Santa Brought an Alexa? Skill it up with C#!

So Santa brought you or the family an Amazon Alexa?

Wondering if you can use your C# skills to write up an awesome Alexa Skill?

A few weeks ago, Tim Heuer wondered the same thing. Here’s what he found…

Write your Amazon Alexa Skill using C# on AWS Lambda services

I had spent a few days getting up-to-speed on Node and the environment (I’ve been working in client technologies for a long while remember) and using VS Code, which was fun.  But using C# would have been more efficient for me (or so I thought).  AWS Lambda services just announced they will support C# as the authoring environment for a Lambda service.  As it turns out, the C# Lambda support is pretty general so there is not compatibility in the dev experience for creating a C# Lambda backing a skill as there presently is for Node.JS development…at least right now.  I thought it would be fun to try and was eventually successful, so hopefully this post finds others trying as well.  Here’s what I’ve learned in the < 4 hours (I time-boxed myself for this exercise) spent trying to get it to work.  If there is something obvious I missed to make this simpler, please comment!

The Tools

You will first need a set of tools.  Here was my list:

With these I was ready to go.  The AWS Toolkit is the key here as it provides a lot of VS integration that will help make this a lot easier.

NOTE: You can do all of this technically with VS Code (even on a Mac) but I think the AWS Toolkit for VS makes this a lot simpler to initially understand the pieces and WAY simpler in the publishing step to the AWS Lambda service itself.  If there is a VS Code plugin model, that would be great, but I didn’t find one that did the same things here.

Armed with these tools, here is what I did…

Creating the Lambda project …

Create the function handler …

Working with the Alexa request/response …

Publishing the Lambda Function …

Testing the function …

Summary (thus far)

I set out to spend a minimal amount of time getting the C# Lambda service + Alexa skill working.  I’ve uploaded the full solution to a GitHub repository: timheuer/alexa-csharp-lambda-sample for you to take a look at.  I’m hopeful that this is simple and we can start using C# more for Alexa skills.  I think we’ll likely see some Alexa Skills SDK for .NET popping up elsewhere as well. 

Hope this helps!

… [Click through to read the whole post, yes, you’re going to want too… really…]

If you write a cool Alexa Skill in C#, let us know…

What? You think it’s a little weird that we’re highlighting Alexa Skills and not Cortana? The good news is that there’s some great dev stuff coming for Cortana in the coming year, check out this post, Cortana to open up to new devices and developers with Cortana Skills Kit and Cortana Devices SDK

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How do you tell the story behind your data? Find out on the next Modern Workplace

Join us for the next episode of Modern Workplace, “Visualize: The power of data storytelling,” and learn how to unlock the hidden potential within your data through visualization.

The post How do you tell the story behind your data? Find out on the next Modern Workplace appeared first on Office Blogs.

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Time Savers, the Definition of a VS Extension

It’s the day after Christmas. You’ve gotten some cool tech gifts, so of course you’re firing up Visual Studio to get to coding for/against/with them.

Then you find out you need to restart VS as an Admin. Or you’re trying to debug a VS Extension. Quickly edit the Solution XML? Project? Insert a GUID… And so on and so on… While doing these is not hard, but since maybe you don’t do them every day, it takes a bit of time to hunt down how.

What if these, and more, were just a click away?

That’s what Yann Duran thought too!

Visual Studio Time Savers

Time Savers Toolbar

This extension adds a new toolbar. Because it’s usually far easier to click a toolbar button than to have to go hunting for the command you want in a menu somewhere, the most convenient commands have been added to the toolbar.

To make the toolbar visible, right-click in a blank spot on the toolbar area, and select Time Savers.

Like all other Visual Studio toolbars, you can remove any commands that you feel you don’t need, or even add new commands to it.

Time Savers Menu

For those people who prefer a menu to a toolbar this extension also adds a new menu to Visual Studio’s main menu bar. All commands are available via this menu.

Context Menus

Most features are also available via another menu that’s been added to the right-click context menu of any code window, and to some nodes in Solution Explorer. This allows you to access nearly all of the Time Savers features without moving your mouse from the code you’re working on.

The commands have been grouped into their own Time Savers menu because most context menus are already pretty clogged up. And they’re growing all the time, as Microsoft or 3rd-party extensions add more and more commands to them.

It means that there is one more click than I’d ideally prefer, but I’ve found it much easier to find the commands in a dedicated menu than having to search through one gigantic menu of different commands.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Some of the features that tend to be used frequently have also been assigned a keyboard shortcut. And of course you can add your own keyboard shortcut to any of the Time Savers commands.


  • Activity Log
  • Cancel Build
  • Close Solution
  • Diagnostic Log
  • Edit Project
  • Edit Solution
  • Extensions and Updates
  • Insert Guid(s)
  • Keyboard Options
  • Path Variables
  • Rebuild Project
  • Rebuild Solution
  • Reopen Start Page
  • Restart Visual Studio
  • Restart Visual Studio as Administrator



[Click through to see more and download it]

And it wouldn’t be here if the source wasn’t available, yannduran/time-savers-vs Smile

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Last Week on Channel 9: December 19th–December 24th, 2016

Even though the Channel 9 Studios are closed for the Holidays, our content authors, producers and all around awesome show hosts continued to roll out the posts, giving us all something to watch while off from work… Winking smile

Here’s a select 17 shows, posts and videos from last week here on Channel 9.

Rogue One and InfoSec, Part 1

If Star Wars: A New Hope is a parable of incident management, as Kellman Meghu demonstrated, then Star Wars: Rogue One is a lesson in a security breach. Here’s what the Empire missed. …

Build a Chat Bot with Azure Bot Service

Microsoft MVPs Anthony Chu and Shaun Luttin sit down and build a natural language chat bot from scratch using the new Azure Bot Service and Microsoft Cognitive Services’ LUIS (Language Understanding Intelligent Service).

