When you want to type a letter to send through snail mail, or you need to print out information for the future, you use a word processor. Over the years, many different word processors have been sold. WordPerfect, Microsoft Works, and Microsoft Word are 3 of the most common, but there were many different ones in the 90’s and early 2000’s. There are a few alternatives now that are less expensive or free, but Microsoft Office is still the leader of the pack as far as numbers sold. Depending on the version, MS Office may have a word processor, spreadsheet, database, e-mail/planner, and publishing software. It is, however, quite pricey.
Office comes in a wide variety of versions. Microsoft lists and compares them HERE. The big difference is that Office 365 is a license for a year (or 4 years with the University version), and when that time is up, you have to pay again. Office 2013 is a purchase of software that will be yours until it becomes totally out of date (like the Office 1997 version on my old computer).
It is a very sophisticated program that allows you to create all sorts of documents. Whether you need that much power is your decision. I would recommend the purchase of the appropriate Dummies book for whatever version you get since it doesn’t really come with any sort of manual.
Open Office is just that. It is open source software that is free for personal use. It will do most of the things that MS Office will do, and it even looks a little like MS Office. You can download it HERE and install it on your computer for personal use. If you have a business, the business license is much less expensive that MS Office. You can set it to save in .doc format by default and it will read docx files. I have heard from some users, however, that documents created in Open Office may not display perfectly in MS Office. If money is an issue, I recommend trying it before shelling out the $100-$400 that MS Office costs.
Another option is to download the Google Docs that you need. Scroll down the linked page to the “Home and Office” section. These are all free and work on the “cloud” or on your computer or tablet. One advantage to them is that they save to your google account and in doing so, they are available in a usable format on any device you are using (cell phone, IOS (Apple) device, android tablet).
The downside is that they aren’t as sophisticated as are the dedicated programs. I prefer to keep my documents on MY computer rather than out there on someone else’s machine. That is just me, though. In addition, if you don’t have Internet access, some of these apps don’t work at all. They rely on using the cloud.