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Open Source Visual Studio Code Extension Helps Create Alexa Skills

The Amazon Alexa dev team has published an open source extension to help developers using the Visual Studio Code editor to create and deploy Alexa skills.

In this context, "skills" refers to capabilities or functions that the Amazon voice-activated virtual assistant can perform in response to spoken commands.

The new Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) Toolkit for Visual Studio Code (beta) leverages VS Code's integrated terminal -- a top user-requested feature introduced in 2016 -- to provide a one-stop shop for Alexa skills development.

"You can use the ASK extension to call the Alexa Skills Kit Command Line Interface (CLI) from within Visual Studio Code, and can see the results in an integrated terminal," the team said in a recent blog post. "This allows you to perform nearly all skill development actions within Visual Studio Code."

Those actions include:

  • Discover ASK commands by typing “ASK” from the VS Code command palette
  • Create a skill using Alexa templates
  • Generate code snippets for built-in intents, custom intents, slots, and request handlers
  • Identify errors in your JSON schema
  • Hover over a JSON object to see documentation
  • Submit a skill for certification

The VS Code tool builds upon the Alexa Skills Kit, a collection of self-service APIs, tools, documentation, and code samples that the Alexa dev team says makes it fast and easy for developers to add skills to Alexa.

"ASK enables designers, developers, and brands to build engaging skills and reach customers through tens of millions of Alexa-enabled devices," the team says. "With ASK, you can leverage Amazon’s knowledge and pioneering work in the field of voice design."

Using the VS Code extension requires the installation and initialization of the ASK CLI. More information on using the tool can be found in a getting started guide and documentation. Source code for the open source preview project is available on GitHub, and the dev team invited interested developers to customize it and contribute to the community.

As of this writing, the newly introduced extension has been installed 338 times, earning a perfect 5.0 rating from two developers who submitted reviews.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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