I use TextWrangler - it's free and has some nice features. We have a data department that uses various software to generate our data lists, and opening the final list in Excel can cause problems, like dropping the leading zero off of zip codes, so I try to avoid using Excel if possible. The only time I use it is to take a look at the data before working on the job, or if the variable work is real simple and doesn't need to go through the data/mail dept I will use Excel and save as .csv.
I Use FoxPro. Have used it for years and years. Love it! It was bought out by Microsoft, and, the last release was several years ago (Visual FoxPro 9), which, was Microsoft's basic intent (they felt FoxPro was a competing product to Access, so, they bought it and sunk it). You can still buy it, but, it's no longer supported by Microsoft. But, for quick, immediate, "down and dirty" data manipulation, you can't beat it.
FoxPro is an extension of the old "dBase", "dBase II", "dBase III", "dBase IV", line of software. MAC has a version called "FileMaker Pro". In fact, native dBase statements will work in FoxPro, as is, with no modifications (so will SQL). Unlike Access, FoxPro contains a "Command Window" where you can directly enter a command, and have it execute immediately on your data file. Only way to do that in Access, is to write a Visual Basic script macro, and then execute it.
For instance, say I want to add "Or Current Resident" as a second address line. It's just this simple:
Replace all Address2 with "Or Current Resident"
Or, if I want to put sequential numbers in an "Award" field:
Replace all Award with Recno()
I agree with you about the use of Excel for transporting or manipulating data. It's too "open" and too "dangerous". Not only can it mess up your date fields, but, someone who doesn't know a lot about what they are doing can corrupt an entire mail file. I have had customers who will put their mail info in an Excel file, and then, sort on ONE COLUMN (Address 1) of that file, and then save it. Now, NONE of the recipient names match their original addresses, or, the original city state and zip that corresponded with that Address 1 field.