I need to edit
*.docx files on Linux. What should I use?
- Emulation + MS Office
- OpenOffice variants
The most complete is by far MS Office in a virtual machine: this is what I do.
If you will again be distributing those files you edited, it's pretty much necessary to use MS Office, because anything else can have unpredictable effects on the document.
If it is for your own use, OpenOffice (or LibreOffice or Go-oo, etc) is just about as good as MS Office and is the most feature-rich.
If you are in a KDE environment and the OO.o-derived products feel awkward or clumsy, then KOffice is an excellent alternative, although I find the .doc compatability less-suitable.
If you require a minimal install size, Abiword is quite good. The online suites (Google Docs, Office Web Apps) are pretty good as well.
I do wish you had responded to the other questions I had asked in my comment, such as whether you need to distribute the files afterwards, and so on, because it really makes it hard to answer* (see below), but I'll have to ignore that and give my preference anyway.
For academic papers, the most "complete" linux solution in LaTeX, provided by TeXlive distribution on linux, which is an extremely powerful document preparation system widely used in the academic world, especially in mathematics and sciences, but is catching on even in the humanities.
LaTeX is free, open source software. Some generic advocacy (a sample):
Introduction to LaTeX (written for academic philosophers)
LaTeX is not a word processor. To use LaTeX, you use a regular text editor, and insert into your documents certain mark-up tags that focus on the semantic meaning of your document. You say what is a heading, what is a section, what words are emphasized, what is a quotation. Typically, while composing, you don't focus on how the document looks. (Form is separated from content.) You then use LaTeX (built on D. Knuth's TeX typesetting engine) to typeset your document. It does this using very fussy typographical rules that derive from professional typesetting. Unlike the default settings in Word you get very advanced typographical features like pair and margin kerning, typographical ligatures, hyphenation, white-space balancing, and so on. The output's quality is comparable to InDesign or PageMaker. The output is usually a PDF. (You can also output to PostScript or DVI formats, or, with some loss of features, to HTML or OpenOffice format instead.)
Plugins exist for most good text editors like gedit, vim and emacs, and there are also LaTeX IDEs like Kile and TeXworks. For a smoother transition, you might also consider a "What You See is What You Mean" editor like LyX, which is more similar to a Word Processor interface.
The quality of output it delivers far surpasses that of MS Word, and through the hundreds of user contributed packages, it is far richer and more powerful than MS Word or other traditional Word Processor. Bibliography management through BibTeX or BibLaTeX is easier and more automated. Changing, e.g., from Chicago Manual of Style bibliographies to APA style or AMS style is just a matter of changing a single setting.
LaTeX has a steep learning curve at first, but once you've gotten the hang of it (which isn't nearly as bad as it looks), you'll never look back, and you'll wonder how anyone puts up with stupid Word Processors. LaTeX is to Word what Linux is to Windows. It's not just "a better version of the same", but an entirely different trajectory in software that puts you in control of your documents.
Use OpenOffice and recommend the ODF format. For sending, just export to PDF. Regards
Office 2007 runs quite well with wine. Running a entire virtual machine just for office might be a overkill.