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Best Alexa Skills: are there any worth installing?

Best Alexa Skills
Turn your Echo into a cat...

Much as I love Alexa, I’ve found the vast majority of its Skills – the Alexa equivalent of apps – to be as pointless as they are numerous. Like a fast food restaurant, lots of choice, very little quality. But that’s not to say there aren’t some nuggets tucked away, so here it is:┬áthe best Alexa Skills worth enabling.

There are some gimmes which we’ve covered previously on The Big Tech Question, and I won’t insult you by detailing out “BBC from TuneIn”, Hive or Nest. Instead, here are the five best Alexa Skills by type.

1. A dictation skill

Best Alexa skills
Turn your Echo into a (limited) dictaphone

You can dictate things to Alexa but the experience is about as rewarding as juggling jellies. Daily Log doesn’t solve all the problems, but it does a much better job.

You enable it by saying, “Alexa, enable Daily Log”. Wait for Alexa to say that she’s recording, and then there’s the tiniest of beeps. After that, record your thoughts one sentence at a time. When you pause, you’ll hear another beep, at which point you can start your second sentence.

Rinse and repeat until you’re done, and then you can visit eklecticcore.com and enter your unique user code followed by a four-digit access code (0000 by default).

And there your thoughts will be, ready to be copied and pasted. There’s nothing fancy like a PDF export. Yet.

2. A childish skill

Best Alexa Skills
Turn your Echo into a cat…

Frankly, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to childish Skills, with an automatic fart generator (4AFart) being one of the most popular and highly rated Alexa Skills available. Quite what that says about us as a society, I’m not sure.

But the one that kept my children most entertained was turning Alexa into a cat. Search for Meow! in the Skills listing of your app, enable it, and then meow (miaow for us Brits) away.

The best thing, from my kids’ point of view, was that it was difficult to turn off, and would continue to miaow indefinitely. Sadly, that seems, like the tomcat who used to live near our house, to have been “fixed”.

3. An improving skill

Best Alexa skills
Using a book to learn new words? How old school

Want to learn new words? Of course you do. Fortunately, Alexa has just the thing with the “Word of the Day” skill by Peppercorn Media. Enable this and it will add the word to your daily Flash Briefing.

In case you were wondering, today’s word was “flavescent”, which is a posh way of saying yellow.

4. A relaxing skill

Best Alexa Skills
And relax…

Perhaps you have trouble going to sleep. Maybe you want to block out other sounds whilst working at your desk. Then I can thoroughly recommend one of the many Sleep Sounds Skills. There are about 20 to choose from, including the frankly bizarre Swiss Massage.

Search for “Sleep Sound” in the Skills section of the Alexa app and take your pick.

5. A night-time skill

Best Alexa skills
Let there be light! Blue, pulsing light, but light…

So Sleep Sounds has sent you off to the land of nod, only for you to be woken up. It’s dark. What do you do?

Well, you could always cast a low light to avoid crashing your feet against the corner of the bed. In which case Night Light is your dream skill, setting a pulsing and low light.

Just be very careful: if you say to your Echo, “Alexa, Night Night” instead of “Night Light”, it will launch into a night-time poem followed by “soothing” lullaby music. Trust me, you don’t want that at 3.30am.

Nominate your best Alexa Skills

There are so over 15,000 Skills out there but, as I mentioned at the start, I struggled to find good ones. (Don’t install the Knock Knock joke teller.) But have I missed your favourite? Let me known in the comments below.

Read this next: How do I make Alexa play exactly the music I want?

 

 

About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email tim@bigtechquestion.com

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