Every Thursday I’m going to start recommending a set of iPad apps you can get for $20 or less.

This week I found four apps that total $14.03 after tax.

They are…

Recommended iPad Apps 083111
#1 :  Skyfire Web Browser. It’s beautiful. It’s simple. It works! What makes this web browser to spectacular is that it lets you view flash movies on your iPad! I’m talking live news! Southpark! The Daily Show! Embedded movies!! It plays every flash movie I tried! All you have to do is visit the website and most of the time the embedded movies will load like it does on desktop machines. If there is no video, you just need to press the little “VIDEO” button in the lower left and force Skyfire to look for the movie on the page. Once it finds it, it will start spooling it for you immediately. Plus it links to Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Google Reader, Read it Later, Instapaper, Pinboard and Tumblr and even lets you share direct links with friends. To top it all off, it allows for private browsing and will emulate a desktop in case you run across a page that forces you to an iPad specific site. Dude. This app spanks Safari. Hard. Five stars, no question. Currently $4.99 at the app store.

#2 : Luminance. Luminance is like walking into a very well stocked kitchen. Every possible spice and ingredient is in there for you to cook with, but you have to know how to cook in the first place to get the best possible results. You start off by loading a photo from your library (or take a new one with the camera). From there it imports a copy into its’ own library for editing. You can pick from one of the presets, but clicking on the ADJUSTMENTS button sends you to the pantry, where you can add filters in layers from the right column. WHITE BALANCE, EXPOSURE, BRIGHTNESS/CONTRAST, HUE/SATURATION, TONE CURVE, COLORS, SEPIA, SPLIT TONING and VIGNETTE are what you have to choose from, and each section has more sub-sections with lots of slider controls for each level you can tweak. All layers have the Photoshop-like visible/not visible option, so experimenting with layer effects is pretty easy in this app. There is also a HISTORY button to undo the changes up to the file’s OPEN point and a way to save and share adjustment sets for future one-click access. There’s also a Facebook/Twitter/Camera Library/Email export option. It’s a solid app and definitely rates five stars. Currently $0.99 at the App Store.

#3 : Wolfram Alpha. Where was this gem when I was in high school? This app is the mathmasters wild dream. You can type in anything calculation based you want results for in the search bar, and Wolfram Alpha will find it. For example, I typed “What is the distance from the Earth to Jupiter”. The results came back in AU, KM, meters, miles, corresponding quantities comparing to light and radiation, and the complete orbital properties of Jupiter. Maybe you can find this kind of information on Google after five or six links, but Wolfram Alpha puts it all in one space. This is insanely useful for the high-end calculators out there. Some of the examples given are “What is the thermal expansion coefficient of UNS S21900 stainless steel” and “sin(pi/#)& /@ {6,5,4,3,2,1}” and “Evolve TM 120597441632 on random tape, width = 5”. This is an awesome app for hardcore calculating. Five stars. Currently $1.99 at the app store.

#4 : Snapseed. Snapseed is fun. It’s a very straightforward click-and-apply photo editor with some decent features. You start by loading a photo from the library or camera, and then choose from AUTO CORRECT, SELECTIVE ADJUST, TUNE IMAGE, STRAIGHTEN & ROTATE, CROP, BLACK AND WHITE, VINTAGE FILMS, DRAMA, GRUNGE, CENTER FOCUS and ORGANIC FRAMES. Whatever filter you choose, the sub-sections are handled by touch feedback on the full screen. You slide up for a sub-section selection, then slide left or right to adjust! It’s all iPad, and almost no menus. This gives this app an “all image” photo editing feel. It also has a “COMPARE” button that shows you the “before” when you hold down on it. You can email, print, flickr, save or facebook your work, but there is no step-down UNDO or any kind of layer support. However, what you trade in features you get back in ease of use. Plus using your fingers to make adjustments instead of a slider control was a lot more fun. For quick photo editing, this app can’t be beat. Five stars. Currently $4.99 on the app store.