When apple people interact with people who use MS word, is the only way to do this by purchasing Office for the Mac or can pages make do?
I believe pages can output to a format that is word friendly correct?
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There are various solutions for dealing with Word documents on the Mac:
Quick Look, built into all versions of OS X since Leopard, can preview Word documents. It doesn’t always get the formatting right, but it’s good for a quick inspection.
Pages, part of the iWork suite, can open (in .doc and .docx) and save (in .doc) Word documents. This isn’t perfect either. One useful feature is that it shows you a list of warnings when you open a document, highlighting Word features used in the document that aren’t supported in Pages. Pages costs $19.99 in the Mac App Store.
There are a handful of other word processors on the Mac that can handle Microsoft Word documents (Nisus Writer Pro and Write both spring to mind), but I don’t have enough experience with any of them to say how good they are at handling Word’s formatting.
If you’re using advanced features of Word, or very complicated formatting, then your best experience will be using the native Microsoft apps. But for simple formatting, any of the apps I just mentioned will probably be sufficient. It really depends on what sort of documents you’re likely to be dealing with.
TextEdit opens Words documents. Preview can show them.
Pages and LibreOffice/OpenOffice/NeoOffice and others can open most Office documents.
Excel can be opened by Numbers and numeric
iWork Pages can export to
.doc format. LibreOffice/OpenOffice can save to
But in both cases you will have compatibility problems when using some layouts or other functionnalities.
So if you want to work on the same documents I would strongly recommand MS Office Mac. It will save you a lot a times.