This year I decided to start using the open source solution QGis instead of ArcGIS (ArcMap), in such a way to reduce my financial dependance of expensive softwares. Actually QGIS is just great and even if it doesn't seems to do everything that does ArcGIS, it does things that ArcGIS doesn't do or doesn't do easily. Here are some examples of useful that does QGis:
- I used to transform my iso-lines into points and use those points to interpolate my ascii grids with surfer. With QGIS you can use directly the lines or lines+points. They are several output formats available. Triangulation method only, which is nonetheless sufficient when a lot of data are available.
- split a X-Y-SLICE-F shapefile into as many shapefiles that you have SLICES, in just a mouse click
- perform the usual querry and calculations on a shapefile
- perform SURFER type of Grid maths (like slice1 elevation - slice 2 elevation, etc)
- transform a grid into an imprehensive choice of formats
- very convenient way of georeferencing a raster
- easy to browse catalog of coordinate systems
- easy to browse catalog of WMS coverages
- motivated community of users
- lot of extensions available for free, lots of updates and new extensions frequently coming out
- exciting development to come, like 3D viewers and more incorporation of GRASS tools
It's easy to learn when you are confortable with GIS technologies. So don't hesitate !