Set it up right and it will become indispensable.

Ian Knighton/CNET

Congrats, you just got an Amazon Echo ($70 at Amazon). Now what?

It’s time to unbox it and set it up. Amazon will walk you through the setup process, but it won’t clue you in to all of the settings that you should deal with first.

That’s where we come in. Here we’ll show you those crucial first settings you need to adjust so you can get the best experience out of your Alexa-enabled speaker.

Download the Alexa app

The first thing you need to do, before even plugging in the Echo, is to download the Alexa app (available on AndroidiOS, and Amazon Fire).

You can’t set up your Echo speaker or proceed with these tips without it. Beyond that, you’ll need it to adjust your Echo’s settings down the road.

Set your location

It seems obvious, but you need to set your speaker’s location to get relevant weather and traffic reports from Alexa. What’s not obvious, however, is how to do that.

In Settings, go to Devices and then select the name of your speaker — such as “Sarah’s Echo Dot ($20 at Amazon).” Scroll to Device Location and tap to set it. You don’t have to given an exact address if you don’t want to — a ZIP code will suffice.

Here’s what’s tricky; you can set your location in Settings > Devices > [Your name]’s Alexa Apps and in Devices > This Device, but doing that won’t mean your Echo speaker will have the correct location.

Connect your calendar to Alexa to allow it to schedule events.

Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Read more: Everything you need to know about the Amazon Echo

Link your calendar

If you want Alexa to remind you of upcoming events or help you manage your schedule, you’ll need to log in to whatever account you use for your calendar. You can choose from GoogleMicrosoft Outlook, Apple and Microsoft Exchange.

Once logged in, Alexa can create and modify events, and tell you about your upcoming ones.

Set up your Flash Briefing

Think of the Flash Briefing as your own personal updates with only the information you care about. When you ask for your Flash Briefing, Alexa will tell you the weather for the address you set in settings, followed by all the news and sources you subscribe to.

To change what sources play in your Flash Briefing, and which order they play, go to from a browser or open the Alexa app on Android or iOS. Then go to Settings > Flash Briefing.

There you can toggle sources on or off, remove sources and find new sources, which range from NPR, Top Reddit Posts and CNET News to sports channels, Word of the Day and recipe tips from the Food Network.

To play your Flash Briefing, just say, “Alexa, what’s in the the news” or “Alexa, play my Flash Briefing.”

Change the default music services

Out of the box, Alexa speakers can play music from a handful of different sources: Amazon Prime Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and SiriusXM.

After setting up your account with any of these services, you can simply tag which service you want to play music on to the end of your command, such as, “Alexa, play pop music on Spotify.” But if you use that service more than any other, you can also change the default music service for both music libraries and radio stations.

Open the Alexa app and go to Settings > Music & Media > Choose default music service. Once you change the default, you will no longer have to specify where you want music to play from.

If your preferred music service is not supported by Alexa (like YouTube music), you can still play your favorite tunes with your speaker. All you have to do is pair to your phone, tablet or computer using Bluetooth. To do this, say, “Alexa, pair.” Then open Bluetooth settings on your phone or tablet, locate the Alexa speaker on the device and select it to pair.

Once paired, any time you want to connect your device to Alexa, just say, “Alexa, connect.” Then you can play any audio through your Alexa speaker.

Get personalized responses

Earlier this year, Amazon added voice recognition to its multi-user support. It’s called a voice profile and it allows Alexa to learn your voice, distinguish it from other people who might use your Alexa speakers and gives you personalized results. You’ll get to add events to your own calendar and items to your shopping or to-do list. And you won’t have to specify that it’s you to see what’s coming up on your calendar or to play your preference in music.

To set up a voice profile, open the Alexa app on your phone and go to Settings > Accounts > Your Voice. Tap Begin and select the nearest Alexa speaker. Follow the on-screen prompts and read the 10 phrases aloud. Once finished and after you give Alexa about 15 or 20 minutes to learn your voice, you can ask, “Alexa, who am I?” And she will tell you who is speaking.

Enable Follow-up Mode

Currently, you can’t ask Alexa multiple things at once, like, “What time is it and what’s the weather?” However, with Follow-up Mode, you can ask multiple questions back to back without having to say the wake word (Alexa, Computer, Echo or Amazon) each time.

So long as the blue ring light is visible on your speaker, you can keep asking questions. To enable this, go to Settings, tap your speaker’s name and scroll to Follow-up Mode.

Decide if you want to use Voice Purchasing

“Alexa, order paper towels.” With a voice command, you can tell Alexa to purchase anything on Amazon. However, you need to enable the feature first by going to Settings and scrolling down to Voice Purchasing.

This feature works like Amazon’s 1-Click purchasing, and you need to have 1-Click set up in your Amazon account to use Voice Purchasing.

For an extra layer of security, set up a Voice Code to prevent your kids or mischievous house guests from ordering stuff without your consent. A Voice Code is a 4-digit PIN you speak to Alexa to confirm your voice purchases.

If Voice Purchasing is turned off, you can still shop on products on Amazon, but they will be added to your cart and you’ll need to check out through the app or website.

Add a household member

Have multiple adults in your home with Amazon accounts? You can add household members to a single Echo device so they can all use it. Just go to Settings > Household Profile to get started.

This allows you and the other people to have a personalized experience, where each one of you has access to your own music, shopping lists, news settings and commute information.

Warning: When you add another adult to your household, that person will be able to use your credit card to make purchases. To prevent unauthorized purchases, set up a Voice Code PIN.

Now, explore what Alexa can do

Once the basic setup is done, you can start exploring all that Alexa can do. Open the Alexa App, open the menu and select Skills.

Here you can browse and search the thousands of Alexa Skills available, which range from games and trivia to educational and business apps.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the choices? Check out the first seven Alexa Skillsyou should enable. When you’re ready to dive in, consult our list of the 50 most useful Alexa Skills, or the complete list of all Alexa Skills. You can even make your own Alexa Skills using Alexa Skill Blueprints.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here