[Qgis-developer] Getting some newbie views

Barry Rowlingson b.rowlingson at lancaster.ac.uk
Thu Nov 20 06:04:44 EST 2008

This week we ran a two-day open-source geospatial course here at
Lancaster, with qgis regulars Jason and Carson helping along with
Virgilio Gomez-Rubio on spatial programming in R and Jo Cook on web
mapping (I just have to get the credits in).

 It was interesting to watch a bunch of Qgis newbies using the package
for the first time. I noticed a few things:

 * Toolbar icons were a bit difficult for them. Possibly because it's
easier during a workshop to say 'click on Layers... New Vector Layer'
than 'the new vector layer icon is that one there with the green
lines...'. With the Grass plugin icons it's a bit worse... Possible
solution would be to start qgis with no toolbars and have everything
from menus. Also, the toolbars can get so cluttered that common tools
aren't visible, and newbies don't know where to look. I ran around the
class a bit dragging the view/zoom toolbar to the right edge. Many
users had no experience configuring a flexible gui like this.

 * Why is the layer list called the 'legend'? Yes, I know it displays
the legend styles for the renderer, but it's more often used for
arranging layers and setting properties. The legend popup menu has a
lot of infrequently-used items - mainly related to the layer grouping
- that add to the clutter and make it hard for beginners to find the
one or two things that might want. Maybe the Save and Save Selection
items could move to the Layer menu. And what are 'File Groups' all

 * "Symbology"? I think ologies put people off. Why not 'Appearance'?
I'm pretty sure that newbies would have trouble figuring this out if
it wasn't the first tab in the dialog!

On the plus side, very few crashes, and this was 28 people running
Qgis 1.0 preview 2 from 6 Windows 2003 Terminal Server machines. They
all got some maps loaded, and most managed Jason's GRASS overlay
exercise. It got a bit slow at one point, but that might have been
another class running in the other lab using the same servers, or
possibly just the size of the raster data - I'm making a new rule that
says demo raster data for workshops cant be more than 512x512! We did
cram a lot into half a day.

 Quite a few people ticked our feedback forms for more Qgis workshops,
and we plugged Gary's book as much as possible! 10% commission please


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