Have you just gotten your paws on your very first iPad? Hooray! But you don't want to leave it like that, do you? No. So let's get your feet on the road to appiness, navigating the twisty and confusing paths of the App Store and weeding out exactly what you need.
Now, bear in mind, we are not telling you that these are apps you absolutely must have; everyone's needs will be different after all. But hopefully we can give you a good starting point so you can fly free and customise your iPad however you like.
If there's one program pretty much everyone will use at some point or another, it's word processing. Pages — Apple's "official" iPad word processor — supports Pages '09, Word and plain text files for editing. It's clearly laid out, has a decent set of editing features and is easy to use, making the asking price pretty decent. We're very much looking forward to the local release of CloudOn, though.
Not everyone needs to make spreadsheets, but if you do, again — Apple's official app is probably the best to use right now. It supports Numbers '09, Excel and CSV files, and allows you to save your documents to iCloud, as well as share them online or via Mail. Again, though, if you don't need it straight away, it might be worth waiting for CloudOn.
There are a few free PDF readers out there, but if you want the good editing stuff, you're going to have to part with some dollars. We like GoodReader; it can handle large files with ease, and has a bunch of neat editing tools: shapes, lines, text, highlighting, sticky notes and freehand drawing. It also supports .doc, .ppt, .txt, .xls, iWork and HTML files, as well as iDisk, Dropbox, SugarSync, Google Docs and others.
Free (subscription AU$5.49/month or AU$46.99/year)
Evernote is one of those apps that seems to do everything. It's kind of like a virtual notebook. You can create and edit text, image and audio files, which you can then sync with your Mac, PC or web — you can access your files (including Office files), edit them and then sync them back. Everything is backed up, so you'll always have access to your notes and you need never lose track of anything again.
Ever wanted to make sweet, sweet music but lacked the know-how to wrangle a guitar? Rockmate is like a band for your fingers, with a bunch of instruments so that you can write your own tunes — and get up to three friends joining in. Instruments include drums, guitar and keyboard, with some cool samples and distortion effects. When you're done, you can export your rock symphony as a .wav or .aac and share via iTunes and email.
A great way to expand your music library is Discovr Music. Enter in a band you like, and the app will find similar artists, using a tree-like interface that you can expand indefinitely. By tapping on a band, you can expand the tree; double-tapping takes you to the artist's info page, where you can view YouTube clips; listen to sample tracks; hit up blogs, reviews and social network feeds; and hop over to the iTunes page to purchase songs if you like what you see.
GarageBand is Apple's own app for makin' tunes, and it's a bit different to Rockmate, which is designed to be more collaborative. GarageBand has a larger suite of instruments, and you can record vocals as well. Pre-recorded loops get you started on your path to master composer-dom (is that a thing? It is now), and you can share your creations via email and iTunes.
For the radio lovers out there, it doesn't get much better than TuneIn Radio Pro. It has access to over 50,000 radio shows worldwide, so you can keep up with your favourite shows wherever you may be, or find stations that specialise in your favourite genres. You can pause and rewind broadcasts, and even set up recording times for your favourite programs. We also like that it can run in the background of other apps — so you can listen no matter what you're doing.
There are a number of great Unreal-based games on the iTunes app store now, but we think Epoch is among the best. This fast-paced cover-based shooter is simple to play, but the action is so much fun that it never gets old — and it looks absolutely stunning to boot.
Among the most gorgeous games available for iPad falls the Drawn series by Big Fish Games. It combines hidden object and point-and-click-mystery gameplay, with all sorts of puzzles to solve — all rendered in a beautiful painterly style.
The side-scrolling platformer is never going to get old. Terra Noctis is pretty simple, controls-wise, and it has a fun little story to boot: as a nightmare, Allen is just far too cute to be scary — so he sets off on a quest to get his monster mojo. Levels include monsters, traps and secret collectibles to keep things fresh, and the controls are smooth and slick, making it a pleasure to play.
Every now and again, someone makes a game that is genuinely unique. Superbrothers falls under that category. Between the dazzling pixel imagery, atmospheric soundtrack and whimsical humour, Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery transcends simple "game" status and becomes something truly magnificent indeed.
There are a few racing games that use the iPad's accelerometer so that you can use the iPad like a steering wheel — DrawRace is not among them; instead, you draw your finger around the racetrack to create your car's path; but you have to act fast, and use the turbo button strategically. There's a heap of tracks, a heap of cars and even online multiplayer.
Words with Friends is kinda like Scrabble. Actually, it's a lot like Scrabble, and you play it online against your friends or strangers, with as many as 20 games on the go at once — so any time you're in the mood for some word-wrangling against real, unpredictable opponents, it's there and ready to play, with in-game chat messaging included.
