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VS Code Tool Targets Alexa Skills Development

A new Visual Studio Code extension from the Amazon Alexa dev team targets the development and deployment of skills, or capabilities the voice-activated virtual assistant can perform in response to verbal commands.

The new Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) Toolkit for Visual Studio Code (beta) leverages VS Code's integrated terminal -- a top user-requested feature -- to provide an inclusive editor 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 July 31 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 JSON schemas
  • Hover over a JSON object to see documentation
  • Submit a skill for certification

The VS Code tool leverages functionality found in the Alexa Skills Kit, a collection of self-service APIs, tools, documentation, and code samples that the Alexa dev team says eases the addition of skills to Alexa.

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

To use the VS Code extension, developers must install and initialize 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 parked on GitHub, and the Alexa team invited interested developers to customize it and contribute their work to the community.

As of publication time, the new extension has been installed 338 times, earning a perfect 5.0 rating from two developers who submitted reviews. "It's great to see a plugin to build Alexa skills in VSC," said one developer. "I was already using VSC and this will make things easier going forward."

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.

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