Alexa is Amazon’s voice assistant that powers its Echo series of home automation devices. One of the main reasons for its current popularity is the number of third party skills. There are as many as 4000 skills available covering everything from controlling light bulbs to reading jokes. For a new owner, there are just too many to go through so here is a list of what might be useful to set up at the start:

Shopping list

Adding items to a shopping list is one of the two most popular uses of the Echo. The default location for items is the built in list. However, you can link the list function to either Todoist or, two third party list services.


The number one use for voice assistants so far is as a kitchen timer. With an Alexa based assistant, creating a timer is as simple as saying “Alexa set a timer for xx minutes.” The Echo supports three simultaneous timers.


You can stream music from Amazon Prime music, Spotify or TuneIn Radio. It is unlikely that Apple Music and Google Play music will be available anytime soon.


The third most popular use for Alexa is to control smart home devices. There is support for hundreds of devices, either directly or through hubs and bridges. For example, The Phillips Hue Bridge has direct support, which enables access to all lights controlled by that bridge.

Regardless of the other skills available, these four are the first things any new Echo owner should activate.

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