Bradly S

The Only Amazon Alexa Skills and commands you need for your Echo device

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.

Click here for the Alexa Skill Testing Tool.

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!

Ted Talks

I could sit for hours listening to Ted Talks, I try not to, but it’s difficult.

For those of you who are in the same boat, I’m putting this as my #1 skill.

It’s honestly worth listening to people speak every day with so much new content coming out on a regular basis!

Flashcards

This one isn’t a direct skill as such but is a skill you can make tailored to yourself.

I have broken this down in my blog post here on how to create your own basic skill (It’s not hard, trust me!)

Silver Linings

This one is one I’ve seen recommended time & time again, based only for US users it is one of the better weather apps for planning your day.

Whilst I’ve not used it, I have had many vouch for this one, let me know what you think!

Chop Chop

I’m not the best cook, I may one day run a blog for my cooking and rating various recipe sites!

It’s a great entry into the world of cooking for total beginners, with basic lessons and tutorials, you can’t go wrong!

This app is great for beginner cooks, students or if you can’t find something to eat/cook!

Spotify

Personally, I don’t use Amazon Music because of the GUI and I use the Spotify app a lot.

As such, I’m definitely recommending you setup Spotify on your phone.

It’s a very useful app to have and doesn’t require any external installation!

Find My Phone

I have mentioned this elsewhere on my blog, but it really is an essential skill for those of us who leave our phone about on vibrate

There are plenty of skills like this one, but I find this one to be the better if you’re not using IFTTT.

LIFX: Lighting

As of the moment, I utilise LIFX and Philips Hue (I know, I know, awful to mix) but this is purely in a testing phase because I do believe Philips Hue needs some competition.

Personally, the Skill is perfectly fine as it is doing what it needs, simply ask Alexa what to do with LIFX for a full tutorial!

Hey Alexa, ask LIFX what can I do with my lights?

Philips Hue

If I’m mentioning LIFX, I need to mention Philips Hue, they boast top quality bang for your buck.

The skill actually holds up pretty well.

To fully make the most of this, I highly suggest using Groups in the app as it makes turning whole rooms on and off a lot easier!

Alexa, set bedroom to red

iRobot Home

I love my iRobot, even in small places it does half the work I don’t want to do!

You will need an iRobot account, but you should have one if you own an iRobot to be honest.

Alexa, ask Roomba to start cleaning

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!

Amazon Alexa

Price: Free

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!

Spotify

Price: Free

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

Price: Free

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!

Just Eat

Price: Free

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?

Conclusion

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!

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