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Smart Home

How to make your own custom Alexa commands

Use Amazon's new Skill Blueprints to do amazing new things with your Echo device, like create custom commands.

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Use the new Skill Blueprints to make Alexa do cool new tricks.

Ian Knighton/CNET

Amazon's virtual voice assistant just got a whole lot smarter.

With the arrival of Skill Blueprints, Alexa can now perform a variety of personalized tricks -- "skills," as Amazon calls them, that are personalized to you and your family.

For example, is someone studying for a test? With the Flashcards Blueprint, you can set up a customized set of questions -- and answers, natch -- and Alexa will deliver a voice-powered quiz.

Do you host an Airbnb? You can use the Houseguest Blueprint to answer guest questions. ("Alexa, where can I find more toilet paper?")

That's just the tip of the iceberg. There are about 20 Blueprints available now, and Amazon says more are on the way.

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In the meantime, let's walk through creating your own. It's not hard, and Amazon guides you through pretty much every step of the process, but a quick tutorial may help.

For starters, and it probably goes without saying, you'll need at least one Alexa-enabled device. (Once you've created a skill, it'll be accessible on any and all devices registered to your account.)

Next, head to the Skill Blueprints page -- and consider bookmarking it, because this is where you'll come to add future Blueprints and manage the ones you have.

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One of the most fun Blueprints is Custom Q&A.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

A great one to start with is Custom Q&A, which lets you set up answers to any questions you care to ask. Although you could use this for any number of practical purposes -- "Alexa, what's that password I'm always forgetting?" -- the potential here for fun and mischief is downright limitless.

Head to the Custom Q&A page, check out the provided samples, then click Make Your Own. You'll see a list of questions and answers already filled in; just replace any or all of them as you wish. Amazon says to limit yourself to about 10 words, but I was able to go longer -- for the answers, anyway.

Of particular interest, if your question is one that already exists in Alexa's database, the answer you supply here will supplant the stock answer. (Again: soooo much potential for mischief, here.)

When you're done, just click Next to finalize the Blueprint. This particular skill doesn't require you to preface it by saying, "Alexa, open such-and-such skill." Instead, you just ask your questions.

If you want to make changes, return to the Skill Blueprints page, click Skills You've Made, choose the one you want to modify, then click Edit.

Which Blueprint is your favorite, and what would you like to see Amazon add down the road? Let me know in the comments.