With the latest versions QGIS has been making big strides in becoming one of the most serious open source tools out there for map making. The latest stable release, version 1.7 (Wroclav), came with an improved new symbology which is now used by default, a diagram system that uses the same smart placement system as labeling, export and import of styles, labels for rules in rule-based renderers, font marker can have an X, Y offset, move/rotate/change label edit tools to interactively change data defined label properies, and more.
The polygon fill options are still limited in Wroclav though. The default selection of hatches that can be used to fill polygons in QGIS is very limited and there is no option to change distances or line width. Sure, the SVG fill option gives you a lot more flexibility. But you have to create each individual pattern outside QGIS, even if you simply want to change the colour.
So when I read that the development version (version 1.8) offers new hatching modes in QGIS I decided to give it a try. At start up you get a big warning that you are dealing with software ‘under heavy construction’. But the few times I have tried it runs without much problems. And as for the new hatching options, I just can say it works great! I ran into a bit of stability issues when working on large polygon files, but I am sure that will be ironed out before the final release version.
I am working a lot with rasters, so the other option I really miss in version 1.7 is the automatic generation of raster legends. This means that if you want to add raster legends in the print composer you will have to create the legend in e.g., Inkscape. You can than insert the legend in map in print composer.
But that is history now! While working on a map I noticed to my great surprise that QGIS had automatically created a legend for my raster layer. This was not only a nice surprise, it was a huge time saver as I suddenly did not have to worry about creating the legend anymore. The only thing still required was filling in the category labels. The example below is of a GRASS raster layer, but I assume it will work on all compatible raster layers.
Of course, there always remains something to wish for. Wouldn’t it for example be nice if QGIS could automatically read the category labels from my GRASS raster layer as well? Who knows something for a later version.