Your Amazon Echo can do a lot more than simply play music, set timers or answer the odd question or two. One of the hidden treasures of these smart speakers is something called Skills, which can transform how you use the devices and add a lot more features than you might think.
Here’s our selection of the best Skills you can add to your Amazon Echo, plus how to use them.
What is an Amazon Echo Skill?
These are short voice commands that link to various apps and services. Most are free to use, unless the service in question is subscription based. You can add new Skills via the Skill store which you’ll find in the Alexa app.
Once enabled, your Amazon Echo will be able to order food, help you through a workout, control your smart home or use one of the thousands of other Skills that are available.
For more details on getting these useful tools up and running, read How to enable Alexa Skills.
Best Skills for Alexa
BBC Good Food
Wondering what to cook for dinner? BBC Good Food is an excellent Skill to have on hand as it can suggest from over 11,000 recipes once you tell it what you’re interested in. Bored with an old roast? Say ‘Alexa, ask Good Food to find me a quick chicken dish’ then you’ll have some options available in seconds. Alexa will read out the ingredients, then when you’re ready to cook the Good Food Skill can talk you through each step, pausing so you have time to complete each one.
Any.do is one of our favourite To Do apps to use on Android, iOS, Windows or macOS. Using the accompanying Skill on Alexa now means you can also add things to your lists without having to take your phone out of your pocket. Simply instruct Alexa to ‘add potatoes to my shopping list’ or ‘add put petrol in the car to my To Do list’ and these will appear in the relevant folders on your app.
Relaxing sounds: Spa Music
There are many Skills that can help put you at ease on a stressful day. Whether you’re following safety guidelines and remaining at home to wait out the coronavirus or just finding it hard to get to sleep, Relaxing Sounds: Spa Music can help increase your peace.
Saying, ‘Alexa, play spa music’, triggers a long loop of meditative tunes that can ease the tension out of the room. Along with Spa Music there are also similar Skills for Magical Campfire, Tibetan Flute, Spanish Guitar and more.
Ask Alexa for your ‘flash briefing’ and BBC News will deliver a short selection of the major headlines for the day, followed on by the local weather in your area. It’s a good way to start the day, as you start abreast of current events and whether you need to pack an umbrella or not, all before you’ve finished your morning coffee.
You can now link your Apple ID and listen to any podcast from Apple's library via your Amazon Echo or any other Alexa-enabled device.
This is a great skill for providing ambient background noise, whether it's the sound of rain or white noise. Whether you need to relax, concentrate or fall asleep, the sounds should help and stop after 1 hour. There's a Pro subscription that doubles the audio quality and loops the sounds so they never end.
Alexa and Xbox play nicely together. So much so, that with this Skill you’re able to not only control your Xbox by voice commands from to your Echo, but also turn the console on and launch apps. If you want to catch the latest episode of The Expanse on Netflix, simply tell Alexa and she will have it up on your screen in a jiffy, or if you’re hoping to explore the weird environments of the Outer Worlds then Alexa can start the game as long as it’s installed. Just remember you’ll still need your controller to actually play it.
British Red Cross
With the coronavirus causing huge upheavals in many people’s lives, Alexa makes it easy to support some of the medical and relief agencies that are working to help people with the virus or those dealing with the aftermath. The British Red Cross Skill is a quick and easy way to donate money to the charity’s coronavirus relief fund and help those in need. Tell Alexa the amount you want to give and Amazon will use any payment source you’ve linked to the device to make the donation.
Guinness World Records
Alexa can now search the vaults of the Guinness World Records and tell you about the amazing feats of accomplishment they contain. Say "Alexa, enable the Guinness World Records Skill" and after that you can say "Alexa, what is the record of the day" without having to ask her to open the skill separately.
With radio stations broadcasting online it’s no problem for Alexa to bring their content straight to your Echo. The Classic FM Skill does exactly that, with live content streamed straight from the internet to your speaker. If Mozart isn’t your jam, then there are also Skills for Magic Radio, Absolute Radio, Smooth Radio, Heart FM, Planet Rock and others. You can also access thousands of radio stations via TuneIn on Alexa.
Question of the Day
This is a nice little Skill that asks you one trivia question each day, which if you answer correctly will give you points that you can use to compete against other players. Of course, the main point is to learn a new fact as part of your daily routine. So, if you want to start your morning by having your knowledge slightly increased, this is a good way to do it.
Good Morning Gorgeous
Another great way to begin your day is with this Skill that greets you with an inspirational quote and finishes off with a compliment. Yes, it’s an algorithm stroking your ego, but in these difficult times we’ll take encouragement wherever we can.
Find My Phone
At some point or other, we’ve all managed to forget where we’ve put our phone down while in the house. Rather than ask your flatmate or family to ring your number, with this Skill Alexa can do it for you instead. Setting up the feature involves entering your phone number, but the app doesn’t require you to sync contacts or anything like that. We’ve seen issues with entering UK numbers, but a good tip is to say Zero rather than Oh when dictating it to Alexa.
If you use the Hive smart-home products, which include thermostats, lights and plugs, then this Skill should come in very handy indeed. Once enabled it allows users to increase and decrease the temperature of a room, turn on certain lights or group of them, and switch smart plugs on just by telling Alexa. Of course, you’ll need a Hive account for this to work.
If controlling smart-home products appeals to you, then there’s also the Phillips Hue, LIFX, Ring, Tapo, Blink and other Skills available. See our guide to controlling your smart lights with Alexa.