Your Alexa-enabled device is a standout gateway into the world of smart home automation. Using voice commands and the intuitive Alexa companion app, Alexa owners can control web-connected devices like smart security cameras, door locks, and A/V hardware like the Amazon Fire Stick 4K Max. In addition to schedule management and other great features, did you know that Alexa is capable of many “skills” too?
Alexa skills are small, free apps (though a few do have a subscription fee) you can download to add functionalities to your smart devices. You can install skills to use voice commands to call Lyft, get Alexa to read you a bedtime story, or turn Alexa into a cooking assistant.
As Alexa users ourselves, we’ve compiled some of the best and most useful skills that you can add to your Alexa today. Also, check out Amazon Echo deals going on now if you want to upgrade.
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Alexa can recommend movies
If you’re stumped on what to watch this weekend, your Alexa device can suggest some award-winning flicks. On the movie end of things, the Valossa Movie Finder skill can recommend titles based on descriptions of movies that you feed it. You can also make requests like “Alexa, find comedies from the 1970s.”
Alexa can give you medical advice
While major health concerns should always be handled by your doctor or emergency personnel, there’s nothing wrong with getting answers to some common medical questions at home. With the Mayo Clinic Alexa skill, users are able to ask Alexa questions like, “How do I treat my baby’s fever?” and “Tell me about spider bites.”
Alexa can keep tabs on your credit card balance
Keeping tabs on your purchase history is key to maintaining those healthy bank accounts. Thankfully, Alexa wants to help you sort all of your credits and debits with the handy Amex skill. You’ll of course need an Amex card from American Express, but once the skill is enabled, you’ll be able to do things like check your account balance, make a payment, see what available credit you have, and more. Getting up and running is just a matter of linking your Amex account to the Alexa skill and creating a four-digit pin.
If you’re not an Amex cardholder, there’s also a version of this skill available to Capital One customers.
In the kitchen, Alexa can provide Instant Pot recipes too
Got an Instant Pot? Alexa can instantly pull up Instant Pot recipes for you to try out, and all you have to do is enable a skill. What makes this skill really useful is that there are many different ways in which you can filter through the recipes. Go by cuisine, diet preference, difficulty level, or even ingredients (so you can finally clear out those almost-expired foods in your fridge). You’ll be able to quickly put dinner on the table, and you can effortlessly find new recipes to try out that may become a permanent addition to your home cookbook.
Alexa can help you eat healthier
Keeping track of your calories? Whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain weight, or just maintain a healthy weight, keeping tabs on your calorie intake can be really important. Do that easily with an Alexa skill. With this Track by Nutritionix skill, you can say things like, “Alexa, tell food tracker to log a glass of milk,” or “Alexa, ask food tracker for my calorie report.” Instead of counting your calories in a notebook that can be easily misplaced or forgotten, you can simultaneously log calories while preparing a meal.
Alexa can find your phone
It’s easy to misplace your phone or have it slip out of your pocket into the depths of the couch. If someone else is home, your first instinct is likely to frantically ask them to call it. With its Where’sMyPhone skill, Alexa can do that for you, so you don’t need to wait for a roommate or spouse to get home.
Alexa can keep you updated on your favorite sports teams
Although it’s a default skill, you might not be aware that you can go into your settings via Alexa and customize your sports news. You can add your favorite professional or college teams and get updates on schedules and scores. Go to the Alexa app and select Settings > Sports to get started.
Alexa can read you a short bedtime story
This one is for any parent who gets tired of reading the same bedtime stories over and over. You might not like the idea of a robot reading your child to sleep, but your kid will love it. The app also lets you customize the story to include your child’s name. Each of the stories clocks in at under a minute (and Alexa’s monotone reading voice is no substitute for yours), but it’s worth enabling if you ever need a rest for a night.
If you aren’t really a story type of person, you may be more interested in Alexa skills that can play white noise sounds or play rain sounds to help you drift off.
