I recently switched to a new iMac -- do I need to buy Office for Mac to read Word files?
No. The version of Apple's TextEdit program included on every Mac running Mac OS X Panther can open Microsoft Word files. It often scrambles or loses more complex formatting -- but if nobody sends you any particularly dressed-up Word documents, that may not be a problem. Your next option is the AppleWorks program bundled on the iMac, eMac, iBook and Mac Mini, which usually does a better, but not great, job of displaying a Word file as it looked in Word itself. Better yet are Apple's new Pages program, part of its $79 iWork suite, and such third-party word processors as Nisus Software's $60 Nisus Writer.
But if you want line-for-line compatibility with such higher-end Word features as revision tracking, there's no substitute for Microsoft's excellent Word for Mac OS X. Home users can get that for $150 or less as part of the Student and Teacher Edition of Microsoft Office, available to the general public in just about any computer store carrying Mac software.
The CDs I've burned on my computer can't be read by my CD player at all, even after I've tried three different software packages and two different CD burners.
This reader made a natural mistake, assuming the flaw was in the most expensive, complicated parts of his computing setup. Actually, he had been using the wrong type of discs -- reusable CD-RWs, which work less often than write-once CD-Rs. When he switched to CD-Rs, everything worked.
Most new CD and DVD players accept -RW discs, but in general CD-R is the safest bet. In rare cases (such as my aging Sony DVD player) CD-RWs play but CD-Rs do not, while the oldest hardware can't read any sort of homemade CD.
-- Rob Pegoraro
Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or firstname.lastname@example.org.