10 apps every iPad user should own

There are many thousands of apps available. (As Apple's advertising campaign says, "There's an app for that.") But some apps are simply must-haves--whether for their functionality, interface brilliance, or sheer entertainment factor.

With the third-generation iPad now on retail shelves, chances are there are a lot of newly minted iPad owners out there wondering which apps to download first. Here are my 10 must-haves. Note that I left out Apple's own iOS offerings, though many -- including the newly updated GarageBand, iMovie, and iWork suite and the just-released mobile version of iPhoto -- are tremendously impressive and worth a download. (And if you're looking for even more download ideas, a few months ago, my colleagues came up with a list of 50 essential iOS apps, which include more than a few dandy iPad-optimized offerings.)

Reeder

Reeder is a $5 RSS reader, and if you're not yet on the RSS bandwagon, you should be. The app, which syncs via Google Reader, presents a gloriously elegant interface for reading the latest articles from your favorite Websites.

Tap on a headline, and the article slides into view. If the feed in question shows only a summary, Reeder's built-in Readability support can help: Reverse-pinch on the text (or tap the Readability button), and Reeder quickly loads the rest of the article automatically. Tap and hold on links to bring up a sharing window; Reeder makes it easy to email links, save them to Instapaper (see below), post them to various social networks, and more. There's a separate iPhone version of Reeder, too, but the iPad incarnation is simply glorious. You'll never want to catch up on your feed subscriptions with anything else.

Instapaper

Once you start relying on Instapaper ($5), you'll wonder what took you so long. The idea is simple: Reading on your iPad is more pleasant than reading on your Mac's screen.

When you come across lengthier articles online, you tap the Instapaper button--whether in your browser, RSS reader, or Twitter client, or in any of the many other apps that integrate with the Instapaper service. The next time you launch Instapaper on your iPad, it will pull down the text of that article, and any inline images, too--but it'll leave all the navigation, social networking modules, and Flash advertisements by the wayside. You're left with just text and images, and you control the font and brightness and all that other good stuff. The app also makes it easy to discover other good Web content to read, based on your friends' suggestions.

Tweetbot

Tweetbot began life as an excellent Twitter client for the iPhone, and the iPad version is even better. The $3 app's unique interface and brilliantly implemented gesture support make it not just a powerful app for reading and posting tweets, but a fun one, too.

Swipe to the right on a tweet to see the full conversation surrounding it; swipe to the left to see replies sent to it. Tap and hold--on a tweet, a hashtag, a username, or a link--to expose contextual options related to that element. With support for services like Tweet Marker (for keeping you in sync with your device or desktop Twitter client), Instapaper (see above), and more, it's a full-featured Twitter app that's a delight to use.

Netflix

It feels almost like science fiction when you first use the Netflix app to stream movies and television shows to your iPad.

You can browse your Watch Instantly queue, search for other titles, and begin playing any of them in seconds. Netflix isn't the iPad's most elegantly implemented app; it feels a bit like a website crammed into a program. But it does what it's supposed to do, which is to let you stream movies! Over the Internet! Wherever you have a reasonable Internet connection. And it's a free download, to boot.

Flipboard

Flipboard takes content you're interested in and presents it in an impressive magazine-inspired layout. The free app connects to your Facebook, Twitter, and Google Reader feeds, and also offers a variety of curated feeds in various categories like politics, technology, and entertainment.

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