A Comprehensive List of Alexa Skills

Dozens of useful Amazon Echo and Fire TV commands

Amazon Echo
Amazon

What's Alexa and What Can It Do?

Alexa is Amazon's proprietary speech-driven service, similar to what Siri is for the iPhone. Acting as your own personal assistant, Alexa allows you to ask a wide range of questions as well as access an ever-growing number of features with just the sound of your voice. Known as skills, these capabilities run the gamut from playing a particular song to raising the temperature on your thermostat.

The most popular Alexa-enabled device is Amazon Echo, but the voice service is also available on Fire TV and other select Amazon and third-party products such as the Aristotle baby monitor and LG's Hub Robot. 

While Alexa can use the thousands and thousands of skills that are available, there are a few things to keep in mind...  

  • Not all of these skills were developed by Amazon. Developers have access to write and publish their own skills for Alexa that then become available to users like yourself.
  • Some of these skills may not be worth your time, simply because they aren't very helpful or enjoyable.
  • Certain skills may require additional hardware (i.e., turning on a light with Alexa)

This shouldn't scare you away, however. Alexa-enabled devices are great to have in your home and, with a little tweaking, can prove to be very good companions. I’ve hand-picked some of the most useful and unique Alexa skills from the thousands that are out there.

Many of these skills will not be enabled by default, so you may need to follow the proper activation steps before using each one for the first time. Don’t worry, I’ll show you how to do that.

How to Get Started

For most, simply saying Alexa, enable [skill name] will do the trick. While some skills can be set up by following Alexa's voice prompt instructions, others need to be activated via the Alexa app or on Amazon's website.

To do so, first search for the skill name and then select the Enable button.

In the Alexa app, this is achieved by selecting the main menu button (found in the upper left-hand corner of the screen) and choosing the Skills option. From here you can browse Alexa skills by category or other criteria such as those favored the most by its large user base. You can also search for skills by keyword or name through this same interface. If you're using Amazon's website instead of the app, first ensure that you are logged into the account that is associated with your Alexa-enabled device. Next, click on the drop-down menu located next to the search bar at the top of the screen and choose Alexa Skills. From here you can search for skills by keyword or name. You'll also be taken to the Alexa Skills section of the website after performing your initial search.

Once you click the Enable button associated with a particular skill it will then be activated on all of your Alexa-enabled devices, assuming that you've registered them with the same Amazon account, and will be ready for use. You'll notice in the lists below that many Alexa skills are called by using trigger words like open, start, play and ask.

While select skills require you to use specific terms, others consider them to be interchangeable and will work with some or all of these phrases. Over time you'll begin launching your favorite skills by the words you feel most comfortable using. Initially, though, it can be fun to play around with each.

Recommended Reading: How to Make Alexa the Center of Your Smart Home

Entertainment and Humor-Related Skills

The following Alexa skills will keep you entertained for hours on end.

  • Alexa, open the Tonight Show: Missed Jimmy Fallon's monologue last night? Want to know who the comedian's upcoming guests are? This skill has you covered.
  • Alexa, play Beer Goggles: Maybe you should hold off on pouring another drink. This skill asks a set of questions and then determines whether or not you've reached your limit based on the responses.
  • Alexa, ask Westeros: With the amount of sheer carnage in George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones, it can be hard to keep up with who's still alive. This skill lets you know whether a particular character has been confirmed dead or not. It's based on the book series, which is not completely in sync with the HBO drama.
  • Alexa, open Geek Humor: A skill that's bound to make your inner nerd chuckle, Geek Humor tells jokes from a number of science and technology-related categories.
  • Alexa, open Radio Mystery Theater: Takes you back in time by playing old episodes of CBS Radio Mystery Theater, a series that took the airwaves by storm in the 1970s.

News, Traffic and Weather Skills

While saying Alexa, what's the weather? will return the current conditions in your area, the majority of news and weather information disseminated by Alexa is done through Flash Briefings. This includes the latest headlines on dozens of wide-ranging topics from over 2,000 available sources. Whenever you say Alexa, what's my Flash Briefing? or Alexa, what's in the news? updates from each active Flash Briefing provider will be played. To advance to the next source simply say Alexa, skip.

Your Flash Briefing skills can be managed through the Alexa app by taking the following steps.

  1. Select the settings button, represented by three horizontal lines and located in the upper left-hand corner of the app's main window.
  1. When the drop-down menu appears, tap the Settings option.
  2. Alexa's Settings interface should now be visible. In the Accounts section, select Flash Briefing.
  3. A list of the Flash Briefing skills currently associated with your account should now be shown, each designated as on or off. To activate or deactivate a news source, tap on its accompanying button once.
  4. To modify the priority in which Alexa reads each source during your Flash Briefing, first select the Edit Order button. Next, select and drag each option until they are displayed in the desired order of preference. Once complete, tap the Done button to return to the previous screen.
  5. To add additional skills/sources to your Flash Briefing, select the button labeled Get more Flash Briefing content. A searchable and sortable list of applicable skills should now be listed. To add one to your list of information sources, select it from the list and then tap the Enable button.

