It’s official: Apple iOS 4.2 now available

iOS 4.2 for iPad has been released, and is a substantial update that brings a number of important and long-awaited capabilities to the tablet. Ranking in the top three for me personally would be the ability to multi-task, folder and enhancements to AirPlay.

In short, a “must do” upgrade.

For those new to upgrading, you will need to first upgrade iTunes to version 10.1 before installing iOS 4.2.  Simply select “Check for Upgrades” under the “Help” menu in iTunes to update your iTunes if you’ve not done so yet.  To install iOS 4.2 on your iPad, first connect it via USB to your computer.  Then  “Check for Upgrades” under the “Help” menu in iTunes.  The installation procedure will take over to automatically backup, upgrade, and restore your iPad accordingly.

It took about an hour for me (most of the time was spent backing up my data), though your mileage might vary.

Below is an exhaustive list of the updates according to the installation page:

• Multitasking support for third-party apps
– Multitasking user interface to quickly move between apps, adjust screen brightness, control playback, lock screen-rotation, and manage print jobs
– Support for audio apps to play in the background
– VoIP apps can receive and maintain calls in the background or when device is asleep
– Apps can monitor location and take action while running in the background
– Alerts and messages can be pushed to apps using push and local notifications
– Apps can complete tasks in the background
• Folders to better organize and access apps
• Mail improvements
– Unified inbox to view emails from all accounts in one place
– Fast inbox switching to quickly switch between different email accounts
– Threaded messages to view multiple emails from the same conversation
– Import .ics files into Calendar
– Open attachments with compatible third-party apps
– File or delete search results
– Option to select size of photo attachments
– Messages in the Outbox can be edited or deleted
• Game Center
– Send and receive friend requests
– Invite friends to multi-player games over the Internet
– Play multi-player games by auto-matching with other players
– View Leaderboards and Achievements
– Discover new games from friends
• AirPrint
– Print mail, photos, web pages, and more directly to AirPrint compatible printers on a local wireless network
• AirPlay
– Wirelessly stream videos, music, and photos to Apple TV
– Wirelessly stream music to AirPlay-enabled speakers or receivers, including AirPort Express
• Find text on web pages in Safari
• Use Spotlight to search the web and Wikipedia
• Suggestions and recent searches appear during a web search
• Support for TV show rentals using iTunes
• Create and edit iTunes playlists on device
• Support for iTunes gifting of apps
• Send and accept calendar invitations wirelessly with supported CalDAV servers
• Support for MobileMe calendar sharing
• Enhanced location privacy
– A Location Services icon appears in the status bar to indicate when Location Services are being used
– Location Services can be enabled and disabled per app
– Indication of apps that have requested your location within the last 24 hours
• Additional Parental Controls
– Prevent adding friends in Game Center and deletion of apps
– Restrict changes to Accounts and Location Services settings
• New languages, dictionaries and keyboards
• New fonts available in Notes
• Wirelessly sync notes using IMAP-based mail accounts
• Automatic spellcheck
• Silence background sounds using the Silent switch on the side of iPad
• Improved support for Bluetooth AVRCP
• Persistent WiFi connection to receive push notifications
• Support for Bluetooth braille displays and International braille tables, control VoiceOver using an external keyboard, and other accessibility enhancements
• Wireless delivery of carrier settings updates for iPad WiFi + 3G
• Improved enterprise support
– Support for third-party Mobile Device Management solutions
– Enables wireless distribution of enterprise applications
– Exchange Server 2010 compatibility
– Support for multiple Exchange ActiveSync accounts
– Support for Juniper Junos Pulse and Cisco AnyConnect SSL VPN apps (available from the App Store)
• More than 1,500 new developer APIs
• Bug fixes

Products compatible with this software update:
• iPad
• iPad WiFi + 3G

You can also read the official press release from Apple here.