Alexa Azure

Tasks for Alexa Refreshed

Unfortunately for the past couple of weeks the Alexa skill to synchronise Microsoft To Do with Alexa lists has been limping along due to a mix up with my Azure subscription taking the Azure Function which serves the skill offline. Of course these things always happen when you’re on vacation and don’t have the ability to fix them!

Once I was able to get the service back up and running there was an ongoing issue with the configuration which meant that new registrations were not completing successfully meaning that changes from the Microsoft side were not being sent to Alexa. Implementing a fix for this was complicated by the fact that I’ve been working on a re-write of the service due to the Microsoft Office API being used reaching end of life and with a shutdown imminent. I’ve therefore had to re-write it against Microsoft Graph which finally supports Todo items but not 100% of the functionality which I could take advantage of in the old Office 365 REST service.

The long and short of it is that I bit the bullet and completed the Graph API work and the new codebase is now up and running. I’ve also been able to take advantage of updating the Azure Function to .NET 6. The Microsoft Graph API doesn’t support subscribing to notifications for all Todo items so I’ve made the tough choice of removing support for custom lists – the skill will now only synchronise the two standard Alexa lists (To-do and Shopping list). While I know that some users will be disappointed with this, the overhead required to support managing multiple subscriptions and list mappings for custom lists is really beyond the time and energy I have available to work on this and the compromise is a service which satisfies 95% of users and can continue to be maintained as a free skill.

Because of authentication changes in moving from the Office API to Microsoft Graph it will be necessary to disable and re-enable the skill to pick up the required permissions to read/write Todo items in Microsoft Graph. There are step by step instructions for doing this in the Frequently Asked Questions.

There is one last gotcha – Microsoft Graph doesn’t currently send change notifications when Todo items are deleted. Therefore to remove a Todo item you should mark it complete before deleting it otherwise it will remain in the Alexa list (or you should delete it from Alexa). This has been confirmed as a known issue and a fix is in the works so the skill will be able to take advantage of this in the next month or two.

By Peter Foot

Microsoft Windows Development MVP