Slashgeo linked to an incredible web-based QGIS tutorial last week. I’ve been looking through it, and so far it is excellent. It’s not really designed for total newbies – there are other places to get your very first introduction to a desktop GIS. Instead, this tutorial seems to be aimed at those who are familiar with the concepts of GIS, but not yet familiar with QGIS. If that’s you, this tutorial will quickly get you up to speed. The combination of text instructions, screenshots (from a Mac!), and YouTube videos creates a fun and fast-paced learning environment which is ideal for people who want to get started quickly.
The only obvious drawback to QGIS presented here is the installation of the required software. Since QGIS was designed as a package for the Unix environment, it has a lot of dependencies on other projects, notably GDAL. And those packages have to be in place for the installation to proceed. Even the installation of Mac binaries requires a lot of hair-pulling. Windows standalone binaries are easy enough to install, but a static installation is not as extendable as a linkable application framework. So if you really want to capture the full power of QGIS, some assembly required.
My experience installing QGIS, in Fedora Linux 15 (and 12-14) has been much simpler. Fedora has a graphical package manager that lets me install QGIS just by checking a box (Figure 1). All the dependencies and prerequisites are taken care of by the package manager behind my back. Installing software doesn’t get much easier than that. Installing QGIS in Linux Mint, a spinoff of Ubuntu, was similar. Linux is still not the easiest OS to work with, but some distros have made a lot of progress on the package management front.
Link to the tutorial: