1. Easier to compose maps at any size ( Large posters are easier to make now )
2. Able to control the legend ( multi-columns )
We were using the stable version 1.8 for some time to ensure we are aware of all the functionalities and bugs in the stable version. We rarely use the nightly version for production as we do not want to suggest a functionality which does not appear in the stable version. It is never a good idea to introduce the unstable version to user who is already skeptical about Open Source software.
Something which was very difficult to get with the current stable version is a pretty map. We were forced to export the map as a picture and the legend to Powerpoint or Open Office Impress to create large posters and better looking maps for presentation.
Quantum GIS latest version 1.9 map composer provides some subtle but desirable changes to the existing 1.8 version of Quantum GIS map composer. The feature that is noticeable right away is the scale bar on the top and left corner of the composer which provides the scale marking of the presets paper size in millimeter(mm).
This Scale bar varies according to the poster presets that can be chosen from the list. The poster sizes of A5 and A4 can be viewed in a single window with 10 mm scale bar, which is not the case for A3 size or more where either the scale bar has to be compromised for 50 mm or more interval for full poster view or scroll the entire poster between the start and the end with 10 mm scale bar. Zoom full button in the composer toolbar provides the necessary scale variations to view the map workspace in a single window.
Then the noticeable change is the right side general and item properties tab options. The Map Legend item properties has a new option ‘columns’ to segregate the existing single column into 2 or more columns, this is useful in case of placing the Legend bar at the bottom so that the Map workspace and scale can be increased.
The option to change the scale bar in the composition from mm to inch, but the only problem is that it can be edited only in custom mode and even after changing it in the composition units the scale bar on the top and side of the workspace do not display the units in inches. This is a bug in the pre release version which may be rectified in the stable release.