After having been trained on ArcGIS, MapInfo and GeoConcept it took me a while to understand the full power of QGIS. Partially because at the time I discovered it, QGIS was more or less used to display and edit shapefiles, while the spatial analysis was stuck in ftools (not very user friendly although powerful) and the cartography was more than limited. But both latest releases have really changed that and now QGIS is more than useful (especially when one chose mac for its lightweight advantage). I’ve taught another PhD student in Cities Institute how to use QGIS to make some maps for the thesis and although she had never been trained in GIS, she can now make maps with the data she has created for her research. To me, that makes it a very user friendly software! That explains the apparition of tutorials for journalists for example: multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/qgis-basics-journalists/.
Modules improve QGIS quite a lot, although it is difficult to understand why some of them are not part of the core.. I personally use a lot mmqgis, like a lot of users I’ve seen on forums. Although in my one-day-a-week job for the Cities Institute I use ArcGIS for its cartography, I decided to only use QGIS for my thesis. It has made my life easier, as I can now work from home.. but some restrictions introduced by QGIS rigidity made me feel like I was wasting a lot of time. For instance I spent almost a day trying to figure out why QGIS wouldn’t join by attributes my CSV and shapefile, as all I had was a python error I couldn’t make sense to. I used ArcGIS that asked me if I didn’t mind having an index created for the CSV, which finally made me understand the python error. I created the index (apparently the one in my CSV file wasn’t recognized as QGIS thought it was text and not numbers) and it eventually worked. I guess for that ArcGIS was more user-friendly.. but on the other hand it didn’t do the join I wanted, contrary to QGIS!