Alexa can read you customized news briefings
We’re not referring to a specific skill, but rather the ability to customize the news you get every day. By default, asking Alexa for a “flash briefing” runs you through the top news stories from a few handpicked sources. But you can enable everything from The Wall Street Journal to an (unofficial) Reddit app if you should so desire. The settings page on the Alexa companion app will let you add or remove sources until you have a flash briefing tailored to your liking.
Alexa can play your favorite music
Want to listen to music, but don’t have speakers in the house? Your Alexa-enabled device functions as a music player, and once you register the device to your Amazon account, you’ll be able to play music from your Amazon Music library. Prefer to stream music from a service like Spotify? You can do that, too, and even use the Spotify app on your smartphone as a remote control. Like listening to some gentle, relaxing music while you fall asleep? You can ask Alexa to stop playing music after a certain amount of time, so the music will stop once you’re in la-la land.
Alexa can learn cocktails and help you select a wine
The Mixologist skill gives you access to tons of incredible drink recipes. If you’re watching TV and see someone order an unfamiliar cocktail, or if you just don’t know what’s in your favorite mixed drink, the app will rattle off the ingredients for you. One great version of this skill is through Mixologist, which makes it particularly easy to search for a specific cocktail or find cocktails with a certain base.
Then there’s MySomm, which also lets you know what kind of wines pair best with what you’re having for dinner. If you tend to entertain and have a well-stocked liquor cabinet, you’ll be using this constantly. It’s worth noting that MySomm asks you to activate it by referring to it as “Wine Gal,” which means said company will probably make fun of you.
Alexa can call your friend in an emergency
Ask My Buddy is a helpful skill for anyone who might find themselves in a situation where they need help but can’t access their phone. It can call or text a specific contact (or all programmed contacts) quickly and easily in case of an emergency. It does not call 911 or other emergency services, however.
Alexa can let you listen to The Tonight Show
Even if you don’t watch the show religiously, this app is great for listening to the show’s opening monologue and a few choice bits. If you’re a Jimmy Fallon fan, it’s some nice, light entertainment to listen to while you’re brushing your teeth or cleaning up around the house.
Alexa can help you navigate the NYC Subway
There are a variety of skills for public transportation hubs similar to NYC Subway. Enabling these skills will allow Alexa to rattle off delays along specific lines, so you know just how much time you’ll need to get where you’re going.
You can play games with Alexa
Got a geography buff in the house? There are plenty of Alexa skills that offer fun trivia games. If you like traditional trivia, enable the Jeopardy skill and have a fun game night. Of course, there are many other quiz and gaming options offered by Alexa for pretty much any subject and age group you could desire.
Alexa can help kill boredom with a guided magical quest
The Magic Door, one of the highest-rated Alexa skills, is a great solution for when you’re bored and want an experience to help pass the time. It’s an interactive adventure that allows you to explore a magical land where you meet a variety of creatures such as rabbits, gnomes, wizards, fortune tellers, and so on. You’re able to help them all with their quests and, in the process, fully map out the land beyond the door. Time will fly by!
On the other hand, if you already have a good idea of what sort of adventures you like to go on, you may prefer the Skyrim Very Special Edition skill, which allows you to explore the Elder Scrolls game through an interactive (and tongue-in-cheek) Alexa experience developed by Bethesda Game Studios. You can find our other favorite Alexa games to play here.
Alexa can tell you details about the weather
Alexa does give you local forecasts by default, but this amazing Big Sky weather skill gives incredibly detailed breakdowns. If you want to know the sunrise and sunset times, for example, or what the weather was like a year ago, this app can do that for you.
Alexa can save you money on gas
With the GasBuddy skill, you can use Alexa to find the best prices on local gas, the best-rated convenience stores, and even the cleanest rest-stop bathrooms. Just say things like “Alexa, find me the closest gas station with a bathroom,” or “Alexa, is $2.70 a good price for gas?” By joining the growing GasBuddy network, you can even report your own local findings for the best deals on fuel and the cleanest roadside depots.
