Many people are looking for alternatives to Microsoft's Office suite -- few find one. MS Office is a powerful tool and meets most user needs. The primary limitation is its price. Because any program that wants to compete has to be compatible with Office, this forces alternatives to be different while still being totally compatible. This is not easy to do and one wonders what interesting new office suites might have been possible if coders did not have to maintain document format and visual interface standards. Anyone who remembers the days before Microsoft dominated the office suite area will remember that there were many office applications and some of them, such as Framemaker, had very different ways to produce documents. The dominance of Microsoft has limited what can be done.
SoftMaker is a commercial entity located in Europe that strives for quickness and MS Office computability. The reviews of their new 2008 version make it sound very promising. They apparently have a great mobile version that can turn your Windows smart phone into a little desktop substitute. The price of $99 for an entire school is close enough to free.
Of course, there is Open Office/Star Office and a number of other alternatives that should be considered. While I like Open Office/Star Office, I know that some people believe it to be slow -- which was true in the past -- and others will not look at it because it based on an open source process. Personally, I don't find these to be problems, but I know that more than a few risk-adverse bosses would. At the very least, SoftMaker Office should be on your list of office suite alternatives.