This is what I experienced on doing my doctors thesis:
latex was superior to all other word processing tools in that it does not fiddle with your layout once you set it up. You just write. No headaches. And if it comes to doing a printed book, you can generate high quality pdf or ps files wich can be imported directly to the (commonly mac-based) printing systems, including propper page sorting!
Openoffice spreadshead graphics was worse for me, unusable. I have to check if versino 2 is better in this. I had to do them using wine/excel and I hated it, because you need special tools to extract the graphics from wmf to eps for high quality printing.
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