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30 must-have apps for the new iPad mini

The new iPad mini is nothing without its apps. With more than 200,000 to choose from in Apple's iTunes Store, we've rounded up the best of the best.

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Get the most out of the iPad mini.
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

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OmniSketch ($1.99)

If your drawing skills fall a bit below that of Jorge Columbo and your aspirations are more whimsical than artistic, try OmniSketch. Like a throwback to the days of Kid Pix, OmniSketch is a procedural drawing program with brushes that pull strange effects as you draw, from crosshatching the spaces between lines to leaving trails of dots that get bigger the faster you draw. Sure, the final pieces will tend toward the abstract, but you’ll have a lot of fun getting there, whether you know what you’re doing or not.

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Software Logix

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Photoshop Express (Free)

The essential photo-editing tool for basic adjustments on your iPad, Photoshop Express offers enough tools to fix simple problems or jazz up a dull photo. Users can crop, straighten, rotate, flip, and adjust basic saturation, contrast, exposure, and more. The app also includes a variety of borders and filters, as well as special effects like vignette, warm vintage, vibrant, and soft black and white.

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Adobe

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Epicurious (Free)

For the cooking fiend, the Epicurious app is a no-brainer. This colorful and well-designed app offers a wealth of recipes in every possible category, featured recipes by season, as well as a ‘favorite’ button, an easy-to-use built in shopping list, a search feature, and even the option to sync your recipe box with, say, the one from the app on your phone, for $1.99. Most recipes include professional photos and ratings, and users can easily add the ingredients of the recipe to their shopping list with the click of the shopping list icon.

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Condé Nast Digital

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ESPN ScoreCenter XL (Free)

If you’re a sports fan of any kind, perhaps the best app you can download is ESPN’s ScoreCenter XL. In a visually-appealing magazine layout, the app shows off top sports news, scores, and the latest information about your favorite sports and teams. The app covers hundreds of global leagues and features video highlights, live play-by-play, in-game statistics, game previews and recaps, and even the classic ESPN news and score ticker at the bottom of the screen. The myTeams section of the app gathers news, analysis and video only of your favorite teams, and users can choose to receive push alerts for scores and game starts.

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ESPN

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Flipboard (Free)

It may be one of the most hyped iPad apps to date, but you’ll likely consider it justifiable after setting up all the features. Flipboard arranges content from the places you frequent online – news sites, social media sites, photo sites – and intelligently collates them into a “social magazine.” Like a real magazine, it’s heavy on photos and slick design, but with content specifically catered to you. Not bad for a news stand price of zero dollars.

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Flipboard

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HBO Go (Free)

The ‘free’ label on this stellar app is a bit deceptive. The HBO Go app is indeed free to download, but it won’t work unless you are already an HBO subscriber through your cable TV service. This makes the app useless for many, but invaluable for those who are already subscribers. HBO viewers can instantly watch a huge selection of movies as well as HBO original shows like True Blood, Entourage, The Sopranos, and The Wire. The app has an easy-to-use layout and is separated into intuitive categories to ensure that you can always find something to watch.

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HBO

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Movies by Flixster (Free)

For movie buffs everywhere, this app has everything you’ll need to watch the latest trailers, find theaters/showtimes, and get the latest ratings from well-known and well-trusted rating site Rotten Tomatoes. You can’t buy tickets directly through the app, but you’ll save some money when you realize that movie you were about to go see only has a 17% RT rating. The app also offers lists of what is hot at the box office and in DVDs and has a list of upcoming releases. Users can favorite local movie theaters to make choosing a flick and time even easier.

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Flixster

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Hulu Plus (Free)

If you want to watch new TV shows on your iPad, you’re going to need Hulu Plus. Like other versions of the service, it offers a good portion of Hulu’s streaming content on your iPad. That is, if you have an $8 per month subscription. We do still have issues with Hulu. While a Plus subscription unlocks a lot of shows and extra content, some shows, like 30 Rock, are only available on Hulu if you stream from the Web on a PC. Sound stupid? We agree. Even with the restrictions though, Hulu Plus is the best way to watch most major TV shows as they arrive.

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Hulu

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IMDB (Free)

Like Wikipanion, this free app is simply an enhanced and iPad-friendly version of the popular Website, but it’s worth downloading if you’re a movie fan. The app has a clean layout that nicely showcases sections on celebrity and movie news, what’s hot at the box office, and TV listings. Users can watch movie trailers, find local showtimes, and look up filmography of their favorite actors. Because IMDB has the world’s largest collection of movie, TV, and celebrity info, this app will always come in handy when you’re searching for the name of that actor or can’t remember what year that movie came out.

