Apple's iPad may be gnawing into traditional laptop sales like a hyperactive beaver through a riverbank full of birch trees, but, , the full potential of the touchable tablet only really becomes obvious when you start adding third-party apps. The seductive slab has its own section in the iTunes App Store, where you'll find our top ten must-haves.
Currently the best way to get your Facebook fix on the iPad, Friendly is a dedicated Facebook browser with some neat features. The interface has been specially designed to take full advantage of the iPad's display and touch controls, and looks good in both portrait and landscape orientation. It will be instantly familiar to seasoned social networkers, with home, profile, friends and inbox tabs all in a similar arrangement to the computer-based site.
There's no support for in-Facebook apps, but Friendly does have some nifty ways to view and browse photo albums in a kind of swipe-able slideshow style.
Also consider: IM+ Pro (£5.99)
Virtuoso Piano Free 2 HD
Now you can tickle the ivories wherever you go, thanks to this splendidly simple piano-emulating app. Virtuoso squeezes two rows of 21 keys onto the iPad's screen. You can either play as a solo artist, or switch to Duette mode, which spins the top layer of keys around to face the other way, so another pianist can sit opposite you and play along in perfect harmony. A slider at the top of each set of keys allows you to adjust your position along the full keyboard, and you can choose to label each key -- useful for learners.
Also consider: iSequence for iPad (£8.99)
There are plenty of news and social networking apps on iTunes, but none are quite as ingenious or elegant as Flipboard. Pitched by the makers as a "personalised, social magazine", Flipboard aggregates all your latest Facebook updates, tweets and news feeds, and magically turns them into a stylishly laid-out digital magazine. We love seeing headlines of global importance from the BBC News Twitter feed alongside pull-quotes describing what your mate Dave got up to in the pub last night.
Also consider: Instapaper (£2.99)
So you've effectively got a giant iPod touch built into your iPad, but, like its smaller sibling, the tablet can't natively stream media from your main PC, and there are certain file types it just won't play. Zumocast gets around both of these deficiencies. Simply install the free server software on your computer to access movies, music and photos from your PC anywhere there's a Wi-Fi or 3G signal. Non-iPad-friendly file formats like DivX are converted on the fly and, as a bonus, you can also view your documents.
Also consider: VLC Player (Free)
Another simple but well-executed app, Penultimate turns your iPad into an electronic jotter. There's nothing as advanced as handwriting recognition on offer -- this is basically for writing quick notes using your finger as a biro, rather than having to wrestle with cumbersome keyboard entry. Alternatively, you can use it to scribble surreptitious cartoons of your boss during the Wednesday meeting. Choose between graph, lined or plain paper as well as three different line widths and six ink colours. There's an eraser on hand to rub out mistakes and your jottings can be emailed (as PNG image files) from within the app.
Also consider: Drawing Pad (£1.19)
Naysayers tend to point out that the iPad is no replacement for a proper PC. And they're right. With Logmein Ignition, at least, you can use your tablet to control your computer over a home network or Internet connection. Logmein Ignition puts your whole computer, along with all its files and programs, quite literally at your fingertips. There are other, cheaper remote control apps available, but none are as fully featured as Ignition, which provides you with a virtual mouse and allows you to remotely switch your computer's resolution to better match your iPad's display.
Also consider: TeamViewer HD (Free)
This useful little app converts your iPad into a portable storage device. Plug your 'Pad into your PC and use iTunes to drag and drop documents, pictures, zip files and more to and from the computer. You can view documents, copy and paste, and send files as attachments from within the app itself.
There's not much more to it than that, but being able to transfer, view and carry important files with you at all times adds a surprisingly useful dimension to Apple's device. Memory Stick also gets points for being fast, cheap and easy to use.
Also consider: Mobile Mouse (£1.79)
As an ebook reader, the iPad holds massive potential. The ability to digitally digest traditional books and magazines on the move is one of the tablet's biggest selling points, but so far we've found many iPad reader apps curiously clunky and unresponsive. One of the better apps for smooth, intuitive reading on the iPad is Marvel's dual-purpose comic store and reader.
Powered by ComiXology's technology, the app lets you browse, buy and download new and back-catalogue issues. You can then read through them either a page at a time or in guided view mode, which takes you through individual panels in sequence as you swipe the screen.
Also consider: Free Books (Free)
Apps aren't just for addictive gaming and virtual fart noises. The iPad's large screen makes it possible to do useful, grown-up stuff like create and edit documents. And there's no better way to do so at the moment than with Apple's own Pages app. Pages is a powerful word processor that works just like the version in Apple's iWorks suite. The only difference is that the iPad edition has been completely redesigned from the ground up, with fingertip control in mind. Typing on the on-screen keyboard can be a bit trying over sustained periods, but everything else, from editing text to positioning and tweaking pictures, feels incredibly natural.
Also consider: Documents to Go Premium (£9.99)
Todo for iPad
Whether you have a brain like a sieve or just a very busy schedule, Todo could be an invaluable aid. It works -- and looks -- just like an electronic Filofax, replete with binder rings and a faux leather case. It's possible to personalise the way your Todo looks using downloadable themes, in case you're not a fan of the whole 'make your digital stuff look like real-world stuff' meme.
Todo is a powerful task manager that can be synced with desktop and online programs and services, such as Appigo Sync, Toodledo and Todo's own cloud-based system. It also has the benefit of being much cheaper and easier to use than some of its competitors -- we're looking at you, OmniFocus.
Also consider: OmniFocus for iPad (Price: £23.99)