The best Amazon Echo Alexa skills and how to install them

Teach Alexa more

If you’ve just bought an Amazon Echo, or the smaller Amazon Echo Dot, then this guide is for you, as we list the best Alex Skills for the Amazon Echo, and show you how to install them.

The best Amazon Alexa skills enable the Amazon Echo to access various apps, websites and services, allowing you to customise your Amazon Echo or Amazon Echo Dot so that Alexa can interact with the smart appliances in your house, check public transport for your area, read the headlines from your favorite newspaper or website, and a whole lot more. 

In this guide we’ll show you the best Amazon Echo Alexa skills and how to add them to your device.

Best Amazon Echo Alexa skills for smart homes

These are the best Amazon Echo Alexa skills for making the connected devices in your house even easier to use.

Philips Hue

There's not much cooler than using your voice to turn the lights on and off in your house, and the Philips Hue skill for the Amazon Echo lets Alexa do just that.

With the Philips Hue Amazon Echo skill enabled, the Alexa app will discover the Hue smart lightbulbs installed in your house. As long as you've named the bulbs correctly, you can then say "Alexa, turn on bedside lamp" or "Alexa, dim living room lights".

One of the best things about the Philips Hue Amazon Echo skill is that you can tell Alexa to turn off, on or dim specific lights, or all the lights in a certain room.

Nest

If you have a Nest Learning Thermostat, then you'll want to enable the Nest Amazon Echo Alexa skill, which gives you the ability to control the heating of your home with your voice.

With the Nest skill installed, you can say "Alexa, lower the living room temperature by 4 degrees", or "Alexa, set the bedroom temperature to 68 degrees".

The Nest Amazon Echo Alexa skill is being updated regularly to make it easier to control the temperature of your house using Alexa and the Amazon Echo. For example, you can now say "Alexa, I'm leaving", and the Nest Thermostat will turn to Eco mode, lowering the temperature while you're away. You can also say "Alexa, tell the thermostat that I'm too hot", and the Amazon Echo will tell the thermostat to turn down the temperature by a few degrees.

Hive

Hive is another big name in smart thermostats, and its Amazon Echo Alexa skill works in a similar way to Nest's - allowing you to control the temperature of your home by simply speaking to Alexa.

Hive also has other smart devices, such as internet controlled lightbulbs, so you can use the Hive Alexa skill to control your lights and more.

Logitech Harmony

The Logitech Harmony range of products are universal remote controls that can control almost any entertainment device in your home. Best of all, a new Logitech Harmony Alexa skill for the Amazon Echo allows you to use Alexa and your voice to control those devices.

You'll need the Logitech Harmony hub for this to work, then with it configured and the skill installed on your Amazon Echo, you can say "Alexa, turn on the TV", or "Alexa, turn off the DVD player". 

Lost your remote control and need to leave the room? Just say "Alexa, tell Harmony to pause" and your movie will pause. You can also set sleep timers and adjust the volume as well.

There are actually two Harmony skills for the Amazon Echo - the Harmony skill and the Harmony - Optimised for Smart Home skill. Both of these should be installed for the best results.

Samsung SmartThings

Samsung has created a range of smart home appliances, and you can now control them with the Amazon Echo thanks to the Samsung SmartThings Alexa skill.

With this installed you will have control over a huge number of compatible devices in your home, all just by using your voice!

Best Amazon Echo Alexa skills for travel

The Amazon Echo can make planning holidays or even the commute to work, quick and easy. Here are the best Amazon Alexa skills for organising your travel.

Uber

If you live somewhere with Uber, then you can use the Amazon Echo Uber skill to quickly and easily arrange for a car to drive to your location and pick you up.

To start, you'll need to install the Uber Alexa skill on your Amazon Echo, and also use the Alexa app to set the location of your Amazon Echo (so the Uber driver knows where to pick you up from).

Once set up, you can say "Alexa, ask Uber to request a ride" and a car will be sent to your home. If it's taking its time, say "Alexa, ask Uber where's my ride?" to find out what the delay is.

Lyft

Lyft is another service that lets you call up drivers to pick you up and drop you off, and it has an Amazon Echo Alexa skill as well.

With the skill installed you can say "Alexa, ask Lyft to call a ride" to request a dirver. Other things you can ask include “Alexa, ask Lyft how much a ride to work will cost”,  "Alexa, ask Lyft where my ride is” and “Alexa, ask Lyft to tip my driver 3 dollars”.

Kayak

The Kayak Alexa app for the Amazon Echo allows you to use Alexa to help you plan a trip.

This skill can track flights (for example "Alexa, ask Kayak when the flight from New York to Las Vegas lands", and check prices "Alexa, ask Kayak how much it costs to fly from New York to Las Vegas".

