The best Alexa Skills and commands 2021: the ultimate in Amazon Echo tips and tricks

The best Alexa skills: news

If getting your news from the radio is a bit too long-form for your tastes, you can also have Alexa give you a 'flash briefing' which condenses the news into much quicker bite-sized chunks. 

It's one of the best Alexa skills we know. There are a number of different news outlets that provide flash briefings in one form or another, though admittedly some work better than others. 

Naturally the relevance of these will vary based on your region, but we're fans of the briefing from Sky News, which gives a number of headlines in a short period of time. The flash briefing from Radio 4 is also good, if you've got longer to listen. 

Annoyingly, some flash briefings simply use Alexa’s text-to-speech functionality to read out headlines, which makes for a less natural listen. However, it's definitely worth experimenting with what's available locally to you to find a flash briefing that suits your needs.

Best Alexa skills

Amazon Echo Plus

The best Alexa skills: weather

Checking the weather has always been one of those things we're aware that we should do, but somehow the act of opening up a weather app every morning still seems like too much trouble.

The result? Plenty of embarrassing occasions when we've returned to the TechRadar offices in a rain-soaked T-shirt after a lunchtime thunderstorm that we weren't anticipating. 

We'd like to say that Alexa and its skills have caused us to completely change our ways, but even an intelligent voice assistant can't achieve the impossible. 

Nevertheless, if you're slightly more organized than us, you can simply ask Alexa "what's the weather like?" in the morning to get an update on the forecast for your area. Make sure your address is correct in the Alexa app so that you get a forecast that's relevant for your part of the world. 

If you want an Alexa skill weather forecast that's a little more, erm, out of this world then try Space Weather. If you say "Alexa, start space weather" it'll serve up information about solar winds, and the chances of a solar flux or storm. It's pretty cool, but we'd guess only full-on space nerds like us would think so. 

The best Alexa skills: traffic

If you're one of the unlucky souls who drive to work, then bad traffic can be the worst way to start the day. 

You'll have to remember to ask, but if you get into the habit then Alexa will be able to warn you of any disruption on your route with the aid of a dedicated Alexa skill.

Like asking for the weather, you'll need to input the relevant addresses into the Alexa app before the request works, but once that's done it's a simple process to ask Alexa how the traffic is on any given morning.

Jon Porter

Jon Porter is the ex-Home Technology Writer for TechRadar. He has also previously written for Practical Photoshop, Trusted Reviews, Inside Higher Ed, Al Bawaba, Gizmodo UK, Genetic Literacy Project, Via Satellite, Real Homes and Plant Services Magazine, and you can now find him writing for The Verge.