10 Stellar iPad Apps That Will Blow You Away | Gadget Lab

The iPad is less than three months old, and already programmers have whipped up 9,000 apps for the fancy tablet. But, just as with the iPhone, there’s a problem: It’s hard to navigate the App Store for quality wares because it’s just too crowded.

Right before the iPad launched and after it came out, we rounded up some apps we found intriguing. After diving into this media-savvy device, we’ve added a few more apps we consider to be gems, ranging from a web browser that’s better than Safari to a sheet music reader that teaches you piano.

Reeder

The makers of Reeder borrowed heavily from the interface of Apple’s built-in Photos app, but we’re sure Steve Jobs doesn’t mind. This apps makes news-reading look darn gorgeous — something that newspapers still haven’t figured out how to do — and it offers one of those experiences that reminds you why you bought an iPad in the first place.

Reeder displays all your RSS feeds in an albumlike interface; each feed gets its own rectangular tile. Pinch outward on a feed and it launches its list of headlines on the left and the article in a right-hand window. Pinch inward to close the feed and go back to your main menu.

Here’s how good it is: Both Wired.com’s Charlie Sorrel and I love it, and we mostly read tech news RSS feeds for our jobs. (See Sorrel’s gushy review of Reeder for a closer look.) Yes, it even makes reading news for work more fun. ($5, download)

Top photo: Bryan Derballa/Wired.com

Craigslist Pro

Craig Newmark hasn’t upgraded the look of Craigslist since the last millennium, but this iPad app gives the bare-bones site a fresh appearance — and makes it easier to use. Craigslist Pro automates a lot of the tedious chores you have to go through to search for a new job, motorcycle, one-night stand and so on with Craigslist.

Start by settting up your location, then choose a category (e.g. jobs, personals or housing) and type in a keyword.

The best part is you can see a preview of each ad description below its corresponding title. So rather than clicking and going back and forth between each ad, you can get a nice scan of all the options with a quick swipe. Tapping an ad quickly loads its copy and photos (if available). In the upper-right corner is a Save Srch button in case you want to perform a search regularly. Sweet app for an excellent, albeit outdated, web service. ($1, download)

Etude

Learning the piano used to be one of those things only nerdy Chinese boys did while all the cool kids played sports after school (weep), but Etude might change that. The app displays piano scores and plays the sheet music in real time. Here’s the kicker: On the bottom of the screen, a virtual keyboard plays along with the song, highlighting the proper keys to teach you where to position your hands on a piano. Plus, you can download additional scores and lessons. The app is a universal download that works on both the iPhone and the iPad, but it’s best on the latter; it shows the iPad’s potential to replace a music stand, and maybe even an instructor. ($5, download)

BeeJiveIM

With Apple’s introduction of FaceTime in the iPhone 4, video chatting may very well be the next big fad, but instant messaging ain’t going away. BeeJiveIM was our favorite IM app on the iPhone, and the new iPad app is just as good. The app sports a polished interface that makes IMing a treat — even on a device with no multitasking (yet). It’s also rich with features such as group chat, photo messaging and audio chatting. ($10, download)

Comic Zeal Comic Reader

The iPad’s beautiful display makes reading digital comics more enjoyable than the real thing, and Comic Zeal is a pleaser. It’s an open comic book reader, meaning you can load comics (in .cbz or .cbr format) you download on your computer into the app wirelessly or over USB.

Some people will use this app to read free, open comics; others might use it for piracy. Whatever your use may be, Comic Zeal gives you the freedom of reading any comics you want on your iPad rather than being tied to a specific universe, like you would be with the Marvel or DC Comics apps. Comic Zeal’s controls are nifty and easy to figure out in a snap, and if you close it to use a different app, you can relaunch it and resume the comic where you left off. ($8, download)

iCab Mobile

The iPad’s Safari browser is sweet, but if you’re a tabbed-browsing junkie, iCab Mobile is a nice alternative. Tapping the + button in the upper-right corner allows you to open a new browser window in a tab. The app boasts some other features we wish were in Safari as well: the ability to search for a keyword, and a button to hide the browser toolbar so web content can completely take over the device.

It’s a fast and slick app, although the icon is so hideous you’ll probably want to keep it out of your main dock. Must have been a cheap contractor. ($2, download)

LogMeIn Ignition

The iPad isn’t a standalone device (yet), and there will be times you wish you could use your primary computer while on the road. Say, for example, you want to start a movie download so it’s done by the time you get home, or e-mail someone an important document you left on your PC hard drive. LogMeIn Ignition is a nice remote-desktop-sharing app to control your PC from afar using your iPad.

The setup is quick and easy: Create an account on LogMeIn.com, install the software on your PC, and then log in with your iPad. You gain basic controls of your desktop — mousing around and keyboard entry — and it’s a little awkward at first on a touchscreen, but it gets the job done. ($30, download)

Simplenote

The iPad’s built-in Notes app looks sweet, but it stinks: You can’t view the notes on devices other than the iPad (unless you e-mail them to yourself, which feels primitive). While we wait for Apple to integrate over-the-air online syncing, Simplenote is a great alternative. It really is quite a simple app: Hit the + button to take a note, and once you’re done the information will be stored online. Then you can view the same note immediately on your iPhone running Simplenote, or through any browser at simplenoteapp.com. The best part is the price: $0. (Free, download)

Air Display

Air Display is a clever app that allows Mac users to take advantage of the iPad as an additional external display. After downloading both the Air Display apps for Mac and iPad, just connect to the same Wi-Fi network and presto — your iPad is another screen for your computer. This comes in handy if you want to dedicate a small display for your distracting Twitter feed, or maybe your IM chats while you do actual work on your primary display. ($10, download)

Photo: Brian X. Chen/Wired.com

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The Guardian Eyewitness

The Guardian came up with a great way to take advantage of the iPad’s beautiful display with this app. Each day, The Guardian Eyewitness displays a new, high-resolution photo from the British newspaper. The images are stunning, and they include both a caption and a pro tip on how each photo was shot. (Free, download)

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