The Amazon Echo has a fantastic little feature that most people are unaware of: a robust web-based control panel that makes modifying and interacting with the Echo a breeze.
Why Would I Want to Do This?
Most of your interaction with the Amazon Echo will be, by design, voice-based. Alexa is a voice-based personal assistant, and for most tasks–like starting and stopping music, asking about the weather, and so on–it’s easiest just to summon Alexa with a command like “Alexa, what’s the weather forecast?”
When it comes to configuring the Echo or controlling it without voice commands, however, you need to use either the Alexa App (which Amazon promotes heavily) or the web-based interface (which they’re a bit quiet about). The mobile app might be fine for a quick tweak here or there, but the web interface is vastly superior in terms of visual space and usability. Editing settings with a real keyboard, reading through the Echo’s information cards, and opening up those cards in a full web browser on a regular monitor is a big improvement over the constraints of a mobile device.
In addition to simple ease-of-use, the web interface also has the benefit of working anywhere you have Internet access: whether your Echo is across the room or across the city. If you own an Echo and you haven’t taken a peek at the Echo’s web portal, you’re missing out.
How to Access Your Echo Remotely
Accessing your Echo from the web is a breeze as long as you meet these basic criteria: your Echo is set up, linked to a Wi-Fi network, and registered to your Amazon account. With that initial setup out of the way, you simply need to point any web browser at alexa.amazon.com while logged into your Amazon account.
There, instead of squished into a little smartphone screen, you’ll find the a nice expansive GUI: so much room for activities.
Every single feature available in the mobile app is available here, as the Alexa App and the web portal share the same interface right down to the color scheme.
Update: As of December 2020, many features available in the mobile app are not available on the website. For example, you can’t see a device’s current status, turn it on or off, or rename a device from the web interface. That requires the mobile app.
You can access your Now Playing song/playlist, control the playlist by advancing it, jumping back, repeating the song, or playing/pausing the music, as well as reviewing previously played songs.
If you’re hooked on using the Alexa To-do/Shopping lists you can manually add items to the list from the comfort of your full size keyboard. It’s one thing to tell Alexa “Alexa, add milk to my shopping list.” but it’s a whole different thing to have her parse out complicated or lengthy additions to the lists.
And, of course, if you’re customizing your daily commute for on-the-fly traffic updates or keeping up on sports scores, it’s much easier to tweak your settings with a full keyboard at your finger tips.
In short, everything you can do with the mobile app you can do with the web portal but the view is bigger, the menu easier to move around in and edit, and the extra screen space is perfect for reviewing everything from shopping lists to play lists.