I am predominantly an ArcGIS user and would choose to use it whenever possible, but the  high cost of licences mean it is not practical for everyone. For the same reason I have not had a version on my PC since I left university.

Whilst working in the Bracknell Forest Council GIS department there was lots of discussion about the potential for local authorities to move across to an open source solution. My manager was intending to write a Masters thesis on the subject. However all agreed that in an ideal world Arc is first choice and I have heard it quoted that 70% of the industry agrees. It is just a more powerful and well built tool than its competitors.

In my current role I use Arcs main competitor MapInfo and am constantly frustrated by its lack of functionality and terrible usability. It appears that no concession has been made to ease of use and all decisions were made for the benefit of the software developers. Overall it is very tedious but I have no choice as the company is dependent on the ParkMap MapBasic Application. This programme has its merits but is ultimately let down by being based within MapInfo.

So I have been investigating open source alternatives and QGIS seems the popular choice. It is also being discussed on the InfoGeo blog run by an ex-colleage of mine.

My initial impressions are that it is similar to ArcGIS in style and feels well designed. I will explore its capabilities and report back in future posts.