We just wrapped up our beginner’s Python pre-Ozri workshop to a sellout crowd. It was a whirlwind tour of all the things you can do with Python, covering everything from basic Python syntax to fully-fledged custom geoprocessing tools in 2 hours! By the end, everyone was chomping at the bit to dive into Python headlong, with heaps of ideas about how to apply the new skills to day-to-day work!
First we went over what Python is and how it can help you in the day-to-day of GIS work. It’s really important to realise that you don’t have to be a software engineer or a systems programmer to take advantage of Python – every GIS user can make use of it, whether it’s doing a batch file conversion, or updating broken data sources in your existing MXDs. Even if they start off hesitant, once people realise how accessible it is, and how powerful it can be, they tend to become very enthusiastic.
We went over a simple script to clip and convert a feature class to a shapefile, a common task for GIS officers. One of the most straightforward advantages of Python in ArcGIS is its ability to streamline such everyday tasks, taking a 4 step process to 1 step, saving considerable time and frustration. We soon expanded this example script to do even more, utilising the flexibility provided by Python to automatically include important – but usually unexciting – data management checks. Finally, we were able to improve our script to the point where it was able to process a whole geodatabase at once, effectively applying 4 tools to over a dozen datasets in a single step.
Having demonstrated the immediate benefit of work automation, we then went over some of the even more powerful advantages Python brings to the table – things like automated map generation and data interchange with other business software such as Excel. We also placed a lot of emphasis on how and where to get help to improve your Python skills – once you get a taste for it, you very quickly start to think “If I can do this… I wonder if I could do this?”, and the large user base of Python is one of its main advantages – help is quickly at hand.
Overall the participants gained hard skills they can directly apply to the workplace, and came away with the resources to expand their skills even further. Not to mention a killer python of their own. And all before lunch!
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