I can't understand why the professional office suite programs cost so much. Everybody uses them and there's not a whole lot to the concept. Not only that, but the cost of just word processors has been just outside of my budget for quite some time.
Which is why I went so long using the generic notepad and wordpad that comes standard in Windows.
When I finally had some spare cash I was willing to invest in decent word processor, and possibly even a whole suite of programs, I decided to do a search to find out which ones were best for me. I typed "word processor" in Google and found OpenOffice.org.
The concept is easy: it's a project backed by Sun Microsystems in which programmers contribute to a general set of projects with little to no compensation. The contributions are then in turn combined into a suite of programs (including a word processor and slide show maker) that are distributed online at no cost to anyone who wants it. These users, in turn, have the option of spreading the word by either directing others to the site or burning copies to CDs and giving them away.
OpenOffice.org Writer is great. It's compatible with most other word processing formats and as the project evolves it will integrate the missing ones. It has all of the basic functions of MS Word or WordPerfect's suites and most of the advanced ones.
OpenOffice.org Impress allows you to make a slideshow in the same way that Powerpoint would, without the cost.
Base allows you to create a database of information. Perhaps you're a web developer and want a simple way to store your login information, or a soccer mom that is looking for an easy way to organize phone numbers etc.
Draw is a fairly simple publishing program that's great for making posters and is more dynamic than your standard Windows Paint program.
Calc allows you to creat spreadsheets for spending and finances and works just as well as Excel.
And Math - well, I haven't quite figured out what Math is good for, or a comparative program. As far as I can tell it takes different formulas and do mathmatical equasion-type things. I'm sure it has some really awesome, super-useful purpose.
In addition, just like with WordPerfect there's a quck-launch icon that sits on your taskbar that gives you instant access to each of the programs and even the template launcher.
I love my OpenOffice programs and can't imagine spending a dime for any of the other programs.