Custom commands for the Amazon Echo

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:


Telling Amazon’s Alexa to play some music or add an item to your shopping list is pretty cool, but there comes a point where you start to feel the limits of the Echo’s pre-programmed voice commands. It doesn’t have to be that way anymore: Amazon and the automation wizards at IFTTT just announced a new feature that allows you to create custom voice phrases to make Alexa do whatever you want. Unfortunately, there’s a catch: every command has to start with the word “trigger.”

The result seems kind of bittersweet. Users can configure their Echo to call their phone by saying “Alexa, trigger find my phone,” and it works, but it strays away from goal of controlling computers with natural speech. Still, it gives you a lot of options: sample recipes on IFTTT show voice controlled commands to adjust thermostats, change lighting, send text messages and even change minor settings on the user’s smartphone. It’s not perfect, but if you have an Echo, you should definitely check it out.

I wasn’t clear what IFTTT is, so I checked out their site. I read “Make your work flow. We connect your favorite apps together, so they work best for you.” I am not clear what that means. They are an app company?

It does seem as if IFTTT has found a way to do real-time updates to the phrases in the the app’s account on Amazon. I would love to know how they are doing this. Right now, I am forced to hardcode my phrases in Amazon. I guess “trigger” is their only phrase and everything after that they handle on their own servers?