Essential FREE iPad apps

It’s time to stop pretending, people.

Sure, we can try to talk about other stuff this week. But we all know that this is no ordinary week. The iPad goes on sale tomorrow, and with early reviews praising it as the revolutionary product we all hoped it would be, we might as well face it that this is an appliance we’re all going to have to have.

It’s online, it’s in print magazines, it’s everywhere you look. Even when you watch the news on TV, it’s there. Or when President Obama has one of his rallies to talk about health care reform or this offshore drilling thing… All I’m thinking is, I wonder if the President is going to buy an iPad.

So let’s drop the pretenses and get right to what we all want to talk about. Now that it’s upon us, the iTunes store has officially opened the “iPad Apps” section for business (you’ll find it mingled with the iPhone apps). Here are some of the best free apps iPad owners shouldn’t be without. (And even if you’re still on the fence, you can still download apps to your PC or Mac, and save them for when you finally take the plunge.)

Reading

Wanna read some ebooks or magazines? Be sure to snag Apple’s iBooks app, which is required for buying and reading books from the new iBooks Store. You may also want to grab The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and USA Today. Comic book lovers should be sure to download Marvel’s snazzy new app, and I also suggest Comixology’s great-looking app as well.

Watching

TV & film fans should download the ABC and Netflix apps, both of which let you stream video in style. (A Hulu app is on the way, and the YouTube app comes already loaded on the iPad.) For news and information, I recommend the iMBD and Yahoo Entertainment apps.

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Listening

Music listeners: Shazam and Pandora are waiting for you.

Making Stuff

Don’t let anybody tell you there are no productivity apps. They may not be Word or Photoshop, but there’s tons of stuff — including free stuff — that you can do with your iPad. You can cook dinner with some of the recipes of Epicurious, record voice memos, sketch with Draw or Dudel, update your blog with WordPress, or use the terrific Evernote to organize tasks of all kinds. And this barely scratches the surface.

Web Apps

Both Craigsphone (Craigslist for iPad) and eBay for iPad make listing stuff you want to sell about 10x easier than they are to do on the Net. Check the forecast with Weather Channel Max HD or AccuWeather. Bloomberg, NASDAQ OMX, and E*trade let you keep track of your portfolio.

Social Media

Twitter users already have a few different options, such as Twitterific or Tweetdeck. Surprisingly, Facebook has yet to launch an official iPad app, though you can still use the iPhone Facebook app. StumbleUpon has a nice-looking app. AIM for iPad looks good, too.

Play

Fun-looking free games that caught my eye include iMahjong 2, Jigsaw Puzzle HD, Paper Football HD, 10 Pin Shuffle Bowling, Jirbo Says (a new version of Simon), and Tunes Attack, which turns your iTunes playlist into a Rock Band-style rhythmic game.

As you can see, there are already hundreds of iPad apps available, and more are being added by the minute.

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Robin Parrish
@robinparrish

Unathletic, uncoordinated tall man with endless creativity stampeding through his overactive brain. Comes with beard, wife, and two miniature humans. Novelist. General blogger and main Gaming Geek for ForeverGeek. Lead Blogger, Apple Gazette.

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