Do you ever find yourself performing time consuming repetitive GIS tasks? Do you ever wish a tool worked slightly differently or was a little more robust? When Tyler Johnson, a GIS analyst at the Iowa Flood Center, runs into these problems, he solves them with python scripting.
Python is a popular programming language that people use to create custom tools or processes and increase productivity. Among other tasks, Tyler uses python scripts to "generate approximate edge-of-water lines from LIDAR slope rasters, apply symbology to multiple feature layers, or add several fields to a dataset and then populate them."
Due to the popularity of the language there is a lot of GIS specific support to help along the way. For people using ESRI products, there is both online support and built in assistance. "The interactive Python window in ArcMap/Catalog has been an indispensable aid," says Tyler, and when you run into problems, subforums on ESRI's help site are especially helpful "because it's very likely someone else has had the same idea or problem."
Like anything else there is a learning curve, but Tyler points out, "The time I've saved by using my custom Python scripts has more than made up for the time I spent learning the language and writing the scripts."
If you are interested in experimenting with python to improve your productivity, a quick Internet search will give you plenty of results. Tyler is certainly an advocate, you soon might be one too!