I use the stitch mode to guide me all the time. it also gives you just the right amount of overlap.
Photoshop HAD a very bad stitcher up until CS3 when they finally got a very good one so that's what I use now but I was quite impressed with WLPG's panorama maker. I've never even heard of Image Composite Editor.
The key to getting good panoramas is to always keep on the same plane and make sure that they don't vary wildly in contrast.
I've found that making 2 or 3 photo stitches is more useful than using a wide angle lens when you're shooting landscapes.
You should try kolor autopano, it's much better than WLPG at matching differences in exposure.