Microsoft's recent "Laptop Hunters" ad campaign is centered on the idea that Macs are more expensive than PCs and that the cost of core business and productivity tools for the Mac add to that expense. While the premium cost of Apple's hardware will always be part of the Mac vs. PC debate, the truth is that you can get a lot of work done on a Mac without spending a lot for software -- or, indeed, anything at all.
In this guide, I'll look at 10 free and donationware tools that you can use to accomplish virtually any common office or personal productivity task.
Word processing and office suites
Working with word processing documents, spreadsheets and presentations has long been a primary use of computers. Mac users have a range of paid options for creating and editing such documents, headed by Microsoft Office for Mac ($149 to $399, depending on the version) and Apple's iWork ($79), but there are also a number of open-source and free options.
The first option, for word processing only, actually comes bundled with Mac OS X. Although TextEdit is generally considered a basic text editor, it does support styled text and multiple fonts.
The most recent version of TextEdit, included with OS X Leopard, can open and edit files in rich text format (.rtf), Microsoft's old and new Word formats (.doc and .docx), and the OpenDocument format (.odt) used by OpenOffice. With Mac OS X's global spelling- and grammar-checking capabilities, it can serve as a replacement for Word, provided you don't need to use any particularly advanced features like footnotes or change tracking.