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Smart Home

These are first 7 Alexa skills you should enable

The ever-growing world of Alexa skills can be daunting. Here are the seven you should give a go first.

Taylor Martin/CNET

After you take the time to set up your new Alexa speaker, explore some of its topical features, and find other ways it can help you through the day, digging into third-party skills is the next logical step.

But the world of Alexa skills can be daunting. There are so many to choose from, it can be difficult to find the ones that matter to you.

So we've done the hard work for you and narrowed down the thousands of skills to a short list of the ones you should try first.

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Skills for smart home devices

One of the very first things you should do with a brand new Alexa speaker is connect it with all of the smart-home gadgets you have around your home. Suggesting just one of these skills doesn't make a lot of sense, however, since every smart home is different. So peruse the skills catalog for the devices you own and enable those skills.

If you have a smart thermostat, enable Nest or Ecobee. Connect your smart bulbs with the Lifx or Philips Hue skills. Alexa also works with June Oven, Wink, SmartThings, iRobot, TP-Link and many more.

Add your favorite outlets to your Flash briefing

Setting up your Flash Briefing is another great thing to do with a brand-new Alexa speaker. Out of the box, it will tell you things like the forecast and things you should try with your new speaker. But you can customize this to include news from your favorite outlets.

For instance, CNET News, NPR, BBC, This Day In History and many others can be added to your Flash Briefing.

Big Sky

Alexa is pretty proficient at telling you the weather. You can ask for tomorrow's forecast, whether it's going to rain today or what the current temperature is -- pretty standard stuff. If you want to go more in-depth with weather information, Big Sky is a major upgrade over the built-in weather feature.

Big Sky uses the Dark Sky API and will give you hour-by-hour updates down to your specific street address. It will tell you humidity, the highest temperature in the next week and things like dew point, barometric pressure and historic weather. Big Sky can also deliver notifications for severe weather in your area.

If you want more, you can upgrade to Big Sky premium for $2.99 (or $2.40 for Prime members) per year.

AnyPod

AnyPod is the way to upgrade your podcast listening experience on Alexa. It lets you subscribe to podcasts using your voice and, unlike the default Alexa podcast player, you can request previous episodes of a specific show. To switch to an older episode, just say, "Alexa, previous."

To unlock the full features of AnyPod, you will need to link your Amazon account (which you can do by visiting the companion website).

Domino's/Pizza Hut

If you're a pizza lover, the Domino's skill is going to be one of your favorites. You can order your most recent order, your Easy Order or build a pizza from scratch, all with your voice. Just say, "Alexa, open Domino's and place an order."

If Domino's isn't your jam, there is also a Pizza Hut skill.

7-Minute Workout

After you've gorged yourself on pizza, you might want to enable a workout skill. One of the most well-known is the 7-Minute Workout, which will guide you through the renowned workout, step by step.

If you use the Echo Show ($150 at Walmart) or Spot, the skill will also tell you how to perform each exercise. (This information is available in the Alexa companion app for those with a standard Alexa speaker without a display.)

For other workout skills, consider the Five Minute Workout, Yoga Studio or Tabata Workout.

Ambient Sounds

Finally, one of the better uses for a smart speaker is turning it into a white noise machine to help you sleep better. You can find white noise on Spotify or Amazon Music, but the family of Ambient Sounds skills from Invoked Apps is one of our favorite ways to listen to different relaxing sounds.

Here are some of the Ambient Sounds available:

  • Thunderstorm
  • Heavy rain
  • Forest night
  • Ocean
  • Waterfall
  • Fireplace
  • Windy leaves
  • Rain on a tent
  • Babbling brook

Ambient Sounds is just one of many sound skills to choose from, however. Alternatives from different developers are Sleep Sounds: Box Fan Sounds, Air Conditioner Sounds, Brain Healing Sounds or Delta Waves.

Now that you've tackled some of the first skills you should enable, here are 50 more you should try and 7 that work great with the Echo Show.

Also, consider these 25 games you can play with Alexa.