To install an Amazon Alexa Skill, you will need to login to your app via a mobile device or website browser and navigate to “Skills”, from here you can search these skills or use the links in this post to set this up directly. You can read more on installing Skills at my blog post here.
Alexa is one of the greatest AI creations of our generation, it has such a wide range of skills and tools for improving your lifestyle – with practice, you’ll be on your way to an automated life!
It’s worth noting that some Alexa Skills require you to take advantage of the microphone on a device (Amazon Fire Controller or Amazon Alexa App for example) but in most cases, this will be the onboard microphones for the device. As of writing this, the only device I’ve seen that really introduces touch screen Skills for kids games is the Echo Show.
Before we go into detail on some of our top Skills to opt into, I’d highly suggest checking out the post I wrote about Alexa announcements which is essentially an intercom system for broadcasting a message across all devices.
Want to tell your family dinner is read? Simply Announce it! It’s a pretty cool technique and rules out a lot of more expensive hardware
Controlling Skills on your desktop
There’s no direct way of controlling your device from a computer, unfortunately, but you can still modify, setup and install skills whilst at your desk when using the Alexa browser URL.
If you’re looking to test Amazon Alexa Skills in your browser, a company called iQuarius Media developed a web-based application that simply asks you to log in to your Amazon account and allow permissions for it to make use of your Alexa skills, it’s a pretty nifty tool but not entirely useful.
It does require a Microphone to be plugged into your PC however.
How do I add skills to Alexa?
Installing Alexa Skills is a pretty easy task to do, please see below for the listed instructions, as well as a video tutorial to go along with it
- Open up your Amazon Alexa App
- Press the 3 lines in the top left of your app, if these aren’t visible, press “Home” first
- Select “Skills & Games”
- Use the search tool to find what you need or simply check out what is under “Discover”
- In this example, we will use “Pop Quiz” which is recommended when searching “Quiz Games”
- Press “Enable to Use”
- Once enabled use the specified command to start in, for us, it is “Alexa, Play Pop Quiz”.
What apps work with Alexa?
Alexa is owned by Amazon, so it opens it up to a lot of tools the merchant giant has, however it does also lock down the full experience to only Android devices, Amazon Fire devices and those in the Echo family.
Apps & Skills are different though, Apps are used with your mobile device of choice to access the smart home device, whereas skills are native to the smart home device in question.
Have no fear though! Alexa does have a lot of great skills even if a majority of them are relaxation based.
I’m going to run you through some of the fantastic apps that work with Alexa almost out of the box, from Smart Home Tech, Checking your local area for gigs, Checking the weather, and much more!
If you’re looking for some funny joke skills, check out my blog post here!
Do you have to pay for Alexa skills?
Not all skills, however, as you’ve seen some apps do cost money, however Skills as of current do not and are entirely free.
All Alexa Skills are only available via the Amazon App, unlike an Android device where you can simply install an APK file.
Personally, I don’t see any issue with this, it keeps the environment safe and making skills is relatively easy if you did want to make your own!
What are the best skills for Alexa?
The Alexa ‘store’ for skills come with a ton of ‘relaxation’ tools which are great, but obviously there are so many of them!
Sadly there is no way of filtering these out directly, you’re going to come across pages and pages of them. Hopefully, my suggestions here will help you find the skills you need!
|Skill Name||Command / Download|
|Send a Hug||“Alexa, send a hug”|
|Get Recipe Ideas||Easy Meal Ideas|
|7 Minute Workout||7-Minute Workout|
|Question of the Day||Question of the Day|
|Plumbus Facts||How do they make a plumbus?|
|Send me a sample||Alexa, ask Send Me a Sample|
|Amazon Prime Deals||“Alexa, what are your deals?”|
Phone Apps which work with Alexa
There aren’t a lot of apps which work with Alexa as of the moment, it’s mostly apps which work independently which also happen to communicate with the same service that the Alexa Skill tunes in with.
This is why you will see some duplicates in the list below!
