Well let's start with Open Office, a suite of software I've been using a lot lately, on both my Mac and my PC. I can definitely say I like this a LOT.
This is great software. If you tried it in the past and found it slightly flaky, you really should give it another go. As far as I am concerned there's no need to buy Microsoft Office any more.
Today, Open Office is what you want for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, document layout, databases, and drawing tools. It really is free, it supports many languages, and it works well on both Macs and PCs. Here's how the OpenOffice.org web site describes it:
...the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages. It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose.
All true. And in some cases it works better than Microsoft Office. I know because I just used Open Office to create a new set of product literature for Monetate. These are pretty fancy documents--like the one shown above--and they are not something I would feel comfortable creating in Microsoft Word. They are made to be downloaded as .pdfs from the company web site but they also get sent to a high-end printing press to create sell sheets for shows.