If I know their favorite store or restaurant, then I give a gift card. If not then I write a check. I also write a check for birthday or wedding gift, because so many people no longer feel it's necessary to send a thank you note, so if I send a check, I know whether it's been cashed or not. Gift cards can get lost in the mail, then it's a problem.
I like gift cards. It is very easy for me to budget with them. Also, my daughter's school participates in scrip. We get a % of the gift card amount as a rebate off her tuition. It's a win-win for us to use gift cards.