If you’re heading to the Austin music, film and technology festival, these apps will help you find the best parties, settle a tab from afar and make the most of your network.

South by Southwest, a 10-day festival starting 11 March in Austin, draws music-lovers, filmmakers and technology entrepreneurs ranging from the infamous to the unknown.

There is so much going on at any given time, it can overwhelm even the most seasoned attendee. To help navigate the confusion, here are a few mobile apps to simplify your SXSW 2011 experience.

The official SXSW mobile app lets you browse through the official schedule and create a custom game plan. Plus, maps make it easier to navigate the event.

The ever popular "check in" app launched its 3.0 upgrade just in time for SXSW 2011. In addition to helpfully telling you where your Foursquare-using friends and colleagues are, the upgrade allows users to request recommendations from locals. Got a food craving? Now you can ask for help finding the right spot to eat.

Hot Spots @ SXSW
This app displays the SXSW party-scene on a heat map, with spots rated as "hot", "warm", or "cool". With so many parties each night, you'll want to know you're hitting the best ones.

tracks and maps the city's many gourmet food carts, trailers and trucks. Once SXSW gets too expensive, this app will guide you to cheap yet tasty street food - think Texas barbecue or creative crepes - within a stone's throw.

The Austin-based app lets you settle your bar or restaurant tab from your phone (for participating bars and restaurants). Lines can get long during SXSW - TabbedOut gives you one less thing to wait around for. Plus, if you have a few too many one night, you'll wake up the next morning with your credit card safely in your wallet.

Free wi-fi Finder
Using geolocation, this app does exactly what it says: it finds you the nearest spots with free wi-fi. If you have time to kill while waiting for a show to start, nothing beats a coffee shop with free wi-fi.

Most useful for SXSW Interactive goers, Hashable is a networking tool that lets you exchange "business cards" (contact info), organize meetings and calls, and see who your contacts are connecting with. If you or your company already uses Twitter and Foursquare, Hashable can be a helpful tool to merge social interactions with professional networking. It also easily allows you to introduce people (or companies) to each other.

Lonely Planet
Through March 15, Lonely Planet's Austin City Guide app is available for free from iTunes (normally $5.99). Includes insider tips and offline maps to help you find your way around Austin.