Discover the best Alexa skills to make your home smarter

Unlock the power of Alexa on your smart speaker or display with these top skills.

In recent years, voice assistants have become an integral part of daily lives for many of us, making tasks easier and more convenient than ever before.

At the forefront of this technology is Amazon Alexa, the AI-powered voice assistant. One of the key reasons for Alexa’s popularity is its extensive library of skills, which are voice-activated apps that enable users to perform a wide range of tasks. 

You might be aware you can ask Alexa to play your favourite tunes or news headlines, but did you know that Alexa can also remember birthdays and even track parcels? Find out how with our list of the best Alexa skills available right now.

Amazon Echo Dot Speakers shot in the test centre sound roomCredit: Saga Exceptional

What is an Alexa skill?

Introducing your voice activated personal assistant

An Alexa skill is a specific feature or function that you can add to your Amazon Echo device, which is powered by Alexa’s voice assistant. Think of it as an app for your Echo.

Just like how you can download apps on your phone to perform different tasks, you can enable skills on your Echo smart speaker or smart display to expand its capabilities. These skills are created by developers and cover a wide range of activities and services.

For example, there are skills for playing music, checking the weather, setting timers, answering questions, ordering food, controlling smart home devices, and much more. Each skill adds a specific ability or service to your Echo device.

If you’re unsure how to set these up, follow our simple step-by-step guide on how to enable an Alexa skill.

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The best Alexa skills to try today

The great thing about Alexa skills is that they constantly evolve, and new ones are added regularly. You can browse through the Alexa Skills Store to discover and enable skills that interest you or to be useful in your daily life.

1. Birthday Tracker

Never forget a birthday again

Enable the Birthday Tracker skill and you’ll be ahead of the birthday game. Once you’ve set the skill up (see below for how to do that), it’s just a case of saying something like, “Alexa, ask Birthday Tracker whose birthday is next,” to make sure you never miss a birthday again. You can also pre-set reminders.

You can add 10 birthdays for free – if you want to add more you need to create an account at the official Birthday Tracker site and upgrade to premium, which is 80p a month.

You can also ask Alexa things such as, “Alexa, ask birthday tracker what day [name’s] birthday was in 1980,” and if you add in the year, it ups the questions you can pose, including ones around big birthdays, for example, “Alexa, ask birthday tracker when [name] will be 40?”

Amazon Echo Pop smart speaker on a sideboardCredit: Saga Exceptional

2. Puzzler

Complete a daily crossword with your voice

If you love puzzles, this is the skill for you. Puzzler is a daily crossword, which you complete with just your voice.

It’s a simple premise – Alexa asks you the clue, including how many letters the answer contains, and you answer. You can also get hints or skip clues, to come back to them later.

They’re not the most difficult crosswords we’ve ever tried but the key is to try and do them in the fastest speed ever. You can even set a reminder so that Alexa prompts you daily to take part.

All of which is good if you want to improve your brain health, as puzzles, such as crosswords, have been shown to improve memory and all-round brain health.

3. Night Light

Get Alexa to light your way

If you ever find the need to have a soft light for the middle-of-the-night toilet visits, this is the Alexa skill for you. Night Light allows your Echo device to emit a gentle light, guiding your way to the bathroom without disturbing your better half. After all, beauty sleep is essential…

Thankfully, when you ask, “Alexa, turn on Night Light,” she won’t talk back to you, preventing any untimely remarks in the middle of the night.

Admittedly, it’s not blazingly bright, but it does emit a subtle pulsating effect and we’ve used it in kids’ bedrooms and when we needed to navigate the dog for those early hours bathroom visits without waking up the whole household.

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4. Hermes (Evri)

Track your parcel delivery

We bet that tracking parcels is one of those things you didn’t know you could ask Alexa.

Thanks to the Hermes skill you can ask Alexa to track your packages and even ask the courier to leave them in a safe place.

The only problem we have with the Hermes skill is it’s not been rebranded with the new Evri name and logo. However, we use this one a lot and it works well. You just need to make sure your Amazon account uses the same email that you’ve bought stuff with. 

Amazon Echo 2qb Speaker shot in the test centre sound roomCredit: Saga Exceptional

5. Ted Talks

Listen to a host of inspiring talks

Via the Ted Talks skill you can hear from a range of fascinating folk just by asking Alexa to play the latest Ted Talk. You can also ask Alexa to play something funny or a talk about a specific subject. You won’t get the whole talk, but instead, an interesting segment that ranges from 10 to 30 minutes in length.