This game needs very little introduction. You control an army of plants. You have a number of tools at your disposal to fight off the inexorable advance of shambling zombie hordes. There are 26 different kinds of zombies, and you'll need every tool at your disposal to defeat them in this strategic tower defence game.
Mirror's Edge was one of the launch titles for the iPad, and it's a mark of its excellence that it still stands up. You play Faith, a rebel courier working against a totalitarian government, and you have to run, leap and parkour your way through government agents and rooftop obstacles to save the city. It's crisp and clean, and you can play through both a single-player campaign and a race against friends in online multiplayer.
While Amazon is all about the size of its store, Kobo has always focused on the user experience. The same is true for its e-reading app, which enhances your reading experience with a whole bunch of cool features, including support for external downloads (which you can install via iTunes), access to the Kobo book store, the Reading Life system of rewards and social reading, Instapaper integration for reading blogs and websites and syncing your Kobo account.
If you don't have a Kindle e-reader, there is still a way to access Amazon's vast library of ebooks: through the Kindle app. Through the iPad app, you can also subscribe to magazines and newspapers, read print replica textbooks, email PDFs to a send-to-Kindle email address, read free book samples and sync your books across devices with the Kindle app installed — so if you're reading a book on your iPad, you can pick up where you left off on your Android phone.
If you're not interested in having a bookstore attached to your e-reading, Goodreads is a fantastic alternative. It's a large community of book lovers from all around the world, where you can find and write reviews, participate in discussions, track the books you've read, use a barcode scanner to add books to the site, and actually read books themselves. It's a great way to be connected to All Things Book.
One thing E Ink readers don't do well is comics. Comic Zeal is an awesome way for you to read and manage your digital funnybooks. It doesn't have comic store integration, but you can upload CBR and CBZ files to the app, organise them however you like, "virtual longbox" style, and take them out of their digital drawers for reading.
If, though, you do want a shop, Comics by ComiXology is the most comprehensive digital comics store we've seen. It supplies comics from a whole plethora of publishers — big guns Marvel and DC; Image; Tokyopop; and Boom Studios; as well as indie houses such as Slave Labor and Top Cow. Browsing and buying comics is simple and, once you've purchased a book, you'll be able to download it again to your iPhone or when you upgrade your iPad. Best of all, there are free samples of books that you can download and read before you commit to a series.
Dictionaries probably aren't really all the rage any more, are they? Nevertheless, a good dictionary is a basic necessity as far as we're concerned. What we like about the Australian Oxford app is that it has local definitions, jargon and spelling; and, while it's a bit pricier than other apps you might buy, it updates, unlike a printed dictionary — so you may never need to buy another dictionary again.
"Everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you."
Pocket Weather AU allows you to keep track of the weather (duh), pulling data from the Bureau of Meteorology for the whole of Australia. This doesn't just include whether or not it's going to be sunny; you can also get Doppler radars, sunrise and sunset times, tides and weather warnings. You can also opt to get updated on the weather via text message up to three times a day, and it's all presented in a slick user interface.
Epicurious does have a few annoying foibles; measurements, for example, are displayed only in imperial; but it has a very vast library of over 30,000 recipes for you to browse and search. Set up an account and you can save recipes to your favourites; and you can also create shopping lists from recipes so you know exactly where to go in the supermarket.
If you have a web page you particularly want to read — a long article or blog post, say, or an analysis of some sort of scientific survey — Instapaper allows you to save a copy of it offline for reading later, effectively lessening your data usage.
For those who aren't as confident in the kitchen, The Video Cookbook is like a cooking companion and teacher. It contains 240 recipes, with how-to videos and photos by professional chefs ... and it even allows you to choose metric or imperial measurements (the lack of metric is a common complaint on the app store.) It even helps you scale up and down quantities depending on how many people you are cooking for, and includes a glossary of kitchen terminology.
This isn't the only learning app available, but we've chosen it as an example because it's just so beautifully made. It's an interactive periodic table of the elements, and each element can be zoomed in on and interacted with. You can also read about the element: its facts and figures, how it is used in the real world and so on, with a collection of images showing what it looks like. You can then zoom in and rotate these images for a more thorough exploration.
There's a lot out there in the big, wide universe. Star Walk uses the iPad's accelerometer to show you what's in the sky above your head at any given time. You can tap on any astral body to view its information, check out constellations, view the sky from the past or future, and search for planets and stars to learn just a little bit more about infinity and beyond.
Google Earth isn't just about scaling Chomolungma from the comfort of your couch. You can also get directions, find places around you, check out geolocated Wikipedia articles and search for cities, places of interest and businesses to see them in the real world.
