you can buy your own MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) account, it costs somewhere in the region of £1000 and that gets you every piece of microsoft software ever released.
the snag is that there are licnsing restrictions around it.
MSDN is the microsoft develper network and the software released is to be used for testing software, (that's why it's so cheap).
if you have a cpoy of VC++ or VB
(etc) then you are supposed to use it for testing any new tools/toolbars/addins that you might have made.
the only exception is office, (and the other blue discs in the subscription) and they carry one regular license with each £1000 subscription.
Examples of (prohibited) production use include:
Installing Windows 98 to play games for entertainment.
Installing Windows 2000 Server and Exchange Server to set up an e-mail system that you use to send personal and/or business-related e-mail.
You may not use your MSDN Subscription as a substitute for purchasing a retail license for an operating system if you do more than develop and test on your computer.
So Alvino... whilst your intentions are good, you're actually a softwar pirate just as if you downloaded it illegally... actually since your intentions broke the end user agreement, you did download it illegally!!!
you'll also notice that in that statement it suggests that MSDN licenses are per user,
most universities have either, the achedemic alliance subscription, (like I had whilst I was at uni, when students can check certain discs out of the library, such as the visual studio disc to give them the tools they may need to develop a project. or a server OS disc to set up a testing site for a project.
or universities may have the Microsoft Select, or Campus agreements, which usually let the universities use the software (for their business purpose -educating students), and also let their staff take home a copy o the software, that they are allowed to use whilst they are employed by the university...
MSDN and MSDNAA licenses are perpetual, and hence I can use visual studio that I got from uni for non profit development for as long as I live...
yet can only use software from the uni that I work in for as long as I work there...
there is no real cheap free/easy way to get MS software, and the uni schemes are just based on getting you to use MS office rather than openoffice/star office or equivelants...
open office, it sucks... well not really, it just doesn't conform to the ever changing MS standards, so whilst it may be able to open and save .doc docuents in MS word format, it doesn't do it exceptionally well, and sometimes things can get a little screwed up.
which is why the last place I worked at ditched it in favour of buying everyone office...
it's just no fun when a customer sends back documentation saying they can read it, because all the pages are a blue colour, the tables are messed up and the fonts just don't look right!!!
and it won't be fun if you fail an assignment for the same reasons either, lecturers don't send back mangled files, they can just fail you. -using open office won't be an excuse since MS office will have been provided on campus!