Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are de-facto standard worldwide, but Microsoft Office is very expensive.
A good free office suite should be able to open all Microsoft Office formats almost faithfully, but have you ever tried that out with LibreOffice, OpenOffice, Kingsoft, Google Docs?? I have, it's a desaster. You can open most files at least, but the majority of those will have destroyed formatting.
FreeOffice is the only office suite that offers seamless interoperability, it opened everything so far from my Microsoft Office files, and displayed them without losses - great. Same in the other direction, when I save a document e.g. as doc and open it with Word, it looks exactly the same.
Plus, it's the fastest software of all, has a nice UI, all features I need, and a perfect reliability - no annoying oddities.
Microsoft had a free version of Office for Starters 2010, who using MS office by cracking, can use it, OK enough for basic operations...
Rollerball, I have tried FreeOffice for a short time in the past. I decided to stick with LibreOffice/OpenOffice. I had compatibility problems with a file, thought it was the file (a docx) but it was LibO/OO. Kingsoft did the job. I'll try FreeOffice again on your recommendation, I'll let you know if that file opens ok with it.
My laptop came with the free Microsoft Office 2010 Starter. I also downloaded and tried OpenOffice. My preference is Microsoft Office. The free version doesn't have all the bell and whistles of the full version but it's sufficient for my needs.