Alexa can start your car
If you have the right model, a variety of vehicle brands have created Alexa skills that allow you to use Alexa to start your car, make sure it’s locked, and operate a variety of internal settings from temperature to lights. Current skills include:
Alexa can walk you through a workout
Gym memberships and personal trainers don’t come cheap, but fortunately, you don’t need to shell out loads of cash to get in great shape. Your voice assistant Alexa can narrate a workout for you, and it’s totally free. Let Alexa walk you through situps, pushups, and bicep curls — just don’t be surprised when you’re sore the next morning. Here are some workout skills to get you started.
Calm your pets
2020 aside, we can’t really be with our pets all the time. But Alexa has skills that can help out! Calm My Dog will play slow-tempo music specifically chosen to help calm dogs and keep playing until you return (with a premium option available). Calm My Cat does the same thing, except the music is chosen with cats in mind (no, we can’t really tell the difference, but maybe your pet can). And if you’re actually worried about a specific pet behavior, you can enable the skill MyPetDoc, an artificial intelligence (A.I.) designed to talk about common pet problems and what you should do next. You can even use it to speak to a live veterinarian for a fee.
Alexa can remind you to take your medication
Adding to Alexa’s pantheon of health and wellness skills, the team at Giant Eagle Pharmacy has partnered with Alexa developers to bring us the Giant Eagle Pharmacy skill. After some initial configuration, Alexa owners can use the skill to set up daily medication reminders, request refills from pharmacies, and keep in check with health habits with Alexa prompts like “Alexa, what medication am I supposed to take right now?”
Alexa can order from Domino’s and Pizza Hut
Quality of the pizza notwithstanding, ordering food without stopping what you’re doing has never been easier. Both skills require you to set up a customer profile, but once you do, Alexa can order your favorite ‘zas with a simple voice command.
Alexa can help pick you up when you’re feeling down
Got the blues? Need a spark of inspiration? Let Alexa play the role of a life coach. With the Inspire Me skill, you can raise your spirits just by saying “Alexa, inspire me.” Alexa will respond with uplifting quotes from the most renowned philanthropists and positivity gurus, planting a seed of hope in your garden of woe. You can even sort inspiring messages by speaker and topic by saying things like “Alexa, ask Inspire Me to play Martin Luther King,” or “Alexa, ask Inspire Me about failure.”
Alexa can help you sleep
Let’s take a moment to thank our tech for helping us get some shut-eye. With the Sleep and Relaxation Sounds skill, your Echo can play a peaceful roulette of slumber-inducing sounds, from thunderstorms and gentle rain to babbling brooks and steady heartbeats.
Alexa can start your Xbox
The demise of the Xbox Kinect has left many Xbox users unable to use voice commands on the Xbox. Thankfully Alexa has an Xbox Skill that gives you the ability to issue voice commands to your Xbox just like the good ol’ days. You can turn the Xbox on and even launch a game using this skill.
Alexa can help with homework
Alexa can even help your kids solve homework troubles when they get stuck. She can answer a multitude of homework-related problems, helping students with quizzes, spelling, and more. Here are six ways Alexa can help kids with their homework.
Alexa can donate to charity on your behalf
Feel like donating to charity? Alexa can help with that, too. A number of charities have set up skills with Alexa that allow you to donate directly with a simple voice command. Simply say, “Alexa, make a donation to [charity of your choice].” You can find a full list of charities on Alexa here (there are a lot, and your favorite charity is probably there), with options including Love Justice International, American Childhood Cancer Organization, Bridges to America, House of Hope, Toys for Tots, and many, many others.
Find other skills
Not a fan of any skills mentioned above? You can use Skill Finder to hunt down new skills or find anything that’s trending today. Simply enable the skill, then say, “Alexa, open Skill Finder.” From there, you’ll get a rundown of the newest skills. Plenty of other voice commands work with the program, so be sure to enable it on your device and check it out every day.