Music, Books and Podcast Skills

Not surprisingly, Alexa-enabled devices are also great tools for listening to your favorite songs and audiobooks. In addition to the capabilities listed below, there are also dozens of podcasts available as Alexa skills. To navigate songs, books and other audio Alexa honors commands such as Alexa, pause, Alexa, resume and Alexa, restart.

  • Alexa, play music by [artist name]: Random songs will be played by the respective artist or group. The source of these songs is dependent on what services and/or digital assets you have associated with your account.
  • Alexa, play [song name]: Plays the song of your choice, assuming that it is available in your assets or active services (i.e., Amazon Music)
  • Alexa, play [album name] album: Instructs Alexa to play a full album, starting at the beginning.
  • Alexa, play [artist] on Pandora: Streams a station of your choice through the Alexa-enabled device. You first need to register your Pandora account via the Alexa app for this skill to become available.
  • Alexa, play [radio station] on TuneIn: Attempts to play a particular radio station through the TuneIn broadcast service. If the station you are seeking cannot be found, Alexa will automatically search for it on iHeartRadio.
  • Alexa, play [radio station] on iHeartRadio: Similar to the skill above, with the service search order reversed accordingly.
  • Alexa, play [book name] on Audible: If you've purchased a book through Audible, this skill allows you to listen to it through your Alexa-enabled device.

Educational and Reference Skills

This next group of Alexa skills were created to pique your curiosity and keep your mind sharp.

  • Alexa, launch This Day In History: Powered by The History Channel, this skill provides a rundown of noteworthy events that took place on today's date. You can also specify a different date by saying Alexa, ask This Day In History what happened on [date].
  • Alexa, open NASA Mars: Ask all the questions you want about the Red Planet, including details on the Curosity rover's most recent update.
  • Alexa, ask Baseball Reference: One of my favorites, this skill allows you to ask Alexa a limitless number of questions about historical baseball data including statistics and award winners from past seasons.
  • Alexa, open Best Recipes: Suggests recipes based on three ingredients that you specify. Requires that you submit your email address to Hellmann's to function correctly.
  • Alexa, ask Beer Snob: A hops-infused skill that provides detailed information about a bevy of beers, including where its brewed and what approval rating fellow drinkers have assigned to it.
  • Alexa, open Ingredient Sub: This skill comes in handy when you're missing a particular ingredient, letting you know what options can be used as a substitute.
  • Alexa, ask Mixologist: Acts as a virtual bartender, telling you how to make the adult beverage of your choice.
  • Alexa, open Daily Buzzword: A great way to build your vocabulary, this skill defines a new word each day from the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
  • Alexa, start Poker Pro: Contains interactive tutorials where you're forced to make decisions in hypothetical cash game and tournament situations, after which Alexa explains why you made the right or wrong call. The detail in this skill can certainly help improve your No Limit Hold'em prowess.
  • Alexa, open Myth Buster: This skill recites various myths and then asks you to guess whether they are true or false, making for an educational and enjoyable game.
  • Alexa, ask Artsy: The Artsy skill offers in-depth information about your favorite artists along with recommendations for art exhibits in your area. You can also listen to the most recent episode of the Artsy podcast.
  • Alexa, what's the score of the [team name] game?: Gives you an up-to-date score on an ongoing sports matchup, or the final result of a completed contest.
  • Alexa, ask Edmunds: Returns Edmunds profiles about most car models including reviews and lease details in your local area.

Game Skills

Despite the fact that Alexa is operated strictly by voice there are some pretty cool games available, thanks in part to developer ingenuity and player imagination.

  • Alexa, play Jeopardy: Alexa assumes the role of Alex Trebek by asking a new set of questions every weekday, phrased in the parlance of the long-running quiz show.
  • Alexa, play RuneScape: Former and current players of the classic MMORPG as well as fans of the turn-based adventure genre will enjoy this audio-driven murder mystery. The game even stores your progress so you can continue where you left off at a later time.
  • Alexa, play Twenty Questions: This skill helps get those brain cells firing by pitting you against Alexa in a classic guessing game.
  • Alexa, open The Magic Door: Immerse yourself in a series of interactive experiences where the choices you make have their own unique consequences, reminiscent of the Choose Your Own Adventure books from decades past.
  • Alexa, open The Wayne Investigation: Developed by Warner Brothers, this skill places you in the middle of Gotham City tasked with solving the murder of Batman's parents.
  • Alexa, ask Magic 8-Ball: A virtual twist on an old favorite, this skill provides a random yes or no response to any question; all without having to turn your device upright to see your fate.

