Evernote is a multi-function tool for capturing all kinds of information, whether it's webpages, recipes, meeting notes, or receipts, or random thoughts. One of Evernote's great features is its many capture and input methods: notes tagging, easy search, scanning (including OCR or optical character recognition to transform scanned text into copy), and organizing notes into notebooks. Besides the iPad app, Evernote comes in many cross-platform editions and syncs with all your devices. The latest version has been updated to support the new iPad's sharp Retina display, making this app a must-have for both new iPad owners, as well as multi-platform note-takers.
Alternative: Springpad is another worthy free note-taking and clipping tool. I actually prefer its beautiful visual cork-board interface more than Evernote, but Evernote has the advantage now with the retina support and other features like the OCR scanning. Read up on the differences between Evernote and Springpad and that other favorite OneNote if you need help deciding which to download.
Wunderlist is a gorgeous task manager or to-do list app that's very intuitive to use. It's also a universal app, with versions for Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone/iPod Touch, and Android, as well as an online version. You can share tasks with friends of co-workers, get reminders by email, change the look of the app with different backgrounds, and easily see at a glance what you need to be working on.
Alternative: Unfortunately, most of the to-do apps on iPad aren't free. Producteev is a very feature-rich task manager especially for groups, and it's cross-platform and free. It doesn't have an iPad-specific app, but still might be worth a look if you find Wunderlist (or other task managers) don't have what you need.
Zite is a smart, personalized news reader/magazine that learns your preferences and tailors the articles to them, so you discover new stories. It also can connect to your Google Reader and Twitter account and keep you up to date on the news, articles, and blogs you want to read every day. Within each article you can select whether you want to see more or fewer of those kinds of articles, further training and personalizing Zite to your liking.
Alternative: If you prefer a straight-up RSS reader, without the magazine-flip style, Feeddler is a robust RSS reader with a clean, user-friendly interface. It's no wonder it's the most popular news reader for the iPad.
No mobile device is complete without a file syncing app, and Dropbox is by and large becoming the most popular syncing app, thanks to its ease of use and great third-party support. Dropbox on the iPad means you can always have your docs and photos available wherever you go--as long as they're saved to your Dropbox folder from any computer or device, they'll be accessible from your iPad or another computer or mobile device.
Alternative: SugarSync is a strong Dropbox alternative, which allows you to choose which folders to sync up and also automatically syncs photos and videos as soon as you take them.
Read It Later, as the name implies, lets you save articles to read at a later time. You'll be able to access all your bookmarked articles from the app offline, without an internet connection. A variety of apps and browser bookmarklets means you can also easily add to or access your reading list from other devices.
Alternative: Readabilty is an attractive free reading-and-saving app.
If you want to access your home or office computer from afar, a remote access or remote desktop app is the key. LogMeIn, previously a $29.99 app but now free, allows you to remotely control a Windows or Mac computer from your iPad (or iPhone or iPod touch) as if you were sitting in front of it. You can edit files on the remote computer and run desktop applications using LogMeIn (a premium version is needed for file transfers or video streaming).
Alternative: TeamViewer HD is the iPad companion app for the free remote access program available for Windows, Mac, and Linux computers.
OnLive Desktop gives you access to Microsoft Office Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, as well as other Windows applications on your iPad for free. You can stream videos on your iPad, create and edit documents, and also transfer the files to and from your mobile device. The service provides 2GB of free online storage for your OnLive files. Upgraded plans are available for $4.99 a month or more. Considering you don't need to buy a Microsoft Office software license or even have a Windows desktop or laptop and license, this is suberb free app.