While most computers spend their time helping us surf the Internet, play music, or watch videos, word processing is still one of the major functions of many Macs. Before Macs switched to the Intel processors, AppleWork was included with every Mac. Unfortunately, Apple dropped this suite and new Macs only come with Text Edit, a very capable text editor but not really a word processor.
If you love all things Apple, then you will be happy to know that Apple has replaced AppleWorks, sort of, with a new suite called iWork. Apple iWork 09 includes Keynote an amazing multimedia slide presentation program, Numbers a spreadsheet program with advanced graphics, and Pages a Word Processor/Page Layout program. This suite of programs should suffice for all but the true business oriented user. It can be used to create documents for home, school, and home-office.
There are some good free word processors available for the Mac. NeoOffice and Open Office are two similar packages that are touted as being Microsoft Office clones. Today, both Neo Office and Open Office are true Aqua based OS X programs, which emulates most of the MS Office file format.
If you do not need an office suite, some of us don't ever use spreadsheets, then a stand-alone word processor will do the trick. One of the best stand-alone programs is AbiWord. AbiWord is an open source project and is also available on Windows, Linux, and Solaris.
Another solid Mac word processor is Mariner Write, available around $45. This is a very capable word processor that can read and write MS Word files, amongst other formats. If you loved the word processor in AppleWorks then you will probably like Mariner Write. It is a very Mac like program with all the basic features you would ever need. Menus are concise and don't have too many advanced settings. This keeps the interface much simpler and easier to follow.
For a more polished commercial product there is a veteran called Nisus Writer, available since 1989. Nisus has been around for quite a while, long before Intel Macs and even OS X and had a unique capability to use multiple language fonts in a single document. Nisus users are loyal and if you find one they will tell you how great this program is. Today, Nisus is available in two versions Express and Pro. For home and school, Express should cover all bases. For those who need a more business like program, one that is equivalent to MS Word, get the Pro version for just a few dollars more.
Of course you may see a theme so far. Most all office and word processors are compared to Microsoft's product, Office. Office over the years has become the de facto standard for creating and handling business documents. The standard MS Office package is pricey though at $350. Luckily you can opt for a lower cost version from Microsoft, the Home and Student version (street price under $100).
The Home and Student version includes Word, Excel (spreadsheet), PowerPoint (slide show presentation), and Entourage (email/organizer). This is an even greater bargain since is ships with three separate installation codes allowing it to be installed on multiple computers.
The latest version of MS Office for Mac is 2008. This does incorporate many of the new features and document formats found in the Windows version. This allows Mac users to share documents with the Windows PC masses. Since there are definitely more Windows PCs in the business world, compared to Macs, this is a good thing.
The only major thing missing in the Home and Student version is MS Exchange Server capabilities. If you don't know what this means, then you don't have to worry. Many large businesses use an Exchange Server for Email. If you need to access an Exchange Server for Email, then you are stuck and must use the full MS Office 2008 for Mac.
The new MS Office 2008 has been written for both Intel and PPC Macs and has the new streamlined interface that was introduced in the 2007 version for Windows. However, this is not a clone of the Windows version. The 2008 Mac version is very 'Mac' like in its look and feel. With the 2008 version you can now read and write the new DOCX format, something that troubled many Mac users with PC friends who would send them 2007 documents.
Of course Microsoft has recently announced the new 2010 version of Office for Mac. This will most likely not happen until the later part of 2010, so you probably shouldn't wait if you need an office suite now. To confuse things even more, Microsoft has been discussing the possibility of offering Office 2010 basic suite free as an online application. This would give anyone with a modern browser, a Windows Live account, and of course an Internet connection, access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. This is no doubt a move to compete with Google's growing line of online applications. It will be interesting to see how well these online apps run on the Mac platform.
Whether you need a full office suite, or just a good word processor, there is plenty to choose from for the Mac. Why not try out the free ones first, since they are free, then if you're needs are not met you can go on to the commercial products. I'm not much of a fan of Microsoft, but the Home and Student version is quite a bargain for those with multiple Macs. Plus, MS Office 2008 does give a Mac the compatibility it may need in the PC world.