I use MS office 2003, i only really use it for Word2003, which for a student who needs to write papers, it has some very handy new features (a great theasaurus to name but a few). MS Frontpage 2003, i have Dreamweaver which is regarded as being the best web editor money can buy, i fully agree with this, but if you have a web site which is running Frontpage extensions, then MS FrontPage 2003 is the best "site management" tool money can buy!!.
I havn't even started on the other office 2003 programs i have, but when i do, the great thing about them is they all have a generic interface, so all you need to learn is the basics of the program and not
where all the buttons are located.
I have used some of the free office programs, but they full well short in features and functionality (i havn't used OpenOffice, well not that i can remember anyway) but for anyone on a low or none existent budget, the free office programs will enable you to do nearly everything that the MS equivalent programs can do.
Just remember it's like comparing a free graphics program (like dogwaffle or gimp) to Adobe Photoshop, the free version will do the basics, while photoshop will blow your mind!!!!
These are just my honest opinions, I'm no expert