Okay, confession time. I am currently using 5 different computers, an iTouch and a smartphone. Sounds glamorous, doesn't it? It's not. My wonderful pc computer on my desk at home does not have Microsoft Office, just Open Office and Outlook (for the smartphone that has Mobile Office). My mini notebook (pc) also has Open Office and Outlook, while my work laptop (pc) does have Microsoft Office and Open Office and Outlook. My smartphone will not sync properly with any of the Outlook programs. Most of the information that comes in and out of work is on Microsoft Office, so that is what I use. There may be a way to import and sync the 4 Outlook calendars and contacts, but I have not found it yet. Now let's add in the new Mac, Macbooks and the iTouch and you can see where the confusion comes in. With the two graduate classes and the different discussion questions and projects, you can see how difficult it is to know where you have put your documents, which version is which and which program is available on that computer.
How do I do it? Here's how: use Open Office. I constantly have to pull up the syllabus from one of my classes and I generally do it in Open Office. I try to do everything for class on my work computer (and in Microsoft Office) so that it is in one place, but that does not always happen. Unfortunately, Open Office does not have a calendar function. I keep a paper calendar and try to transfer from one Outlook calendar to another through the paper calendar. I am currently looking at Google docs as a possibility to bridge from the pc to the Macbook.
So, to wrap up, Open Office advantages: free, universal, Mac compatible, with minimal change in Microsoft Office documents when saved; disadvantages: no calendar function, not the same 'look' as Microsoft Office and not as many options. Microsoft Office advantages: Outlook, ability to produce a more polished document with more options, brand name support; disadvantages: expensive, proprietary, and have to buy Microsoft Office for the Mac while Open Office for the Mac is free. For educational use in my opinion it is a no brainer: Open Office wins.
I promise to figure out the school/work/home computer situation and get it down to two computers and a phone that will function. I just need to finish the semester. . .