I’m one of those people who like to organize everything via their calendar. I need to ring a company up? Put it in the calendar (otherwise I’ll totally forget!). My wife asks me to hang something on a wall? I put it in the calendar… but probably still forget to do it!
But either way, I find it useful to keep track of everything in my calendar so that I have sight of it, plus I get reminders of upcoming events. As a result, I really like having an Echo Show since I get a clear, visual view of my calendar – something which I found lacking on my other Echo devices.
The Echo Show calendar does have some flaws, but overall it works well and being able to see your upcoming events on the home screen, plus manage the list and month views works quite nicely.
If you prefer text-based articles then read on, but if you prefer video then feel free to watch the YouTube version instead:
Please note at this guide (and the above YouTube video) cover the functionality from the UK Echo Shows. It seems as though American Echo Shows don’t have the full calendar features covered here, and there’s unfortunately no timeline from Amazon on when they will update American Echo Shows to have these extra features.
What is the Echo Show?
The Echo Show is one of the first Echo ranges to contain a touchscreen (there’s also the Echo Spot, although Amazon seem to be selling and producing this less recently). It has a rectangular shape, two speakers and comes in three versions: the Echo Show 5 (with a 5″ screen), the Echo Show 8 (with a – you guessed it! – 8″ screen) and the Echo Show with a 10″ screen. I have the Echo Show 8 which looks like this:
It has fairly good sound quality due to its two speakers, and the touchscreen means that you can visually see – and manage – various aspects of your smart home.
The visual part is really useful because being able to ask “what reminders do I have?” or “what’s the weather like today”, and then seeing a full list of results is much better than listening to it being read out (on the other Echo devices) and trying to understand everything from that.
Maybe that’s just because I have more of a visual learning style, but I personally find it useful. Equally, being able to visually see and manager my calendar has been quite useful.
Benefits (to me!) of keeping and managing a calendar
As I mentioned at the start, I love my calendar. Okay maybe that makes me sound a bit sad/boring, but with modern life being so busy, it’s easy to forget things: a big delivery later on in the day, the need to chase-up a company for something, or even to carry out various DIY activities on the weekend.
I therefore have a Google Calendar which I share with my wife (essentially make it the household calendar). This is also available on our mobile phones and our computers, and I’ve linked this to Alexa (more on this in the next section).
What this means is that I can easily call up a list of my calendar entries wherever I am, along with adding new entries with ease.
I find that being able to do this so easily reduces my stress levels (since I very rarely feel like “I’m forgetting something”), and whilst I’m not a productivity junkie, it turns out that using calendars in this way can be a bit of a ‘productivity hack‘ too.
Syncing your calendar with Alexa (and so your Echo devices)
Alexa currently natively supports Google, Microsoft and Apple calendars which is good because the vast majority of people will run computers and phones powered by one of these. In other words, nearly all computers are Windows or MacOS (Apple) based, and nearly all phones are either Android (Google), iOS (Apple) or – in rare cases – Windows based.
However if your calendar isn’t supported, you have two main options:
- See if the Amazon Skill section has a skill for your calendar. Just like you can use other weather providers instead of the Alexa default, you may also be able to use your calendar provider’s skill and use this instead of the in-built Alexa calendar support.
- Sync your calendar into a Google, Microsoft or Apple calendar. This is often possible (see Zoho’s guide for integrating with Google Calendar, to give one example), and it then means that you can sync Alexa to Google Calendar and get all the useful calendar features I mention below, whilst still keeping ultimate control of your own third party calendar.
In terms of how to sync a calendar with Alexa:
- Simply launch the app
- Click ‘More’
- Go to ‘Settings’
- Scroll down to ‘Calendar & Email’
- Then click on ‘Add Account’ or the “+” icon:
It’ll ask you whether to link email and calendar (or just one of them), so choose accordingly. You’ll then need to login to your Google/Microsoft/Apple account, and say ‘Yes’ to link your email/calendar with Alexa.
