With my new laptop, I didn't feel like buying another copy of Microsoft Office (and surprisingly, it didn't even have a trial version pre-installed). But I like the philosophy behind open-source anyway, so I decided to just use Open Office instead. Some things are great about it (not least its being free), and for the most part it's equal to anything I could do with Word and Excel. Already I've played around with the saving as .pdf option, something I couldn't do with Word (I think there's a free add-on you can download now to let the newer versions of Word save as .pdf, or at least that was the plan at one point).
But a couple things have cropped up to frustrate me, and I actually booted up my desktop today to tweak some things in Word.
First, columns--they work fine, but then when I save as .rtf or .doc (which I need to for submitting, since most places don't accept .odt), it messes up the formatting. Standard manuscript format has the two columns at the top of the first page, but when Open Office saves it in another format, I either end up with the entire first page in two columns with the story starting at the top of page 2, or no columns at all, and what should be in the right column simply underneath.
The other frustration is the search function--in Word it's so simple to search and replace italics for underlining (again for standard format) or to replace a single carriage return with a double carriage return (for typical internet format). But as far as I can find, Open Office doesn't let you search at all for a carriage return, and the functionality of the search for italics hasn't worked great--I can find them with it, but when I try to replace italics with underlining and no italics automatically, it hasn't worked. So I'm stuck going through and manually changing them. That's still better than before I figured out how to search for formatting in Word, when I'd scan the document and simply hope I caught all the italics, but still annoying.
So if anyone is familiar with Open Office and can enlighten me on anything I'm missing, let me know. Otherwise I suppose I could uninstall my Office 97 from my desktop and put it on here (if Vista even lets me do that), but I'm resisting that for now.
Edit: So as soon as I posted this, I decided to experiment a bit more...and figured out how to do both of these things related to the search function. It's certainly not as simple, not as intuitive, but it can be done. And it doesn't solve the issue with columns. Let's just hope I remember what I did...