One note is much better for taking notes than word. There are many reasons, but the main one would probably be organization. ONe note allows you to be able to store the notes for all of your classes in a very handy, self contained organizational structure, that is very flexible and allows you to arange things best to suit your needs. With word, you would typically have to set up your own folder structure, and would often have to switch between files to find older class information.
My suggestion is to go for the 90 free trial for students at MS and see if you like it.
I'm going to use OneNote for notetaking next year. The organization of it is phenomenal- I LOVE OneNote. And it is all color coded, you can separate notes into different sections, tabs, tabs ontop of tabs.
I'm thinking class notes, outlines, etc.
Also, the annoying auto tabs and linestyle typing is eliminated in OneNote. You just click and type where ever you'd like. Freedom
Openoffice is free, and functional. In some ways it doesn't have as many features as MS office, in a few others it has more. The main complaint about it is that it's slow and somewhat bloated. But it's free, easy to use, does everything people like us need to do, and computer science geeks (as well as employees of MANY companies, like ibm and sun) all over the world will update it and give new versions to us for free for many years to come.
There are also other options, which are smaller and have fewer functions (which still suffice for people without specific needs, which you probably don't). Abiword is a very good word processor, which does everything I need to do, is fast, stable, and free. But it's just a word processor; it's part of a larger suite (gnome office), but I don't know how good/full that is. I prefer to use abiword, but when I need other office programs I use openoffice.
Try them both, you'll be surprised. There are also other open source programs that are uber-useful, functional and free. gimp (picture/image editing) is a good example, as is VLC media player (which has a good, uncluttered interface, and plays almost all file formats).
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