Amazon.com just lowered the price for the popular Microsoft Office 2010 Home & Student edition. For $99, you can install the included Word 2010, Excel 2010, PowerPoint 2010, and OneNote 2010 on up to three PCs your family owns.
I highly recommend you learn how to use Office 2010, especially Word and Excel. While you’re learning Excel, pick up some VBA skills as well. To quote from the revised edition of my book (to be released by December):
I have tried and do not recommend free office suites that claim to be compatible with Microsoft Office. These free programs are okay for writing lover’s letters or tabulating your meager savings, but they do not have the same professional features as the genuine Microsoft Office suite. If you are serious about building up your skills, shell out the ~$100 for the Home and Student edition which can be installed on up to three PCs. Even a $199 netbook can run Office 2010 pretty well. Come interview time, the lack of Office – especially Excel – skills may put you at a significant disadvantage against other candidates, even if you’re familiar with an alternative program. (I found this out myself the hard way.)
You may be able to find the Home & Student edition for even a lower price at your university’s computer store if you’re a university student, although my own quick search has shown that this $99 price tag is among the lowest, plus Amazon.com does not charge sales tax and offers free shipping. If you’re a student, you can also join the free Amazon Student program to get free Prime shipping benefits for one year.