From my side – what I use depends on what exactly I want. As a really quick run-down:
• Who is spending what: I go to the donor organisational file of the donor on the Registry.It’s not a very user-friendly way, and there are ways of getting this data from d-portal but I’m not sure how to (if anybody knows, please share!).
There is pretty useful data in there. As an example, I can tell you that the US has a 2017 budget of $43 million for Bosnia and Herzegovina and that $60,000 of that is directed to higher education. With this sort of information, I start identifying the funding flows of different donors.
I'd like to see a more user-friendly way of getting at this data so a) no need for Registry and b) I can see data from more than one donor at once. That said, there might be a way I just don't know about.
• What’s going on? When I want to take an overall scan of what is happening in a specific country (either entirely or by donor / sector), I go to the query-builder.
This is a really helpful tool which lets you download the data into a spreadsheet (make sure to select “entire selection on the top right, otherwise it just gives you a sample). If you click here, it will download the higher education activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. From this, I can see all sorts of information but what is relevant entirely depends on what I am doing. It can serve as a useful way of finding a specific project, which I might dig into more. the Query Builder doesn't show you everything (like locations), but it'd be cool if it / something else could.
For the sake of this exercise though -- a really quick scan tells me that quite a few donors focus efforts on scholarship, but let’s say I want to learn more about Sweden….
• How does it fit together? This is usually when I go to d-portal, which I usually rely on to show me how different projects fit together. I can search Sweden’s activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina which returns this. For the sake of time I randomly selected this project, where I can see the details such as who is involved etc (much the same as in the spreadsheet but more user-friendly). It provides me links to documents so I can research more into their strategy, outcomes etc. It also shows me how it links with other projects taking place in that country / region.
Again, it really depends on what you want to do. Sometimes I just use the query builder, for example.
There’s also still constraints on how useful I find the data (often depending on the publisher's data quality) when conducting analyses etc., however, there’s projects out there who are working to fill in some of those gaps – like the Open Ag project (disclaimer: I’m involved!), so hopefully things will keep moving in the right direction.
Hope this is useful and feel free to drop me a line if I can help.