  • Overview of Azure Bot Service …
This Week On Windows: Year in Review

This Week on Windows: we’re taking a look back at some of the biggest Windows news of the year! Plus we take you to a school that’s utilizing Minecraft: Education Edition. Other topics covered in this episode include:

  • Windows 10 Anniversary Update …
Last Year On Channel 9: 2016

Now THAT was a year! We asked our Channel 9 Hosts for a few of their Picks of the Year. While it was almost impossible for them to narrow down such an awesome year, with some hair pulling, hemming and hawing and finally tough decisions (and some paper, rock and scissors) here are the top 14 Shows, Posts, Videos and Episodes for 2016 here on Channel 9 …

Getting started with bot development using Microsoft Bot Framework

Bots are the new Apps!

Find out how to build your first bot using the Microsoft Bot Framework with me. It’s just me and my laptop, no slides, no polish – just me showing you how to build your first bot and publish it for use in Skype, Teams, Slack etc etc.

I’m a Microsoft Office Servers & Services MVP but you don’t need to know anything special about communications technologies to get started building your new creation. I’ll go through the templates and tools you can use to jump-start your development. …

2016-12-15 | The Internet of Things: What You Need To Know

Transform business by connecting the things that matter most

The Internet of Things (IoT) starts with your things—the things that matter most to your business. IoT is about making your data come together in new ways. Tap into how data works for your business with IoT dashboards. Uncover actionable intelligence and modernize how you do business. See how IoT is revolutionizing businesses with field service organizations. …

Snack Pack 4: Interactive Learning with Xamarin Workbooks

Welcome to The Xamarin Show Snack Pack Edition. A Snack Pack is bite sized episode that is focused on a specific topic and covered in just a few minutes. In this episode we take a look at how to get started using Xamarin Workbooks. Workbooks is an interactive documentation tool for exploring a myriad of topics, from the basics of the C# language to fundamentals of computer science and advanced topics surrounding mobile application development. …

Getting started with PHP, Java, and SQL Server on Linux

In this episode, Dmitry is joined by Meet Bhagdev and Andrea Lam, who show us how to get started with programming apps in PHP and Java connecting to SQL Server on Linux. PHP and Java both have open sourced connectors that can be used by applications to connect to SQL Server anywhere (on-premises or in the cloud). This includes the recently released SQL Server on Linux and we’ll show you some demo’s using Visual Studio Code and the newly released SQL Server extension. …

2016-12-08 | Cortana Intelligence Suite: Big Data and Advanced Analytics

Transform the way your organization handles data

Looking to fully manage big data and advanced analytics to transform all that information into intelligent action? Take action ahead of your competitors by going beyond looking in the rearview mirror to predicting what’s next. The Cortana Intelligence suite is fast, flexible, secure, and scalable and brings intelligence to your data.

Join this webcast to learn how to:

Design for Surface Hub

Designing for this large screen, interactive, multi-user, multi-touch and multi-pen experience is different. Come to join Dr. Neil Roodyn and Jackie Giusti for this design session. The Powerpoint slide can be downloaded from the GitHub: …

SQL Server on Linux: The HOW

So, I could write up some lengthy introduction and details about what you are going to see in this video, but it wouldn’t do it justice. So, I’ll just say this:

This video is all about the HOW. Tobias and Slava are back in the studio to talk about what work went into porting SQL Server to run on Linux. For nearly 45 minutes, Tobias and Slava discuss the details and provide the insight into the thought process and work behind SQL on Linux. …

Tuesdays with Corey: Year end wrap up looking for FEEDBACK!

Corey Sanders, Director of Program Management on the Microsoft Azure Compute team takes some time to reflect on the past year and is asking for YOUR feedback on what to cover in 2017!

We’re always looking for Suggestions and Questions here in the comments section OR via twitter #AzureTwC. You never know – you might make it to an upcoming episode and be a virtual star of the show – like THIS one! …
Create and Run a Bot in 6 Minutes

Do you want to create and run your first bot with the Microsoft Bot Framework? This quick video will walk you through the steps.

I was hoping to accomplish this in 5 minutes but it took 6 minutes. Sorry for that. …

Episode 133: Azure Notebooks with Chris Wilcox

We talk with Chris Wilcox about Azure Notebooks. Typescript 2.1 with down-level async is finally here. And is everyone throwing away their MacBook Pro for a Surface Book? …

#318 – Tighter than a Goose’s Patoot

This week’s episode covers a lot of exciting topics. We start the show off talking about a great blog post that Todd recently published about a bad error message that PowerShell gives you with Office 365. Then we discuss some new things that Microsoft has released, like the SharePoint Migration Assessment tool, and some documentation on DR for Access Services. We also cover the things to consider when using a WAN accelerator with Office 365. …

One Dev Question with Raymond Chen – What was Y2k like at Microsoft?

The ‘One Dev Question with Raymond Chen’ video series is part of the One Dev Minute channel.  In this series, longtime Microsoft developer and semi-official Windows historian Raymond Chen covers a series of questions about Microsoft Windows development, team culture, and/or history.  If you have additional questions for Raymond, please add your questions in the comments section below.  You can also find out more development details about Windows and its history on Raymond’s blog. …

Stream processing with Apache Kafka on DC/OS running on Azure

Would you like to learn how to do stream processing with Apache Kafka on DC/OS running on Azure?

In this video Michael Hausenblas from Mesosphere walks us through a demo around financial transaction processing where he shows us how to process and visualize a stream of high-volume financial transactions in real time. …

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