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20 Best apps for the iPad

Here are some suggestions for top apps to get you started with your iPad

When I was writing my book iPad for the Older and Wiser, one of the most important things was to make it easy for people to download and find apps they'll love. Everyone is different, and there are so many apps to choose from, that the real strength of the iPad is in the way you can customise it with apps to do pretty much anything you want. The last chapter of the book explains how to find and download apps.

However, to get people started, I also wrote a list of recommended apps. These recommendations introduce a cross-section of some of the types of iPad apps that you can download.

This list is my own personal chart of the best free and paid iPad apps. If you can think of another app that should be on this list, why not email me to tell me about it?

(You might notice there are now more than 20 apps on this list - that's because the second edition of iPad for the Older and Wiser added in some new apps, and I've included them all here in a single list.)

Top apps for the iPad

In alphabetical order, here are my suggestions for iPad apps you should try. Prices change from time to time, but many of these are free iPad apps and at the time of writing, and they're all extremely good value (especially compared to the cost of boxed PC software). If you follow the link for each app, it will take you to its page on the Apple website. If you are using an iPad, the link will take you into the app store page for that app. To return here, press the Home button twice quickly and then tap the Safari icon. If you are using a desktop computer, the links will take you to a web page and you can then click 'View in iTunes' on the left to view and download the app using the iTunes software on your computer. You can synchronise the app with your iPad when you next connect it to your computer (as explained in the book).

I have embedded some videos below to help explain some of the apps. Just tap or click on a video to play it within this page.

  1. 4oD Catch Up: Channel 4's app for watching TV shows you might have missed.

  2. Alice for the iPad: Alice in Wonderland with a difference - this 'next generation' pop-up book uses sophisticated physics modelling to make the illustrations interactive. There's a free lite version you can try out first.

  3. Angry Birds HD: An odd game, but an addictive one, in which you catapult the birds to knock down the pigs' houses. Over 100 million copies of Angry Birds have been downloaded across lots of different devices, and there is a free edition available.

  4. BBC iPlayer: Brings selected BBC TV and radio programmes to your iPad.

  5. Bloom: An app co-created by ambient musician Brian Eno. It creates relaxing music based on where you tap the screen, and the music evolves and changes endlessly.

  6. Cut the Rope: An addictive puzzle game with cute graphics for the iPad. Try the free lite version first, which includes a tutorial.

    Screenshot of Cut the Rope on the iPad

  7. Draw Something: Challenge friends or strangers in this game where you take turns to draw something or guess what your co-player has drawn.

  8. eBay: Browse, bid and buy in eBay's online auctions.

  9. Find My Friends: This free app from Apple enables you to see where your friends are on a map. They will need to have a compatible device, such as an iPad or an iPhone.

  10. Flipboard: Gathers information from various online publications and from Facebook and Twitter (if you use them) and presents it like a magazine. Turn the pages to browse the news that matters to you.

  11. Fotopedia Heritage: 25,000 photographs of all UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

  12. GarageBand: Apple's simple music studio enables you to play an onscreen keyboard, drum kit, guitar and sampler.

  13. Guardian Eyewitness: Every day, a new high quality reportage photo is downloaded to your iPad, together with a photography tip.

  14. Guinness World Records: An entertaining cut-down version of the famous book, tailored for the iPad, with sections dedicated to the fastest, tallest, craziest, strangest, most expensive and deadliest.

  15. iMovie: Apple's app for creating and editing high definition videos on your iPad, including themes and transitions to give your video a professional look.

  16. iTunes U: This app delivers free university courses from some of the world's leading universities, including the Open University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Courses can include videos, audio recordings and written materials. Subjects are diverse and include creative writing, psychology, law, and computing.

  17. Kindle: Amazon's app for downloading and reading books on your iPad that you have bought from the Kindle store at If you have a Kindle ebook reader, you can read the same books on your iPad without paying twice.

  18. NASA App HD: Browse NASA's library of videos, photos and articles, and find out about current and past missions.

  19. Paint Sparkles: The children in our family loved this app, which gives them animal pictures to colour in. There's a free version with a limited number of pictures to colour in which you can try before deciding whether to buy the full version.

  20. New York Times: Read the newspaper in your iPad. The top news section is free, and other sections are subscription-based. Many other newspapers and magazines have apps, too, so it's worth checking whether your favourite does.

  21. Shazam: An app that identifies music that's playing. Handy if you miss the DJ's introduction when you're listening to the radio or you want to identify a song that's being used in a TV show.

  22. TED: Free videos of inspiring talks from the TED conference, which is dedicated to ideas worth sharing. The conference began in 1984 with a focus on technology, entertainment and design (hence the name TED), but its scope is much broader now. The event takes place twice a year, but you can check in any time with this app.

  23. Tesco Recipes: A free recipe book with more than 1,000 recipes, integrated with online shopping so you can easily order the ingredients you need.

  24. Trip Advisor: A handy app for your holidays. Find restaurants, hotels, and tourist attractions near you and read reviews from other travellers.

Find out more about iPad for the Older and Wiser

Book cover: iPad for the Older and WiserFor more information on iPad for the Older and Wiser, including a promotional video, supporting content and ordering information, see the homepage for iPad for the Older and Wiser.

iPad for the Older and Wiser is written by Sean McManus, and published by John Wiley in partnership with the University of the Third Age (U3A).