Universal Alexa Skill Commands

One complaint many Echo owners have is that it’s difficult to remember the proper wording to launch, or “invoke”, the various Alexa skills they’ve enabled, as well as for using certain functions of specific skills.

What most Echo owners don’t know is that there are three very easy, universal, one-word commands that work for any skill: Launch, Help and Stop.  So long as you know these three words and the name of the skill, you’re all set.


Image credit: arxterra.com


Amazon Wants To Make It Easy
When Amazon opened the door for developers to start creating skills, they had a few certification requirements in place to ensure skills would be easy for their customers to use. Those requirements specify skill developers must include the Launch, Help and Stop commands in every Alexa skill.

Note that these are Amazon requirements for skill developers as of this writing, on 12/30/15; developer requirements are subject to change at any time in the future at Amazon’s discretion.


Launch: Universal Invocation/Start Command For Skills
One of those requirements is that every skill must include the “Launch” invocation command, which works by saying this:

“[wake word], launch [skill name].”

Launching a skill this way will fire off a welcome message (also required by Amazon), which will include a brief description of the skill and a few sample commands to try.

True, you still have to remember the name of the skill. But you don’t have to remember any other possible invocation/start commands that are specific to the skill.



Help: Universal Help Command For Skills
Another of Amazon’s skill requirements is that every skill must include a Help file.

After the welcome message has played you can ask Alexa to read the skill’s Help file to you, and the Help file will provide a brief overview of the skill and a list of commands to use in it. That means you don’t have to memorize anything about a given skill, other than its name. Here’s what to say:


Yup, that’s it. There’s no wake word requirement because you’re already using a skill, which means Alexa is already “awake” and listening to you.

It is Amazon’s intention that the “Help” command be available and functional for users anytime Alexa prompts for a reply from within a skill, but the one time you can be certain it will work is after you’ve listened to the Welcome message.


Stop: Universal Quit Command For Skills
Amazon also requires skill developers to include a universal quit command users can issue whenever Alexa prompts for a reply while a skill is running:


Easy, and intuitive.


You don’t have to memorize anything more than the name of the skill and these three commands: Launch, Help, and Stop.


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Echo owners looking for an alternative to Philips/HUE in the smart home starter kit area will want to take a look at the Samsung SmartThings Hub and Outlet Bundle (currently, as of 12/30/15, priced at $153.99). Samsung lists over 100 smart home devices that are compatible with their SmartThings Hub, such as Cree smart bulbs, GE smart switches, dimmers and outlets, Kwikset smart locks, Leviton smart bulbs, switches, dimmers and outlets, and more. Alexa can communicate with the SmartThings hub, and the SmartThings hub communicates with the various connected smart home devices. If you’d like to do some further research, see the Smart Things posts in the Home Automation subreddit for tips, questions and answers from Smart Things Hub owners.

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