If you want some inspiration and are on a budget, try "Alexa, ask Kayak where can I go for $500 dollars".

Tube Status

The Tube Status Amazon Echo skill is essential for London commuters. It allows you to ask Alexa to check the status of underground train services in the UK capital.

For example, you could say "Alexa, ask Tube Status if there are any delays", or "Alexa, ask Tube Status how's the Central line?"

Expedia

The Expedia Amazon Echo skill can make travelling easier than ever. You can check on your flights "Alexa, ask Expedia when is my flight?", book a rental car "Alexa, ask Expedia to reserve a car" and lots more.

Best Amazon Echo Alexa skills for food and drink

The Amazon Echo can help you cook up a storm (or order takeout if it all goes wrong) with these great Alexa skills.

Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver is the first celebrity chef to have an Alexa skill for the Amazon Echo. Install it, then simply ask "Alexa, ask Jamie Oliver for a recipe idea for tonight” for some inspiration.

Alexa will tell you the time  and difficulty of the recipe, and the ingredients you need. Say "Alexa, more information" to get the steps emailed to you, otherwise say "No" to move on to the next recipe.

Just Eat

Don't fancy cooking for yourself? The Just Eat Amazon Alexa skill lets you quickly and easily order a meal for delivery.

For example, you could say "Alexa, ask Just Eat to re-order my last Chinese", or "Alexa, ask Just Eat where's my meal?" to find out when it's being delivered.

Domino's Pizza

Fancy getting a pizza? The Domino's Pizza Alexa app for Amazon Echo lets you quickly order your favourite pizza, and keep track of when it's going to be delivered.

You can say "Alexa, open Domino's and place my Easy Order" to order it, and "Alexa, ask Domino's to track my order" to find out when it's going to arrive.

To use the Domino's Pizza Alexa skill you'll need to create a Domino's Pizza Profile. At the moment this skill is only available to Amazon Echo owners in the US.

The Bartender

This Amazon Echo skill turns Alexa into your own virtual bartender (sort of) by bringing over 12,000 cocktail recipes to your device.

You can ask Alexa what the ingredients is for a certain cocktail (for example "Alexa, ask the bartender, what's in a Tom Collins?") or get a random recipe with "Alexa, ask the bartender to surprise me".

Install the Amazon Alexa app

As part of the setup process for the Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Dot, you’re advised to download the Amazon Alexa app. 

This can be found in the Google Play Store for Android devices, and in the App Store for Apple devices.

Once installed, the Alexa app should find your Amazon Echo device and begin interacting with it. You can see the recent commands you’ve given Alexa, and how Alexa responded.

This is handy when you install skills, as it asks you if Alexa responded the way you wanted it to, so you can make sure the Amazon Echo understands you correctly.

By saying 'yes' or 'no' you can help the Amazon Echo calibrate itself to understand your voice better, which will enable you to use Amazon Echo skills effectively.

Browse for Amazon Echo skills

To find out what skills you can install on the Amazon Echo, tap the options icon in the Alexa app (represented by three horizontal lines in the top-left hand corner of the screen). Next, tap on ‘Skills’  and you’ll see a list of available skills to install.

These are broken up into categories such as ‘Local skills’, which collects skills that work with local services, such as public transport information; ‘Things to try’ and ‘Learn something new’.

For a full list of skills categories, click the ‘Categories’ button at the top of the app, or scroll down to the bottom of the page. You can also search for specific skills using the search box at the top of the app.

How to install Amazon Echo skills

If you see a skill that you like, click its name and you’ll be taken to a page that lists more information about the skill. This includes a detailed description about what it does, and some examples of voice commands you can use with the skill.

There are also customer reviews, which can help you decide if the skill is worth adding to your Amazon Echo.

To add the skill, click the ‘Enable Skill’ button. Some, such as the Hue skill, require you to connect your account so that the Amazon Echo can access the service, so a new window will appear asking you to sign in and allow Amazon Echo to access your account.

Once done, the Amazon Echo can use the skill – just say ‘Alexa’ followed by one of the example voice commands to get started.

How to uninstall an Amazon Echo skill

If you want to uninstall an Amazon Echo skill, open up the Alexa app, tap on the options menu and select ‘Skills’. 

On the main skills page, tap ‘Your Skills’ to see a list of installed skills. Tap on the skill you want to uninstall and select ‘Disable Skill’. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

How to editor

Matt (Twitter) is TechRadar's How To editor. Having written for a number of magazines and websites, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about. From gadgets to games, he's here to provide the best how to guides to help you get the most out of your gizmos. If you're encountering a problem or need some advice, drop him a line on Twitter.