do list called work tasks." Then you can ask what's on your plate for the day and verbally cross things off your list.

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Just tell your Amazon Echo to create your shopping list.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Alexa can shop for you

If you live far from a shop or you just don't have time to make it to the store during the week, you can have Alexa order what you need through Prime Now. This will require you to go into the Alexa app to enable voice purchasing. To do so, open the app > Menu > Settings > Account Settings > Voice Purchasing and toggle the Purchase by voice setting on. When you're ready to make a purchase say, "Alexa, I'd like to purchase hand soap." The soap will be added to your cart and Alexa will ask you to confirm that you want to buy it now.

Ready for more Amazon Echo tips? Check out these six things you probably haven't tried with your Echo yet and the 10 weirdest things your Amazon Echo can do.