Whether you're looking for something new to play around with or want to keep the kids entertained over the holidays -- or a bit of both -- a number of iPad apps can help you unleash your creativity and keep you entertained at the same time.
Specifically, inexpensive apps let you paint, sculpt or write manuscripts or songs on your iPad.
You've probably heard quite a bit about Brushes, which lets you use virtual paintbrushes to create art on the screen. It has made the news many times and has even been used to create covers of magazines, such as The New Yorker.
And then there's Apple's GarageBand for iPad ($4.99), one of the best-selling apps for iPad that turns your tablet into a virtual recording studio.
Those with kids should also consider these apps to help tap into their imaginations: Toontastic (free) and Toontastic Jr. Pirates ($1.99), iStopMotion for iPad ($9.99), Sock Puppets (free) and FlipBook HD ($4.99).
But did you know there were apps for sculpting and writing screenplays, too?
Autodesk's 123D Sculpt (free), for example, lets you mold and manipulate a hunk of 3-D clay on your iPad. A number of premade models are available to start, ranging from basic shapes (such as spheres or cubes) and human parts (a head or complete body) to animals (dog, owl, elephant, iguana) and dinosaurs to clothing and vehicles.
Use the onscreen tools and your fingertips to manipulate the virtual clay by pulling, pushing, flattening, smoothing, pinching, grabbing and bulging it.
Once you have something you like, you have the option to paint it, import various objects onto it such as hair, eyes and facial features, or feathers, fur, tattoos and more. Or you can even import your face from your photo album or take a photo using the iPad's camera and overlay it on top of the sculpture.
The iPad's 9.7-inch screen gives you a large canvas to work with, plus you can pinch to zoom in and out of the clay and rotate by swiping the background in a given direction. Anytime you mess up, simply tap to "undo" your last move. The iPad mini works just fine, too.
When you're done, view your masterpiece in 3-D, change the background, and then take a picture to save it, email it or upload it online. You can also record QuickTime turntable videos that can be shared or uploaded to YouTube and other media sites.
Whether you have five minutes or five hours, Autodesk's free 123D Sculpt is an accessible yet powerful tool that lets you sculpt without getting your hands dirty.
If you're better with words than molding shapes, an iPad app called Storyist ($9.99) is similar to computer software that offers templates to help you flesh out a script — be it for TV, feature film, theatrical play or novel — so the writer can concentrate more on the story, characters and settings, and less on the formatting.
Storyist Software, which also has a product for Macs, has retained many of the features for its iPad version. This includes a powerful text editor with multiple font styles and sizes, colors, images, comments and header/footer options; familiar tab and return key shortcuts (for example, so you don't have to keep typing out character names); customizable style sheets to help keep relevant info accessible; colour-coded index cards that let you jot down ideas and even see these cards next to your manuscript as you write; and support for multiple file types, including PDF, RTF, ePub, Final Draft (FDX), Storyist files and plain text.
To help you get started, a few tutorial files are included in this iPad app. Along with a guide that walks through all the features, there are example files for a novel and screenplay (with formatting descriptions in each) and tips to working with images.
Users can opt for the virtual keyboard on the iPad screen or the iPad supports those external keyboards, if desired. You can easily import and export your work via iTunes (drag and drop), cloud services (including Dropbox support), email or wireless print off a hard copy using AirPrint and compatible printers.
While Storyist has a lot going for it, it's curiously missing a spell-checker and word count feature (the latter of which can be found in Black Mana Studios' Manuscript for iPad app). It would seem both of these would be critical while writing. It does have auto-fix, though, so if you type "robbes" it'll change it to "robes" automatically. Also, unlike other screenwriting apps, such as Screenplay, there isn't a batch renaming feature — in case you decide to change your lead character's name from, say, "Maya" to "Mary" — so you wouldn't have to retype them all individually.
Overall, however, this iPad app is a great tool for tablet owners looking to create stories on the go for tomorrow's movies, TV shows or plays.