Review: 18 Alexa skills for productivity, collaboration and more

You can use Amazon’s voice-activated Alexa assistant to send Slack messages, texts, and emails; add items to to-do lists; and more. But do Alexa skills for business users really save you time and effort?

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Earlier this year, Amazon announced it had sold more than 100 million Alexa devices. Along with the consumer market, Amazon is also pushing Alexa into offices via Alexa for Business, which enables developers to create skills exclusively for internal users at their companies via APIs and other tools.

But can Alexa’s off-the-shelf skills truly make enterprise users more productive? Will they make collaboration easier? To find out, I tested 18 Alexa productivity and collaboration skills that are available to everyone but potentially useful for business professionals. All of these skills are free, although some are associated with paid or freemium services, as noted.

Send email and texts: Mastermind

Mastermind is a free voice-enabled productivity assistant that weaves together a variety of voice-activated tasks. First, you’ll need to install the Mastermind smartphone app and give it access to your contacts, calendar, and location. Once you do that and enable the Mastermind Alexa skill, you can say “Alexa, ask Mastermind to…” do things such as send dictated emails or text messages, take dictated notes, find out your phone’s battery level, give a status update on your day, and so on.

Mastermind’s capabilities aren’t all that unique, as some of its skills, such as checking your phone’s battery level, can already be handled by other assistants like Siri and Google Assistant. But Mastermind enables Alexa to transcribe your dictation as brief email messages and texts, things it can’t do on its own (though Alexa can send SMS messages from one Alexa device to another).

Unfortunately, there’s no support for punctuation in dictated messages, as I discovered with this and other Alexa skills involving dictation. For example, if you say ‘period’ at the end of a sentence, Alexa/Mastermind simply adds the word ‘period,’ not the punctuation. And I’m not sure you’ll save a ton of time dictating messages via Alexa/Mastermind, as you must have your message read back to you robotically before you can send it.

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