Our favourites that we’ve listened to recently include Al Gore talking about climate change, anthropologist Rich Benjamin’s funny talk about whiteness in America, and industrial designer Ross Lovegrove on how he uses nature for his design inspiration.

It’s an effortless way to learn new facts, get different opinions on lofty ideas and generally expand your brain.

6. Your Compliments

Give yourself an ego boost

Have you ever had one of those days when everything seems to go wrong? On days like that, it can be hard to stay positive. But what if you could have a personal cheerleader on call to boost your self-esteem? That’s where the Your Compliments skill comes in.

Once you enable the skill, you can ask Alexa to “Open Your Compliments” and she’ll give you a random compliment. These compliments are designed to make you feel good about yourself, no matter what’s going on in your life.

One personal favourite? “You’re incredibly intelligent; even Einstein would look up to you.” Aw, shucks!

7. Breathing Exercise

And… relax

British tennis player Liam Broady incorporates mindfulness into his routine by engaging in breathing exercises to alleviate pre-match jitters. Even if you’re not a professional tennis player, you can still reap the benefits of taking a pause and practising controlled breathing. It can effectively help in stress management and enhance concentration.

To simplify the process, the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise skill is invaluable. The numbers correspond to the duration of each breathing step, which might initially seem confusing. This skill provides clear, step-by-step instructions, guiding you through each stage and allowing you to focus solely on the breathing itself.

Alexa’s voice even slows down, making the entire process more relaxing. By asking Alexa to initiate the breathing exercise, you can effortlessly incorporate this mindfulness practice into your daily routine.

Top tip: To find more skills, you can ask Alexa, “What are your skills?” or browse the Skills Store on the Alexa app.

8. Karaoke

Sing along in the comfort of your own home

Alexa Skill karaokeCredit: Amazon

This skill, exclusively for Echo Show devices, transforms your smart display into a fully-fledged karaoke machine. All it takes is a simple command, such as “Alexa, Let’s Karaoke,” to unlock access to a vast library of over 100,000 songs, complete with on-screen lyrics that are highlighted as you sing along.

You can even be specific and ask to play certain songs or artists. For example, you can say, “Alexa, play (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones”, or, “Alexa, show me songs by Elton John.”

We can assure you that once you dive into this skill, it’s hard to resist the addictive fun it offers – a fact that our neighbours may truly appreciate as we joyfully belt out Don’t Stop Me Now for the umpteenth time…

9. Upon This Day

Enjoy a daily history lesson

History buffs, if you’re craving a daily dose of historical trivia, then the Upon This Day Alexa skill is an absolute must-have. Just enable it and say, “Alexa, open Upon This Day,” and prepare to have your history knowledge improved. 

No matter what date it is, you’ll receive a fascinating rundown of 11 historical events that took place on that very day. From memorable entertainment moments to epic battles, world firsts, notable births, and even significant deaths, this skill covers it all.

Not only is it a super straightforward way to learn something new, but it’s also an excellent method to boost your pub quiz knowledge.

10. Classified Football Results

Hear the latest results read out by a commentating superstar

Scottish radio broadcaster James Alexander Gordon was best known for reading the classified football results every Saturday on the BBC. Sadly, he passed away in 2014, but this skill allows you to hear up-to-date football results all in the voice of the great Gordon.

Enable the skill and ask Alexa to open the classified football results to hear the final results read as they would have been by Gordon. It cleverly uses artificial intelligence to recreate his voice and is a lovely, nostalgic way to keep up to date with all the football scores.

11. Calm My Dog

Remove the stress from leaving your dog alone

As well as using your smart display as a pet monitor, you can use your smart devices to play music made to calm down your dog. This Alexa skill plays relaxing music to settle your dog when they’re stressed, either when they’re home alone or perhaps outside noise such as fireworks is upsetting them.

It’s backed by years of research and the music is created especially for pooches. We’ve tried it out on our dog on various occasions, more recently through a thunderstorm, and we can say it had the desired effect. It’s also very calming for humans, so the perfect backdrop to practising yoga for beginners or a little meditation.

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Jayne Cherrington-Cook

Written by Jayne Cherrington-Cook she/her

Updated:

Jayne is the Senior Editor at Saga Exceptional. She cut her online journalism teeth 24 years ago in an era when a dialling tone and slow page load were standard. During this time, she’s written about a variety of subjects and is just at home road-testing TVs as she is interviewing TV stars. A diverse career has seen Jayne launch websites for popular magazines, collaborate with top brands, write regularly for major publications including Woman&Home, Yahoo! and The Daily Telegraph, create a podcast, and also write a tech column for Women’s Own.

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