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IMDB

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Instapaper Pro ($4.99)

The lack of 3G on the first iPad models can be a real downer when you want to read Web content – like Digital Trends – on the go. Instapaper resolves this fundamental content crunch by making it incredibly simple to save Web sites for later viewing. It will even automatically reformat them to clean, all-text versions to make them easier to digest on the go.

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Instapaper

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Kayak Flights (Free)

Can the iPad actually be easier to use than a full desktop with mouse and keyboard? If you’re booking a flight through Kayak, yes. An incredibly intuitive interface with multiple panes lets you choose the fine details for your trip in a snap, then view a list of flights and pick and choose. Although it’s missing the “best fares” pane from the Web site that makes it easier to see cheap days to travel (note to Kayak: please add this in the next version!) this is a phenomenal app that may just have you reaching for your iPad over your laptop next time you need to get out of town.

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Kayak

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Kindle (Free)

Can’t find what you need in Apple’s iBooks store? Amazon has you covered. The Kindle app essentially gives iPad owners the keys to the entire library that Kindle owners can access, meaning both more books and real price competition. The browsing feature isn’t overly impressive – it’s basically a portal to Amazon.com with one-click book purchases – but it gets the job done, and the reader works as well as you could ask for.

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Amazon

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Mint (Free)

Mint is still probably the best personal finance managing service around. We’ve been using it on the Web for years now and Intuit has finally started pushing it forward on mobile platforms. The new iPad app version lets you view all of your recent transactions (connect up credit cards, bank accounts, etc) and now you can set and manipulate your budget as well. In some ways, it’s actually more fun and easier to use than the Web version. In other ways, it’s still a bit clumsy. Overall, though, you won’t find a better way to manage your money.

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Mint

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NPR (Free)

The NPR iPad app is a must-have for users looking for the latest in music, arts, and news. The app has a clean and simple design that features three horizontal (scrollable) rows to bring you the most recent articles and audio in each section. Users can listen to one of thousands of audio feeds or playlists, which will launch in a player at the bottom of the screen. While listening, users can freely roam the rest of the NPR app and adjust playback from the small audio player.

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NPR

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Netflix (Free)

The iPad’s gorgeous, vibrant screen and portable form factor may well make it the world’s greatest handheld television, but downloading movies and TV shows individually from iTunes can also turn it into the world’s most expensive-to-watch television. Netflix acts like 21-century cable, throwing open the door to an enormous and constantly growing universe of content for a flat fee. The app allows you to browse the extensive library of on-demand video available through Netflix, and play it in a matter of seconds. Of course, you’ll need an $8.99 monthly subscription to access it, but a few episodes of King of the Hill, The Office and South Park and it will pay for itself.

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Netflix

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Spotify (Free)

Sometimes mobile and tablet apps feel like a bit of an afterthought, but Spotify took the time to get things right. Though you’ll need a paid Spotify account to access the iPad version (desktop is free), we recommend it. Unlike the phone app, you can fully edit and create playlists on the iPad version, and its fully customized for the third-generation iPad’s Retina display. Much like the Twitter app, and many newer apps, Spotify uses three panels that slide in and out to display different information. All songs available on Spotify can be streamed on the app. Unfortunately, extensions haven’t yet been added, so you can’t connect up to SongKick or other apps.

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Spotify

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StumbleUpon (Free)

Those with an already-present addiction to StumpleUpon will appreciate this iPad app, and those unfamiliar with the site will be surprised by its ability to find the coolest things on the web and put them all in one place. Simply select general topics that you are interested in (food, fitness, travel, design, etc.) and StumbleUpon will go forth and gather the latest, most-buzzed-about goodies and articles for your reading and viewing pleasure.

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StumbleUpon

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Star Walk ($4.99)

A handful of schooled astronomers can gaze up into the speckled abyss over a campfire and beginning rattling off Greek heroes from memory. For the rest of us, there’s Star Walk. The app uses your GPS location and the iPad’s gyroscopes to act as a guide to the stars, displaying constellations in real time as you move the iPad around above your head. It may not be as impressive as rattling off latin names off the top of your head, we’ll guarantee it makes it a lot easier to find Coma Berenices and Virgo.

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Vito Technology

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Weather HD ($.99)

It’s not the most complex or ingenious app we’ve ever seen, but the 99-cent Weather HD app makes checking the forecast as beautiful as everything else on your iPad. The app shows users the day’s forecast over a stunning weather image showcasing the current weather status, be it a starry dark blue sky, a beautiful watercolor sunset, or a bright sunny day. Users can scroll through different cities and enable a 12- or 24-hour clock in display settings. With each forecast, the app shows helpful information like chance of rain, visibility, humidity, pressure, winds, and high and low temperatures.

