Not necessarily. It’s hard to ignore MS Office, but you don’t need to blow 400 bucks to get your work done. In fact, you don’t need to install any programs at all. Sign up for the free Google Docs (documents.google.com) or Zoho (zoho.com), and you can do everything in a Web browser. The programs look similar to Word, Excel and PowerPoint and offer all the same features (save for a few lesser-used ones like certain spreadsheet formulas). Zoho even kicks in a few extra applets like a Wiki-building tool. Best of all, these applications let you access your files from any computer that’s online.
If you don’t have reliable Internet access or are more comfortable installing programs on your computer, there’s no shortage of competition, either.