This is the most basic App you need, I know it’s ridiculous but it really is extremely crucial that this app is used, to begin with for initial setup.
It’s also a great app for recommending new stuff to install.
This should be something you look at regularly as a Smart Home user, if you’re on a Samsung phone, you can actually swap Alexa to be your AI assistant rather than Bixby!
I’m mentioning this one again, simply because it really is crucial, it’s so useful as you can control each individual Alexa device to play different music or across the entire fleet!
This can, however, be easily ignored if you’re using Amazon Music which I will touch on below!
Uber & Lyft
If you live in the main city or capital like London, you’ll find this app pretty much necessary.
You can set up your home as the location and ask Uber & Lyft to do the rest, I recommend these apps tenfold as they really are great for regular commuters!
Please note, this app doesn’t code money but using it does incur a fee, try to be careful when using this as an accidental Uber / Lyft will charge you!
Imagine you’ve ordered your Friday takeaway from your phone, put it down on the other side of the room and want to check the status of your order.
Why get up when you can just ask Alexa?
Alexa, ask Just Eat where’s my food?’
As of the moment, this is the best food order app which works with Alexa. There is a pretty cool feature with this for you and your indecisive friends which is simply saying to Alexa:
Alexa, ask Just Eat, Magic Feast
Sending Text Messages from your Android device / iPhone
Android smartphone users can send SMS messages hands-free through the Alexa app, you can start this by asking your Alexa device to send an SMS:
It will reply: “If you have an Android phone go to the Alexa app and enable SMS messages”
This can be done via the Amazon Alexa App, Select the Speech Bubble,
- Open the Amazon Alexa app on your phone (or download it if you don’t have it).
- Tap the icon on the bottom bar that looks like a chat bubble.
- Tap the icon on the top bar that looks like a person.
- Tap “My Profile.”
- Turn the “Send SMS” toggle blue.
Then, you only need to ask Alexa to send a text message to someone in your contact lists. After confirming the recipient, Alexa will ask what you want to send and inform you that the message has been sent.
It’s worth noting that it won’t tell you what the contents of the email are as you send this, basically, once it’s gone, it’s gone. With or without the spelling errors!
If, however, you are an iPhone owner, you will need to use a third-party skill such as the Mastermind skill, which lets you send and receive SMS messages, you can find your iPhone and check your phone statistics such as the battery life.
Get fit with Alexa
Whilst I’ve mentioned Fitness Apps, it’s worth noting you can actually connect your Fitbit via the skill the offer (Which I’m suggesting out of the standard list as it’s not that viable to everyone). From here you can ask Alexa how you’ve slept, your steps, your goals and Calories burnt!
Using Alexa to do your shopping
Alexa is great for those of us who make pretty regular orders on Amazon, myself included. I’m probably ordering something on Amazon at least 2-3 times a week.
When you need a recommendation, Alexa will be able to help you with this, it’s pretty simple with commands such as the following:
Alexa, Find the best Straighteners
Alexa, What is the best laptop under £500?
Alexa, Are there any deals on Zoella Make Up?
Alexa also keeps track of everything you order, if you buy tissues in bulk for example or dog food, you can simply use the following commands and it will suggest the prior ordered goods:
Alexa, reorder Tissues
Alexa, reorder Corn Flakes
Alexa, reorder Paper Cups
You can also order from Whole Foods if you have it setup correctly, this means grocery shopping is extremely easy now. If you’re a prime user, you’ll actually get better deals when asking Alexa the following:
Alexa, what are my Whole Foods deals?
Alexa, Add chocolate to my Whole Foods Cart
Alexa, what’s in my cart?
As you can tell the Alexa Skill store is totally overrun by sleeping or soothing skills, whilst they’re great they aren’t tailored to YOU directly as a user. Once you get used to making Alexa Skills you’ll find the world really opens up a lot more.
Tie this in with Routines and IFTTT and you’ve got yourself a pretty flexible Smart Home Assistant!