What I use now is all free: emacs and LaTeX, precompiled for XP. I never use tables, but now I'll have to.
I am used to doing most office work by hand with a calculator, then transfering it into an ascii file (emacs) and laying it out for reports in LaTeX. From LaTeX the files are converted in PDF. The simplest distribution method is PDF attachments to email.
However this process does not allow the organization's management to modify anything I produce except with handwritten editing notes. We've corresponded just a little and I get MS Word formats from them while I send them PDF or simple ASCII.
That means to me they have no idea how to convert DOC <=> PDF or even realize they can pull ASCII into Word and then send it back to some near-ASCII format with the TXT extension. This org is really funky, and I am having a hard time finding my calm center.
Now the question. Is it worth my while to download Open Office and install it. Does Open Office have enough file conversion options to take care of this file format bullshit? Does Open Office do a good enough job, so if I send a document that looks like a Word document with a DOC extension, their Word program will reproduce it correctly?
Or, is it just much more simple to get the organization to make a free copy of MS Office available, and I work in that environment instead? (While I puke at its dysfunctionality...)
I've noticed that Wordpad works to display MS Word documents and allows edits and saving. Most business text isn't long enough to exceed Wordpad limits. What I am more worried about here is Excel and the spreadsheet arithmetic functions.
My nighmare vision for NCLB and its clones. High school students are taught that proficiency in Excel is mathematical competence.