In the geospatial community, there’s a big push to learn coding. With a little programming skill, you can collect data, transform it, analyze it, and publish the results. Popular GIS software platforms make it easy to run scripts and publish webpages with interactive maps. And if you listen when money talks, it says GIS Developers make twice as much as GIS Technicians in the United States, according to Glassdoor.com.
It’s So Easy
People who pick up Python find it a breeze to write simple programs. It takes away the structural pickiness and visual clutter of semicolons and brackets found in many languages. Instead, it focuses on simplicity, controlling flow through indentations to define the path of functions and operations. Python makes it easy to write something practical. I think this XKCD comic describes it best.
IDEs and Typos
In Python, you have trusted places to write code, known as IDE (short for Integrated Development Environment). Python developers would recognize them by the names of IDLE, PythonWin, or maybe the Python command line in ArcCatalog. These tools know you’re writing Python, and help you while you write your code. Intellisense let you type out a few letters, and the IDE suggests what you might want to type. This cuts down on a lot of the errors caused by typos.
In the wild, there are two major versions of Python: 2.x and 3.x. Technically, there 32bit and 64bit versions as well. So there are at most four versions of Python out there you may have to support. And the biggest difference between 2.x and 3.x? Putting parentheses around the stuff you want to print(). But typically, you know the Python version you’re writing code for.
Number of languages you need to know
Python programmers can go all day writing nothing but Python. Oh, they might generate a little HTML, a SQL syntax string, or write a little RexExp statement, but then they go back to writing Python.
Python is a very procedural language. You start from the top and work your way down. The logic flow is very predictable, and can be traced out on paper for small projects. It’s like a guided tour through a museum. You always know you’re going to walk by the neanderthals hunting the mastodon before you get to the Spanish Conquistadors.
If you’re new to the geospatial industry, or you’ve been in for a long time, and you feel the pressure to learn to program, maybe Python should be the language you start with. The reasons above only scratch the surface of how useful Python is. I didn’t even cover all the useful libraries that are built to extend the language.