Once done, the “Calendar & Email” screen will look like the following:
You have now successfully linked your calendar with Alexa, and you can start managing it by saying things like “Alexa, what’s on my calendar today?“.
Why I like the Show’s visual calendar
The Echo Show’s calendar features has two main aspects:
- A calendar events home card. The home screen of the Show rotates between different views – known as cards. A card could be a photo, a bit of news, or calendar event(s).
- A calendar listing page with 3 modes. This allows you to view all your past and present events in list mode, 3-day mode and month-by-month mode.
Both of these are useful in different ways. For example, the calendar events home card will rotate around to show you events due today or tomorrow. This is useful for visually reminding you of things that you may otherwise have forgotten.
But if you then want to look at previous events, or more than today/tomorrow-based events, you can jump into the full listing page to get more information.
I explore both of these in the following sections.
Echo Show’s ‘calendar events’ home card
As mentioned above, the ‘calendar events’ home card will rotate around the Show’s home screen and show you imminently occurring events (such as ones later today or tomorrow):
This is quite nice and the calendar events card is enabled by default after you’ve linked a calendar. But if you’re not seeing it, go to settings (by clicking in the top right, and selecting “Settings” in the top bar that appears) and go to home card content:
Ensure that “Calendar Events” is ticked. If you find that you don’t see your calendar events too often, you may want to deselect some of the other (unwanted) home content options so that you see your calendar events card more frequently.
Either way, this home screen content works quite nicely – even if there’s currently no way of adjusting the time frequency of the events shown (it only seems to show events from today or tomorrow at the moment).
Viewing all your calendar events on the Echo Show
If you want to see more calendar events, say “Alexa, what’s on my calendar?” and it’ll bring up a calendar page with a lot more features:
This page firstly has a ‘List’ tab which shows all your events in a day-by-day list, which is quite useful. You can easily scroll through it to see your daily events. Whilst it’s not perfect (more on this in the next section), it works fairly well overall.
Next up, you can choose “3-day” and it’ll switch to a three day view instead:
This is always a useful view because you’re likely to want to see some next/previous events, but not be overloaded by seeing weeks worth of events.
However if you do ever want this, you can go to ‘Month’ view which gives you:
I’m not a massive fan of this view because it doesn’t show you any specific calendar information (other than a dot to signify that “this day has one or more events”), but you can at least click into each day to then see that day’s events (it takes you to the 3-day view, but with that day as the middle day).
Finally, you can easily delete an event by clicking on it and pressing “Delete”:
This will then sync up with your linked calendar, ultimately deleting it from your Google/Microsoft/Apple calendar.
You can also say “Alexa, create a calendar entry at 3pm tomorrow” and say what the event is for (e.g. “Do important stuff“), and it’ll then add this:
Again, this will be synced with your main calendar so you can see the changes on your phones and computers – a nice way of organizing things.
Flaws with the Echo Show calendar feature
As hinted at above, I have a few annoyances with Echo Show’s calendar feature. Firstly, event names are chopped off in all modes:
As shown on the right, the full calendar name is “Play Rocket League non-stop (out of office)“, but the Echo Show only displays “Play Rocket League non-st” – despite having a bunch more whitespace available to display the calendar entry on that second line.
Next up, when you first go into 3-day mode, it’ll show you events from 12am if you have any all-day events:
This means that you then need to scroll all the way down to see events later on in the day. Since it’s quite common to have a mix of all-day events and 1-2 hour events, this is an annoying flaw because it’s easy to miss events. I tend to ignore this mode and just rely on ‘list’ mode instead, as a result.
Finally, the month by month view doesn’t give any indication at all of what events exist under each day. I know that screen space is limited, but it’s even more limited on a mobile phone and it can still display this information:
Despite all this though, I find myself regularly using the home card calendar events, along with the ‘list’ mode to view extra calendar information. Even though event names are cut off, I can see enough important information there to know what each event means.