Best Alexa Skills: do more with your Amazon Echo with add-ons

Broaden your Echo horizons with the best Alexa skills for music, fitness, productivity and much more

Best Alexa Skills
(Image credit: Amazon)

Alexa is a pretty brainy little robot, and the best Alexa Skills make it smarter: Skills are add-ons you can enable for Alexa that give it extra powers and knowledge. Even without them, it'll (usually) answer your questions with aplomb, it's packed with easter eggs and hidden features out of the box, and if everything goes well you'll probably never need to do any serious troubleshooting. But know that your Alexa device can do more. The best Alexa skills can help that cloud brain grow.

Alexa's wide range of Skills help Alexa communicate with your smart home devices, they add extra functionality, and they give your smart speaker a ream of new entertainment options. Good Alexa skills are what separate Alexa from the rest of the smart assistant pack; while you can extend Google Assistant a little, and Siri's good at what it's good at, Alexa's overt extensibility is one of its finest features. So let's break down the best Alexa skills.

Adding new Alexa skills

New Alexa skills are easy to get going. You have three options: you can add skills with the Alexa app, you can add skills on your computer through the Amazon site, or you can simply use your voice. It's worth bearing in mind that added skills are linked to the logged-in account; if you're using multiple accounts on your Alexa-enabled devices, you may want to re-add skills for each user.

Adding Alexa skills with the Alexa app

Open the app, tap the top left button to access the menu, and select Skills & Games. The Discover tab will suggest skills Amazon likes (though not necessarily skills Amazon thinks you'll like), the Categories tab lets you drill down to skills you might think are useful, and the magnifying glass, predictably, allows you to search for specific things. Just tap on a skill and select 'Enable to use' to add it to Alexa's repertoire.

Adding Alexa skills on the Amazon website

Online, you'll need to head to Amazon, click the hamburger menu in the top left, and select Echo & Alexa > Alexa Skills. You can search in the usual Amazon search box, drill down by category and rating in the left menu, and enable skills you like the look of on their individual pages.

Adding Alexa skills on your smart speaker

Easy: just say "Alexa, enable [Skill name]" to confirm with Alexa that you're cool with that new skill attaching itself to your account. This might seem like the most convenient method of getting a new skill going, and it certainly requires the fewest clicks, but we'd recommend using the app or website as a priority both to ensure you get the exact skill you want, and to make sure the skill you're adding does what you think it's going to do.

Best Alexa Skills: Amazon Echo

(Image credit: Amazon)

Better-than-Alexa skills

Big Sky - Check the weather with Alexa

Trigger: "Alexa, ask Big Sky ..."

Alexa's default weather-checking routines are decent, if a little lightweight. Big Sky pulls from hyper-local weather API Dark Sky for its predictions, and you can be very specific with your questions. Want to know if it'll rain in precisely two hours? Want the current barometric pressure, a future wind speed, a prediction covering the next week? Go for it. A premium paid-for option opens up more stats, like humidity, UV index, and weather reports for other hyper-specific locations – be warned, though, that Apple recently bought Dark Sky, so the future of apps that rely on it is currently unknown.

T-Minus - a more clever Alexa timer

Trigger: "Alexa, ask T-minus to ..."

Don't get us wrong, we're not against Alexa's built-in timers, but if you're using an audio-only device they're a little obtuse. Having to go through the rigmarole of asking how long's left is pretty silly. T-Minus gives you a countdown timer, up to two hours in length, which actively tells you the remaining time at certain intervals and counts down from ten.

Tasks In The Hand - link your lists

Trigger: "Alexa, add ... to my shopping list" or "Alexa, add ... to my to-do list"

Some skills don't have their own triggers. Instead, they work in the background to make default Alexa functions better. In this case, Tasks In The Hand ports everything you add to either of the core Alexa lists directly over to a pair of lists on Microsoft To-do. Mark them as complete in To-do, and it ticks them off on Amazon. Handy.

Best Alexa skills fitness

(Image credit: Joe Wicks / Youtube)

Best Alexa skills for fitness

The Body Coach - high-energy HIIT workouts

Trigger: "Alexa, start The Body Coach"

As if we hadn't already fallen enough in love with plucky morning fitness hunk Joe Wicks after his lockdown YouTube workouts, the Alexa skill gives you seven 15-minute high impact interval training workouts to get your blood pumping. Start the skill and you'll be automatically sent to the next workout in the set, or you can choose a particular workout with "Alexa, ask The Body Coach for workout [name]".

7-Minute Workout - cardio in less time

Trigger: "Alexa, start seven minute workout"

If 15 minutes of Joe Wicks is somehow too much, how about a good seven-minute cardio blast? We like this skill in particular as it allows you to randomise the order of exercises, which prevents things from becoming too dull or predictable. You can also pick your intensity, so if you're sore you can dial it back to a low-impact workout.

Fitbit - great implementation of a smart fitness ecosystem

Trigger: "Alexa, ask Fitbit ..."

The Fitbit Versa 2 includes Alexa Built-in, which means you can access skills and such right from your watch. But that's not why it's here. Fitbit's Alexa skill is a demonstration of how it should be done. It's a quick way to tap into every stat your smart wristwear has been recording; you can use it to quickly find out your current step count, your sleep stats, or any other metric that matters.

Best Alexa skills - audio

(Image credit: Amazon)

Best audio skills for Alexa

Spotify - top music streaming

Trigger: "Alexa, play ... on Spotify"

Picking obvious skills? Us? Never. But the fact is that Spotify's integration with Alexa is pretty faultless, and it's arguably better than Amazon Music Unlimited. If you have to pick one music streaming service out of all of them, and you're a heavy Alexa user, let Spotify be that service.

TuneIn Radio - worldwide radio

Trigger: "Alexa, play ... on TuneIn"

Both TuneIn and Spotify are a little odd because they're not technically 'skills'. You'll need to link your Alexa account to your TuneIn account, at which point you'll be able to play live radio from around the world simply by asking for it. To get TuneIn (or, indeed, iHeartRadio, Spotify, or another music service) linked, head to the 'Play' tab of the Alexa app, then tap 'Link New Service'.

AnyPod - great podcast management

Trigger: "Alexa, ask AnyPod to play episode ... of ..."

You can certainly play podcasts through TuneIn, but with limited control. AnyPod is far better, giving you the ability to subscribe, jump to a certain time, pick a specific episode, and fast forward or rewind. If AnyPod doesn't do it for you, Stitcher is a solid alternative.

Best skills for Alexa - games

(Image credit: Amazon)

Best games for Alexa

Escape The Room - it's about escaping rooms

Trigger: "Alexa, play Escape The Room"

An escape room for your ears, with a bunch of puzzles you'll need to solve with your mouth. There are five locations to escape from. Given that you're playing audio-only, why not blindfold yourself and tie your wrists together for that extra immersion? (Don't actually do that.) Check out its sequel Escape The Room 2 if you're an expert escapist.

The Magic Door - a twee family adventure

Trigger: "Alexa, open the Magic Door"

A bit of an Alexa classic, this one, and an audio adventure which will delight kids and adults alike. There are a host of branching quests to fulfil, loads of puzzles to solve, and some very immersive storytelling holding the whole lot together. Listen closely, though, lest you miss something important...

Song Quiz - a quiz about songs

Trigger: "Alexa, play Song Quiz"

The title says it all: hear a song, guess the title, either playing against people in the room with you or against randoms online. Admittedly much of the catalogue is quite US-centric, so you'll need that knowledge in your repertoire, but there's a lot of fun to be had here.

  • Empty list