It’s travel season. Maybe you’ve got a cross-atlantic flight planned, a long drive ahead and need to keep the kids occupied, your secluded getaway has a TV made during the Kennedy administration, or you just have a long train ride to work every day. I’m going to show you different ways you can get all sorts of entertainment on your iPad.
iTunes. The easiest way to get video content onto your iPad is to simply buy or rent it from the iTunes Store. You can initiate the transaction on either your computer or your iPad. Keep in mind if you copy a rental to your iPad, it won’t be available for watch on your computer, and if you rent a video on your iPad, it can’t be copied to the Mac. This FAQ from Apple has more information on rentals. To copy videos to your iPad, select your iPad in the sidebar in iTunes, choose the Movies (or TV Shows) tab, and choose what videos you want copied. To watch them, simply launch the Videos app on your iPad. This method of transfer is also how you’ll copy movies you convert in this next step.
Handbrake. Handbrake is a great video converter. It can convert most encrypted DVDs and any movie you may have that’s not in the .m4v file format. Choose the Universal preset on the right, press Start and let ‘er, um, rip.
Instapaper. This is one of my top five iOS apps. Instapaper is a way to save web pages to be read later, and presents them to you in a nice, easy to read layout. You can install a bookmarklet on your favorite browser to save pages for later reading, and many Mac and iOS apps will send your links to Instapaper — if the app supports it, it will have a Read Later option. Before you head out, just open the Instapaper app to download the content and you can read it even without an Internet connection.
Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook . Both of these proprietary e-book readers are good for one thing: reading books bought via their online stores (naturally, they can’t read content from each other’s stores). To download a book go to the retailer’s web site, purchase the book and when you open the app on your iPad, the book will automatically download. If you have one of their hardware e-readers, you can download previously purchased books with the app as well. As an aside, if you have a non-DRM .mobi e-book, you can side-load it into the Amazon app via iTunes.
iBooks. I’m separating iBooks from the other book reader because it’s the only one that can take the popular epub format (without DRM) and PDF files directly. This has made iBooks my preferred e-reader. If you have an e-book in another file format, you can use Calibre to convert it to epub. Once you have an epub or a PDF file, just drag the file into iTunes and sync it to your iPad. One other nice feature in iBooks is the ability to sort your files into collections.
Zinio. While individual magazines like Wired have their own apps, Zinio is my go-to magazine reader for the simple fact that most magazines I read are available via this service. Unfortunately, Apple’s influence spreads to this app. Apple pressured Zinio to not allow certain magazines to be copied to iOS devices. Which is a shame, because those magazines have some fantastic articles I’m sure I’m missing out on. Even so, there are lots of good content to be found there.
Games for the whole family
While Angry Birds is fun and all, I’m going to list some games you can play with your family, too. Or, could play, if someone would give me my iPad back and put down “the Angry Birds machine” for a few minutes. The games can all be played on a single iPad via pass-and-play mode. While there are a ton of multiplayer games available for iOS, I’m just going to mention a few here. Any slights are unintentional, it just means the I didn’t have enough space to mention it.
T Chess Pro. This is the app my girlfriend uses to beat me at chess. T Chess Pro lets you either pass-or-play or use Game Center. During a fairly frustrating process getting some of the free multiplayer chess apps to work for multiplayer, we decided on this one. Setting games up via Game Center is very easy, and the graphics are great. As a bonus, it also has an analysis mode to help you improve your game.
Scrabble. This is one of my favorite iPad apps. One of the great features it has is if everyone playing the game has an iPod Touch or an iPhone, you can download the free Scrabble Tile Rack app. This lets each player keep his or her tiles on their device, and you can leave the iPad in the center of the table. Scrabble also lets you Pass-N-Play as well as connect via Facebook. No Game Center support, sadly.
These are my choices for basic approaches to getting entertainment on your iPad. There are no shortage of options, so get out there and find your own, too.