When I open Microsoft Word, life slows down to a crawl on my Mac. Mostly Word is really painful to use and the many significant pauses it subjects you to are capable of driving a calm person berserk.
Apple’s S$138 iWork package includes Pages, a native word processing application which speeds along in comparison. For my simple, unformatted needs though, I prefer using TextWrangler, a free text editor which I already use to write and edit webpages directly on servers. Text editors, of course, fly at the speed of light.
All Mac users already own TextEdit, a resident application of OS X. TextEdit can switch to an RTF option to allow for mild formatting needs and pdf generation is always a print option away in the Mac OS. Another of such applications is Bean, which I forgot about for awhile. It caught my eye once again and I am giving it another spin. Bean also reads docx files.
Google Docs (formerly Writely) is an excellent alternative, especially if you are on a stable internet connection. It is a boon for collaborative work (e.g. this Web 2.0 outline) and for working across multiple computers or opportunistically typing into an existing document when you find yourself stuck somewhere with a terminal and some spare time.
The limitation of all these, of course, is the need for document sharing with some Word user with a heavily formatted document or when tracking is necessary (it mostly isn’t). Then it’s time to fire up Microsoft Word again and force myself into a Zen state to deal with that inevitable beach ball.