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10 must-have iPad apps

The first thing most people do after buying an Apple iPad or iPad mini is head to iTunes and start downloading apps. But with hundreds of thousands to choose from, where do you start? Apple makes recommendations, but who knows how they create their list. Apple also makes it pretty easy to see what is most popular, but does anyone really need three different versions of Angry Birds?

For that matter, I think you can find the low hanging fruit, like YouTube, Skype, and (ahem) Fruit Ninja HD on your own. Genius is great, but only if you already have apps to profile. If you want essential apps that improve almost everything you do with your iPad, start with this list of 10 killer apps.

However, before I continue, I should make it clear that this is my personal list of favourites. Although I solicited suggestions from fellow staff members, there was no way we could all agree on the same 10. To make it concise, I had to make it personal. So any omissions are entirely my fault. That said, I think the list is pretty killer.

I had just a couple of requirements for this list. The apps had to have a wide ranging appeal among average users. Sketch for the iPad is certainly a killer app, but if your artistic abilities are like mine – the word "limited" comes to mind – it is useless to you. When I say these apps are essential for every man, woman and child, I mean it.

Before we get to the top ten list itself, I should mention some of the apps which are top notch, but missing from this article. Instapaper, for example, is the foundation for all time-shifted content and a hugely important app – but Pocket just works better and is a lot more visual. Others, like Amazon's excellent-but-staid Kindle app, just seem routine at this point in time. There is nothing wrong with Adobe Photoshop for iPad, but Snapseed is both more fun and more social.

Of course, you are probably going to download and install many more than these 10 apps on your iPad. Consider these apps an excellent and well-informed start, and without further ado, let’s get going…

Snapseed (free)

When you think about editing photos, you probably think Photoshop, and Adobe does offer a great version of Photoshop for the iPad. But I think you will be better served – and find a more enjoyable experience – with Snapseed for the iPad. The app offers slick integration with Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter, and it also makes posting photos online easy. And Snapseed's filters and effects put Instagram's to shame – plus the fact that it’s now free makes this app even more compelling.

Pocket (free)

Pocket used to be called ReadItLater, and both services are based on the Instapaper platform for capturing and storing articles for later reading. Pocket is the latest incarnation and it is easily one of the most important apps on my iPad. There is way too much out there to read, and with Pocket I know I will always be able to, well, read it later. Deleting stories is a tad onerous, but this app has plug-ins for all major browsers and works with both iOS and Android. It just makes life better full-stop.

Zite (free)

You have probably heard about Flipboard, but I would instead steer you toward Zite. Instead of picking up content from its publishing partners, Zite looks at your Facebook, Twitter, and Google Reader subscriptions and creates a compelling visual magazine for you. The pictures look great, the content is easy to read, and it’s easy to share. Best of all, the app is totally free.

StumbleUpon (free)

Whereas Zite makes the most of your social connections and favourite sites, StumbleUpon helps you discover entirely new ones. You will have to set up an account (although you can use Facebook if you want to) and from then on StumbleUpon will bring you stories you would not have found any other way – plus you can share your own, as well. Think of it as a more mainstream Digg, before Digg, you know, imploded.

Epicurious (free)

Packed with more than 25,000 recipes and some stunning photography, the Epicurious app makes for mouth-watering browsing. Just type in whatever you have in your fridge and the app will give you some ideas for dinner and create a shopping list for any ingredients you don’t have. What, you don’t cook? But you have to eat, right?

Penultimate (69 pence)

I will preface this one by saying that handwriting on the iPad is not what you expect. The screen was built to respond to your finger, not a stylus, and you can't expect it to magically transform your poor handwriting. Even so, there are millions of people who use it with a stylus every day and are quite happy with it. The fastest way to find out if this is for you is to download the excellent Penultimate for iPad, buy (or maybe borrow) a stylus, and start making your mark on your Apple tablet.

NetFlix (free)

Most of the iPad’s video watching experience revolves around iTunes, but NetFlix makes a great alternative. While the app itself is free, you do need to subscribe to Netflix to access the thousands of videos in the service’s online catalogue. You will need a strong Wi-Fi connection, but given that you will have hours of low cost movie watching to partake of.

iWork (£21)

Okay, yes, I cheated here: iWork is really three applications in one – namely Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, but they are all worth downloading at £6.99 each. Even if you don’t think you will ever create a presentation on your iPad, at some point you are going to want to open one and edit it. And Pages is simply the best word processor on the iPad so far. Get Numbers just because you never know when accounting is going to send you an urgent spreadsheet that needs work. iWork will help you get work done wherever you go.

iDisplay (£2.99)

Download this app to turn your iPad into a side monitor for any Mac or even Windows 7 PC. The connection between devices is made using Wi-Fi, so rendering HD video can be a bit sketchy at times, but it is fine for basic computing. Just create another window for IM, Twitter, or whatever and drag it onto your new virtual display. It is also a great way to get around that pesky “no-Flash-video-on-the-iPad” problem.

Dropbox (free)

If you're looking for an elegantly simple way to keep files in sync between your iPad, desktop computer, and phone, Dropbox for iPad is a must. It's easy to use, free, and offers offline file access. You still can't move files between folders, but that's a relatively minor complaint directed at an otherwise excellent app.

One final note: If you also own an iPhone, you might want to check out our list of the top 30 must-have iPhone apps.