So you got an iPad for Christmas. Nice, isn't it? Now comes the fun bit: looking for apps to use on the tablet.
There are over 300,000 of them out there: everything from spycams (currently the top-selling app) to fertility advice clinics. The App Store's charts will give you a good idea of some quality apps. But here are 8 apps that I've found to be truly excellent at various stages over the last six months.
When you're finished reading through them, why not take a look at my review of 15 quality business apps for the iPad?
1. Google Earth
The iPad was made for Google Earth. And vice versa. No other device shows off the application in as stunning a way. For the novice, it is an amazing thing to see the program zoom in from space to the driveway outside the house you are standing in. The application now incorporates Street View too, a brilliant way of researching other cities.
Flipboard is a beautiful app that turns website feeds into magazine-style pages. Instead of scrolling, you 'flip' the page. You can customise it to suit whatever content tastes you have (its optional tech feeds include All Things Digital, TechCrunch and Engadget, for example). It'll take a little while to get the hang of customising it and will mainly appeal to frequent iPad users. But it's one of the loveliest, most creative apps out there.
3. Angry Birds HD
It is the most successful game on either the iPhone or the iPad in the last 12 months. It's easy to see why: there are no high-octane laser cannons or RPG quests. Just a a few pissed-off birds looking for revenge on some cheeky pigs that have stolen their eggs. They get it by hurling themselves against the pigs' flimsy structures, using a giant catapult. What could be more fun? Very little, it would seem. The iPad version costs more than the iPhone version, but is worth it.
4. Facepad / Friendly
Bizarrely, Facebook has not yet made an app for the iPad. That has left the job of keeping you updated on Facebook to a number of alternative apps. While we've already mentioned Flipboard, either Facepad or Friendly would be the two best options for a standalone Facebook app. The Facepad, which has just launched is the simplest, cleanest-looking app. However, it's not optimised for the iPad's specs, so the screen is a tad blurry. Friendly is very nice app, giving you its own user-interface on your Facebook news, photos and friends.
Price: both free
If you have a Twitter account -- and it seems very many of you do -- you've got to have a Twitter client for your iPad. There are some very nice paid Twitter apps. Osfoora HD has outstanding functionality and used to be a firm favorite of mine. But it kept crashing. And freezing. And crashing again. So it's back to (perfectly usable, efficient) basics with Twitterrific. Whatever you do, don't rely on Twitter's iPad app. It stinks.
The iPad comes with Notes, a basic note-taking applications. It's fine. If you're looking for something with a little more power and flexibility, Pages is my choice. Based on Apple's word-processing program of the same name, it lets you easily incorporate images and other rich features into documents. And you can easily upload or email the pages out.
7. Documents To Go Premium
This is one I featured in the business apps roundup, but it's worth mentioning here, also. While Pages is a great standalone word-processing app, it doesn't incorporate Microsoft Word documents into it to work on. You can with Docs2Go. Not only Word, but Excel and Powerpoint, too. Not only that, you can synchronize the whole thing with your desktop computer's Microsoft Office suite.
Yes, Google has its own iPad app. Granted, there's a (small) Google search panel in the default Safari web-browser app. But the Google app allows you to stay signed in using your Gmail or Google Docs account and keeps you updated if new communication comes in.