Health and Wellness Skills

The skills below are designed to help you live a healthier life, both physically and mentally.

  • Alexa, open Meditation Timer: Assists in your meditation routine by playing relaxing sounds for the desired duration, ringing a bell when your time is up.
  • Alexa, ask My Pregnancy: A useful skill for expecting mothers, My Pregnancy provides detailed medical information along the way as you move towards your due date.
  • Alexa, open Healthy Habit: Provides a health-conscious suggestion each time you access the skill.
  • Alexa, start Cal Pal: Launches a calculator that tells you what level of exercise is needed to burn off a specific amount of calories.
  • Alexa, Inspire Me: Plays inspirational tidbits from one of several famous speakers from all walks of life.
  • Alexa, open Daily Affirmation: Offers an encouraging and uplifting message once per day.
  • Alexa, open Deep Breath: Steps you through deep breathing exercises and mental images intended to reduce stress.

Ambient Noise Skills

Your Alexa-enabled device can also function as a white noise machine, playing the following ambient sounds to set the right mood at the right time.

  • Alexa, open Thunderstorm Sounds
  • Alexa, open Rain Sounds
  • Alexa, open Ocean Sounds
  • Alexa, start White Noise
  • Alexa, open Bird Sounds

Financial Skills

The Alexa skills below can assist in growing your stock portfolio and bank account.

  • Alexa, open Stock Trigger: Not only does this skill provide on-demand stock quotes, it also includes the ability to set up SMS notification triggers each time a particular stock reaches a user-defined threshold.
  • Alexa, ask CryptoCoin: Provides the current value of Bitcoin in USD along with the percentage change over the past 24 hours.
  • Alexa, ask The Fool: Presents details from The Motley Fool on the stock of your choice, as well as the latest information from your watchlist.

Miscellaneous Skills

These Alexa skills may not fit into one of the categories above but they're each good enough to make the list.

  • Alexa, open Johnnie Walker: An interesting skill for whiskey aficionados, or those wanting to learn more about the distilled beverage.
  • Alexa, Ask My Buddy: If you're having a medical issue or other emergency and can't get to your phone, this skill will alert one or more predesignated contacts for you. A fully-configured and linked Ask My Buddy account is required.
  • Alexa, ask Fortune Cookie: Cracks open a fortune cookie at any time, allowing you to hear its infinite wisdom without having to order Chinese food.
  • Alexa, ask Web Analytics: A terrific tool for anyone who monitors their web traffic through Google Analytics, this skill instructs Alexa to provide the number of unique visitors, page views, sessions and bounce rate from a linked Google account.
  • Alexa, Interview Me: Asks a different question that you may hear on a job interview each time you access this skill, allowing you to better prepare for those important meetings.
  • Alexa, ask Area Code: Returns location details for any three-digit area code.
  • Alexa, ask Steve Jobs Quotes: Plays famous snippets as well as some lesser-known quotes from the late Apple co-founder.
  • Alexa, open Spin the Wheel: Tired of flipping a coin or seeing who draws the short straw? This skill prompts you for between two and ten names and then picks one out at random.
  • Alexa, open Bedtime Story: This is a neat skill for your kids, as it incorporates their name into the telling of the story.
  • Alexa, open Stopwatch: A basic yet useful skill that turns Alexa into a stopwatch, allowing you to check duration status and stop at any time.
  • Alexa, ask Tweet Reader: The Tweech for Twitter skill causes Alexa to read the tweets in your timeline, from newest to oldest.
  • Alexa, set an alarm for [time]: Prompts Alexa to sound an alarm at a specified time. You can also configure this alert to go off regularly by saying Alexa, set a repeating alarm for [weekdays or weekends/time].

Smart Home Skills

Alexa's skills go far beyond the Echo, Fire TV or other device hosting the voice service. It can also interact with certain smart home hardware including garage doors, lights and TVs to name a few. Each platform functions differently with Alexa, so consult with your manufacturer's documentation.

Other Alexa Skills

There are thousands of additional skills available for Alexa, searchable within the app or the Alexa Skills section of Amazon.com. These skills fall into a number of different categories, such as sports trivia specific to certain teams and up-to-date transportation schedules for individual cities and transit systems. You can also perform shopping tasks on Amazon through Alexa, including purchasing items in your cart and tracking the package once they're sent. You can even order a pie from Pizza Hut or a latte from Starbucks. On top of all of this, don't forget that you can also ask Alexa a free-form question. If she doesn't know the answer, she will usually perform a Bing search based on your inquiry. 

Notice one of your favorite Alexa skills missing from the list? Send me an email with the details and I will consider adding it.