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Vimov

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AppShopper (Free)

Why pay more than you have to? With AppShopper you can check out the top rated apps, find independent reviews, and track changes. The idea is that you can compile a wish list and then have the app update you when one of your desired apps comes down in price. It can send you push notifications or email updates. You can also use it to track updates in any apps that you already own.

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AppShopper

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Comics (Free)

Marvel, DC, and many more publishers are offering their wares in the Comics app. In addition to all of the classics and premium new releases, from The Watchmen to Batman, you’ll find over 700 free comics. There’s a wealth of choice and the iPad screen really does them all justice. It’s the right size to recreate that authentic comic book feel. For comic book fans, this is the one to get.

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comiXology

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MLB at Bat 11 for iPad ($9.99)

With opening day just behind us and months of America’s national pastime still ahead, MLB at Bat doubtless makes one of the better purchase baseball-living iPad owners can make. It serves up reams of stats, a photorealistic “Live Game” simulation, and even live streaming games for MLB.tv subscribers.

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MLB

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Wikipanion (Free)

If you’ve ever wanted a faster and easier way to look up all kinds of information and factoids on your iPad (without using your browser), it’s now available for free in the form of Wikipanion. A mobile version of the ever-popular Website, this app gives users a quick and user-friendly way to look up just about anything. The app also has features like in-page searching, audio pronunciation, history, and bookmarking. A left-hand sidebar helps with navigating, and locations can even be found on a corresponding digital map.

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Robert Chin

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Pulse (Free)

If you’re going to have one free reader app on your iPad, Pulse ought to be it. Using a magazine style interface with photo and headline thumbnails for each story, users can customize several pages of sources from categories like news, lifestyle, entertainment, technology, and Business. Every source we could possibly think of is available, and users can custom-configure and organize their own category pages. Some sources require that you go to the actual website to read a full article, but others offer up-to-date full article with one click.

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Pulse

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Zinio (Free)

Kindles are great readers for almost any book you can imagine, but when it comes to magazines, that E-Ink display just isn’t going to cut it. Get beautiful color displays of your favorite magazines on your iPad with the Zinio reader app. Users can purchase single issues or subscriptions from popular magazines like Rolling Stone, Esquire, ESPN, Elle, and Spin. An enhanced text mode makes reading small type a breeze, and users can share articles through social media for free.

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Zinio

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Crackle (Free)

This app is no Netflix, but if you are looking to watch shows and movies on your iPad without paying a price, Crackle offers a large library of older and second-rate shows and movies to watch instantly. You won’t find the same selection as subscription services, but for free you can watch classics like Ghostbusters and The Patriot or newer films like Big Fish and Reign Over Me, as well as episodes of Seinfeld, Doctor Who, and Nurse Jackie.

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Crackle

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News360 (Free)

There are a lot of news aggregators out there, but the sheer scale of News360 is impressive. You have access to over 20,000 different news sources. You can also personalize the feed. In fact, the app aims to curate content for you automatically by plugging into your social media accounts and taking a look at what interests you.

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News360

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NBA Game Time Courtside (Free)

The iPad is now the perfect companion to a comfy chair, a big-screen plasma, and a cold beer. Courtside packs an unreal amount of stats and images into a modern, colorful interface, including video highlights, team performance stats, a live court view, bracket, and even player cards with post-season stats.

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NBA

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Boxfish Live Guide (Free)

We covered the second screen app, Boxfish, and found it to be an interesting idea with a lot of potential. It promises to be the perfect TV companion, allowing you to search for TV content in real-time and doubling up as a remote to switch you directly to it. This is trending and personalized content from the realm of TV and, in theory at least, you can customize it to serve up your preferred televisual treats. It’s early days right now, but this could be a great app.

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Boxfish

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Notability ($.99)

If you’re looking for a powerful note-taking option on your iPad then you have to try Notability. Handwriting, PDF annotation, typing, recording, and organizing features make it flexible enough to cater for any style of note you want to take. You can add in photos using your iPad camera and combine text editing features and even audio recordings to create complex notes that illustrate whatever you like. It also has an auto-sync feature for backups and you can use DropBox to share files.

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Ginger Labs

30 must-have apps for the new iPad mini

The new iPad mini is nothing without its apps. With more than 200,000 to choose from in Apple's iTunes Store, we've rounded up the best of the best.

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