GEOG 485:
GIS Programming and Automation

1.2.2 Environments for accessing tools

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You can access ArcGIS geoprocessing tools in several different ways:

  • Sometimes you just need to run a tool once, or you want to experiment with a tool and its parameters. In this case, you can open the tool directly from the Catalog and use the tool’s graphical user interface (GUI, pronounced gooey) to fill in the parameters.
  • ModelBuilder is also a GUI application where you can set up tools to run in a given sequence, using the output of one tool as input to another tool.
  • If you’re familiar with the tool and want to use it quickly in ArcMap, you may prefer the Python window approach. You type the tool name and required parameters into a command window. You can use this window to run several tools in a row and declare variables, effectively doing simple scripting.
  • If you want to run the tool automatically, repeatedly, or as part of a greater logical sequence of tools, you can run it from a script. Running a tool from a script is the most powerful and flexible option.

We’ll start with the simplest of these cases, running a tool from its GUI, and work our way up to scripting.