Whether they are "switchers" or longtime Mac users, one of the first downloads many people look for when firing up a new Mac are office programs. With Microsoft Office as the most commonly used office program in the workplace, people understandably want their home computers to be able to work with the same types of documents. The problem is, the retail version of Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac is $399 (from Microsoft's Web site).
Fortunately, a group of developers started OpenOffice.org to create an open-source solution with the mission of providing a free alternative to Microsoft Office. If you've tried looking for free office alternatives before, you've undoubtedly run across OpenOffice, but if you're a Mac user, there's something else that might be even better.
Based on OpenOffice code, developers Patrick Luby and Edward Peterlin created NeoOffice. With NeoOffice you can create, work with, and edit projects made with Microsoft Office, from presentations and spreadsheets to Word documents. But what puts NeoOffice ahead of OpenOffice for Mac is its use of Aqua interface elements more in tune with the Mac OS X experience. It is compatible with Apple's Finder and the Mail program, so Office type documents will automatically open in NeoOffice. Also unlike OpenOffice for Mac, NeoOffice uses the same fonts that all other Mac applications use, making it a better working experience all around.
Clearly, there's nothing stopping you from buying Microsoft Office, but if you're looking for a great alternative for Mac OS X, you should give NeoOffice a try.
Do you have a better free program for working with Office docs? Do you think Microsoft is the only way to go? Let me know in the comments!