Amazon’s Alexa has changed the way we live and play with tech. She tells us the weather, controls our lights, plays our favorite tunes, helps us organize our schedules, and even safeguards our homes like a mindful junkyard-dog while we’re off visiting the in-laws. All of these actions and behaviors are enabled by “skills” that you can teach to your ever-growing army of Amazon devices with just a few taps and swipes in your Alexa app.
As Alexa users ourselves, we’ve compiled some of the best and most useful skills that you can add to your Alexa today.
It’s a great kitchen assistant
Alexa comes preloaded with the ability to add items to a master grocery list. On its own, being able to quickly shout to Alexa that you just ran out of cayenne pepper as you cook is incredibly handy, but skills like My Chef go several steps further. It pairs with the Chefling app and allows you to track and read recipes, send shopping lists, and track expiration dates. It will even remind you what you have in your pantry while you’re out shopping. If you prepare a lot of meals at home and tend to be forgetful while out shopping, My Chef will save you a lot of frustration. There are also several other great skills for the kitchen.
It can plan your Instant Pot cuisine
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.
It 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 on a notebook that can be easily misplaced or forgotten, you can simultaneously log calories while preparing a meal.
It 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.
It can call an Uber or Lyft
If you’re a heavy public transportation user, chances are you’ve found yourself running late and trying to call a ride with one hand while getting dressed with the other. Once you set up this skill on Alexa — the app needs to know the location of your Echo — you can desperately scream for a ride while showering and thinking of what excuse for being late you’re going to tell your boss this time. These are the kinds of things voice-activated systems were made for.
It 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.
It 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.
It 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.
It can play your 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.
It can book you a reservation with OpenTable
Set up a profile and then quickly make a dinner reservation at your favorite spot while keeping your eyes glued to your video games. Like the mobile app of the same name, this skill will let you make, modify, and cancel reservations, and now, you can do this on your Echo Show, too. You can either use your voice or tap the touchscreen of the latest Alexa-enabled smart home hub to ask for a reservation at your favorite restaurant. If the skill is unable to find your exact match, it will provide a list of alternative options. Sadly, it’s not as robust as the full app. There is no search functionality.
It can learn 12,000 cocktails and tell you what wine to drink
The Bartender skill gives you access to more than 12,000 cocktail 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. You can also reverse engineer a concoction by telling The Bartender what you’ve got on hand to make a drink with.
MySomm 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 these 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.
It 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.
It 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.
It can let you play games
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. Also, don’t forget about Echo Buttons, which can add a new dimension to your game night by acting as buzzers and other gaming devices as you play.
It can 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!
It can tell you intricate 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.
It 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.
It 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.
It can 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.”
It can soothe you to 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.
Want some bonus skills? Now Alexa can even soothe your cats and dogs to sleep.
It keeps you smart
No matter how hectic our lives can become, we should never stop learning new things. From the minds behind Curiosity.com, Alexa’s Curiosity skill provides insightful stories, historical facts, life advice, science, psychology, and other high-brow tidbits. A few rounds of “Alexa, open Curiosity,” and you’ll be the next Einstein at the company cocktail party.
It can start your Xbox
Since the demise of the Xbox Kinect, you may be missing the ability to use voice commands on your Xbox. Luckily, there’s a skill for that. The Xbox Alexa skill allows you to turn on your console and start up games using your voice.
It can help with homework
If you’re baffled by your kid’s homework, or they need some help when you aren’t around, Alexa has your back. She can help with quizzes, spelling, and more. Here are six ways Alexa can help kids with their homework.