catdoc does what it sounds like:
cat a word doc file as if it were a normal, readable, plain text file. It also can output tex or latex friendly text, converting quotes and some special characters to their tex representations.
xls2csv is sensibly named too: it takes a bloated, unreadable binary excel xls and turns it into a text file with comma-separated values.
Both support a wide array of character encodings and translation.