As most of you know, APEX 4.2.2 was released last Friday. While the release was largely a stability and bug fix as far as the builder is concerned, it included some significant changes and improvements to the packaged applications. (Full disclosure: I'm on the team that has been building the packaged apps, so I may be a bit biased about them. But they're really cool, trust me!)
There are 18 productivity applications, and 16 sample applications; we're constantly working on adding more of each. The packaged apps are all built in APEX using functionality which is available to any APEX developer (read: we're not cheating! If we do it in a packaged app, you can do it too!).
The sample applications include demonstrations of how to work with APEX, and are meant to cover subjects from the very basics on up through advanced techniques; I highly recommend installing them each at least once, just to see what all they cover. These apps are all unlocked automatically, so you can view their code in the Builder.
The productivity applications are intended to be examples of applications which will actually be useful to normal database users. Too often, sample applications are built purely to demonstrate specific functionality, and it's difficult to see how it might be useful in an actual, real-world case; hopefully, the productivity applications will bridge that gap. They may not perfectly fit your need, but hopefully they're close enough that you can use them as a springboard to there. These apps are locked by default, which means that you can't open them in the Builder and edit them; this allows us to offer updates in future releases of APEX. If you want, however, you can unlock the applications and edit them; when a new release comes out, you can install the new version, port over any changes you need, and as long as you haven't broken the underlying table structure, everything should work. (Yes, “should”. No guarantees, sorry!)
In the next few weeks, I'll be going through some of my favorite packaged apps, and pointing out what I like about each one. Stay tuned!