Microsoft, Apple, Adobe and the like do create excellent software, but the license fees that are required can be prohibitive for organizations of any scale. Fortunately, this last decade has seen significant developments in the FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) alternative.
For example, take the city of Munich in Germany. Rather than remain hostage to the Microsoft régime, it chose to go the Linux route, and has completed the migration of 15,000 of its 18,000 workstations to its own LiMux platform. It took ten years, but it appears to be worth it. Most of the documentation at their site is in German, but there is a lot to learn about what they did to standardize their development of documents and forms which can be seen here.
On a smaller scale, any organization can benefit from the software that is available now:
- For a standard office suite, check out OpenOffice or LibreOffice. They use the Open Document Format, but can import and export from Microsoft formats as well, and also export to PDF.
- For those that need to use a good desktop publishing application, Scribus is excellent and it exports to PDF as well. If you need the more extensive capabilities provided by LaTeX, give LyX a try.
- Mozilla Thunderbird is a great e-mail client, which is easily customizable.
- For those who work with graphics, GIMP and Inkscape are excellent choices, for raster and vector formats respectively.
- There is too much about Linux that can be summarized easily, but note that many server installations depend on one distribution or another, as opposed to Microsoft or one of the other proprietary vendors. The good people in IT are quite familiar with this.