As iPad App of the Year last year, Snapseed has some pretty high expectations to live up to. Luckily, it meets them. It uses the iPad's camera to take a photo; then, using the in-app software, you can tweak and edit the photo to your taste, with fun filters, borders, a single-tap Auto Correct and other editing tools. Then you can share your shots via Twitter, Facebook, email and Flickr.
This is one for the doodlebugs out there: an app that lets you create sketches, paintings and drawings on a 1024x768 canvas. You can use up to 12 layers on the iPad 2 with a large number of art supplies, including paints, pens, pencils and markers. You can even import and scribble on photos from your photo library, and export the images as PSD files to be polished on your computer.
Art Set is similar, but a bit less pricey. It offers you a massive set of drawing tools, as well as different types of paper, and has been built to produce the kinds of results you'd see from those tools and surfaces in the real world.
No more looking up the TV guide online, or even grabbing the Sunday paper just for the TV guide; OzTV will provide you with the timetables for every free-to-air TV channel in Australia in an easy-to-read format. You can also check out full show information, search for shows, set reminders, and download the guide for offline viewing.
Missed your favourite show on ABC? iView allows you to catch up on all your ABC viewing, right from your iPad, with shows remaining online for a period of time after the ABC airing date. There are even some juicy iView exclusives, just for you, as well as series that you can purchase. And if you want news 24/7, it's available live.
If British telly is more up your alley, the BBC iPlayer brings you the best of British TV, with premium content for subscribers and a bunch of free goodies for those who aren't quite as invested in Little Britain and Jane Austen miniseries.
Most banks in Australia have a dedicated free app, and being able to access mobile banking can make your life a hell of a lot easier, with most allowing you to make money transfers, view your account balance and details, and pay bills. Check the list below for your bank's app and click through to find out what features it offers.
Safari isn't terrible, but if you want a more fully featured web-browsing experience, a third-party app is the way to go. Atomic Web Browser is great; as well as including a gesture-based navigation system and the ability to download files and images in the background, you can also turn on adblock, save pages for offline viewing, autofill forms, search for words, bookmark favourites and a whole bunch of other things that make iPad web browsing a lot smoother.
The iPad doesn't come with a calculator, which is annoying, but it's an easy fix. This free calculator from Foxsoft can be customised to look however you like, and includes trigonometric and scientific functions.
Turn your iPad into an alarm clock with Night Stand. It comes with nine gorgeous clock types, a stop watch, multiple alarms, weather information for your location, and a world clock so you can see what time it is anywhere on Earth.
The Facebook app for iPad is really nice. It's a lot easier to navigate than the tiny iPhone screen, with a sidebar that lets you get around quickly and easily. The bigger screen also lets you check out friends' photos in a higher resolution, and you can even play your Facebook games from within the app.
Because the iPad is such a great travel device, it's perfect for a video-calling app such as Skype. You can keep in touch with family and friends. As soon as you sign into Skype, your contact list will be right there, and you can call other users on their phones, iDevices, computers or Skype-enabled TVs. One of the things we like about Skype for iPad over Skype for computer is that you can walk around and show what's happening around you.
No matter what instant chat program you use, chances are it's supported by IM+ Pro; and if you use several, it's an awesome way to consolidate them into one program. Skype, Facebook, MSN Messenger, Yahoo, AIM, MySpace, Google Chat and ICQ are all included, giving you a great free alternative to SMS. And you can chat via text, or send photos, videos or audio files — whichever suits you best.
We're still waiting on a good TweetDeck app for iPad, but the Twitter app itself is OK. Not great, but OK. It allows you to view your feed, browse your interests and conduct real-time searches. If you have to be connected at all times, this is the app for you.
We all have our favourite websites and blogs. Flipboard is a fun way of following them. You nominate the sites you frequent, and Flipboard organises it all into a sort of personalised digital magazine, where you can turn pages for more content and tap on summaries to read the full article. You can read blogs, news websites, Facebook, Twitter and use Instapaper for offline reading.
If you're a reader of magazines, you can stop worrying about paper: Zinio is a subscription app that allows you to download magazines and read them right on your iPad. The number of magazines you can buy is huge — and you can even read articles for free. It also has options to suit your reading style: high-definition colour or a simpler text version, and you can read offline or on. It's hands-down probably the best magazine app around.
SBS World News is the best local televisual source for objective global news. With the free app, you can keep abreast of what's happening worldwide, with breaking news, video and radio reports, a customisable "My News" section, so that you can easily find news on the topics and regions most relevant to you, a comment function as well as Facebook and Twitter sharing, and an offline mode.
For news with a bit more of a local focus, the ABC app will keep you up-to-date 24/7. It has 24-hour news coverage, on both a national and local level; catch-up TV and radio on demand; and ABC radio stations.