Friday, February 13, 2009

ArcGIS (Geographical Information System) from IronPython

ArcGIS is one of the market leaders in the massive Geographical Information System software industry. Alex Willmer has been using the ArcGIS APIs from IronPython and written up the results of some of his experimenting:

On the desktop ArcMap is used to create map documents (.mxd file), whilst ArcCatalog is used to manage data sources. ArcGIS Server can (amongst other things) serve a map document, as a service for web client, Google Earth or remote ArcMap users.

ArcGIS may be automated to an extent, through an interface known as ArcGIS Geoprocessing. But this covers only some cases, delving deeper provides much greater opportunities.

ArcGIS is built on a COM object library named ArcObjects. Native ArcGIS files, such as an ArcSDE connection (.sde file) are the in memory COM object, serialised to disk as binary. It is difficult to edit or create such files in an automated fashion, without calling ArcObjects.

So, like the Java code calls ArcObjects directly. It can produce an ArcSDE connection file, suitable for ArcCatalog. It works by calling the .NET bindings, through Interop assemblies. Anything that can be done through VBA, or C# should be possible through IronPython.

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