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Top 20 free iPad apps (photos)

One of the key features of the Apple iPad is the App Store, where you can download tens of thousands of apps designed specifically for the iPad. Here are a few of our favorite, free iPad apps to help you get started.

Nicole Lee
Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.
Nicole Lee
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Netflix

Arguably the killer app for the iPad, Netflix's software lets you watch all of its streaming movies on the device, as long as you have a Netflix subscription. You can easily add new movies to your Instant Play queue from the app as well.
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iBooks

iBooks the obvious first choice for a free app that almost every iPad owner will want. The iBooks app gives you both an e-book reader as well as access to Apple's iBookstore where you can sample or purchase books and download them directly to the iPad. It features a landscape two-page view, page flip animations, a dictionary, and a highlight-bookmarks feature.
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Kindle

As an alternative to iBooks, we highly recommend Amazon's Kindle e-book reader app. Though not quite as pretty as iBooks, the Kindle app gives you access Amazon's slightly larger Kindle Store, plus you can read the Kindle books on your iPad, on your iPhone, your Mac or PC, and even your Kindle reader--if you happen to have one. Also, you are able to take notes on the Kindle app.
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ABC Player

The ABC Player app is one of the more advanced video player apps we've seen on the iPad. Mimicking ABC's Web interface, ABC's video player lets you stream the latest episodes of ABC's prime time TV lineup directly to your iPad. That includes shows like "Lost," "FlashForward," "V," and more. Its interface is sleek and its images are sharply defined.
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Epicurious

The iPad seems tailor-made for cooking apps, so it's no surprise that Epicurious has an app just for the iPad. The Epicurious iPad app is similar to its iPhone version--it gives you access to Epicurious' large library of recipes, plus it helps you gather a shopping list of ingredients once you've chosen the recipes you want.
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Twitterific

There are many Twitter apps for the iPad already, but my favorite is Twitterific. The interface is really simple, intuitive, and is just all-around good looking. In portrait mode, all you see is your time line, where you can easily reply, retweet, or mark a tweet as favorite. Flip it to landscape mode, and you'll see a sidebar on the left that leads you to your Replies, Lists, and more. The free version has ads at the top, but they're not that obtrusive.
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New York Times Editors' Choice

This free app is a beautiful curated edition of the New York Times newspaper. You won't get the whole paper on here--just a few articles selected by the editors--but it's presented so beautifully that you really feel like you're holding the paper.
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USA Today

The USA Today app is yet another take on how a newspaper should be presented on the iPad. It feels a lot more like a tabloid in presentation, and we like that you can customize the weather sidebar to your location.
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NPR

The NPR app for the iPad smartly organizes the day's news and topics into a magazine style format, where you can either read through stories or click on the speaker icon to listen to that particular segment. You can also listen to the entire taping of recent show episodes.
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Marvel

You might be skeptical about the iPad as a good e-book reader, but there is no doubt in my mind that it is an excellent reader for digital comics. Marvel was one of the first to release an iPad app, and if you're a fan of Marvel comics, this is probably the app to get.
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Comixology

Say you're not a Marvel fan? Not to worry, as the Comixology app gives you access to many other non-Marvel comic titles. The library is not as wide as we would like, but it's a good start.
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Adobe Ideas 1.0

The iPad's large 9.7-inch screen simply begs for a drawing app, and developers have been more than happy to oblige. While there are many paid sketch programs out there, I rather like this free Adobe Ideas app. It has a pretty simple interface, but if all you want is a basic drawing app, this will work just fine. Also, you can color sample from your existing photo library, or you can doodle over your photos too if you wish.
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AIM

The AIM app for the iPad, as you can imagine, lets you chat with friends on AOL Instant Messenger. In portrait mode, the friends list is hidden.

It also has a livestream feature that will stream in all your social-media updates. So you will be able to catch up with your friends on Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and more via the AIM livestream.

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Kayak Flights

If you're not already aware, Kayak is a popular and useful online tool that lets you search for the cheapest airline ticket, hotel room, and car rental across all the different travel sites (Travelocity, Orbitz, and so on). The iPad app is actually a lot more well-organized and intuitive than Kayak's own Web site.
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Gilt

The Gilt app might be the fanciest way to do online shopping we've ever seen. You sign up for a Gilt account, and you'll be presented with an iPad interface to the Gilt online store. As the glittery name might suggest, the app is full of glossy catalog photos of hot designer items from such brand names as Jonathan Adler and Kate Spade. If you're into that sort of thing, this is a certainly an easy way to indulge your inner shopaholic.
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Pandora

The Pandora app for the iPad is a larger and prettier version of the iPhone app. It uses a music recommendation engine to suggest songs to you based on your preferences.
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17 of 20 Shazam

Shazam

Again, this is mostly just an iPad version of the iPhone app. Shazam is a song ID service to help you identify songs you hear at a cafe or the radio.
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18 of 20 Evernote

Evernote

Just like the iPhone app, Evernote lets you jot down notes and sync them with the cloud on Evernote's servers.
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Labyrinth 2 HD

Labyrinth 2 HD is a big brother version of the iPhone game. Not only is it a labyrinth style game where you guide a shiny ball over holes to its destination, you also have to contend with reflectors and laser beams.
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Yahoo Entertainment

The Yahoo Entertainment app provides you with a handy a TV program guide, plus the latest sports scores and news headlines from Yahoo News.

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