Well, it depends what kind of stuff you want to do with your laser.
If you want to burn pictures, look around this forum for the discussion on image2gcode. Leo and Bryan have modified the program to make it compatible with our setup, and it works great. And it’s free. To use it, just load up a picture. I think it will take the usual picture types – jpg, png, bmp, etc.
If you want to burn signs and black and white images (not grayscale), you can use LaserEtch. It costs $30 from JTechPhotonics, but it works great, and it’s what I use most. You might be able to do the same thing with image2gcode using a black and white image, but it will take longer than LaserEtch. To use LaserEtch, create your image using whatever software you want and save it as a bmp file. Windows paint or paint.net can generate bmp files easily. LaserEtch can also be used to cut. LaserEtch is totally worth the money.
Those are my best suggestions. You can use ESTLCAM to generate laser toolpaths as well, but there is a learning curve.
Inkscape is a powerful program and can do many cool things, but like most vector-based drawing programs, it can be difficult to do even the simplest things the first time. I use it all the time, but have to google at least 2 or 3 things in course of any given project, just to see how to accomplish what I want. Image2gcode and LaserEtch use regular picture files, so anything that can generate those can be used.
Hope that helps!