When I first learned that ArcGIS 8 Desktop wasn’t going to support either Avenue or AML, I was very unhappy. As anyone who had done analysis with ArcInfo can attest, I had quite a library of AML scripts to accomplish almost anything. With ArcGIS 8 Desktop, I couldn’t use any of them. The thought I guess was to use Visual Basic or C++, but writing scripts with either of those two languages was like using a sledgehammer to kill a fly, I just stayed with ArcInfo Workstation and the good old AML. Avenue wasn’t supported either (I guess the boat has sailed on Open Source Avenue huh?), but as long as I could still use AML, I was fine. Well fine until we started using Personal Geodatabases. I couldn’t do a thing with those and the number of coverages we were maintaining really dropped as most people have standardized on Shapefiles or the aforementioned Geodatabase.
Well with ArcGIS 9, we finally have a real scripting language again and even one that has made me stop writing AML scripts. I’ve really gotten into scripting with Python and it really has saved me quite a bit of work over having to try and do the same tasks with AML and converting Shapefiles and Geodatabases with ArcCatalog. With Python support came some great Python supporters and many of them have written some good articles to get started. A great resource is an article written by Howard Butler for ArcUser (don’t forget to check out Howard’s blog also!). Beyond that, all you have to do is head down to your local Barnes and Noble to find just about any Python book to get you started. Unlike AML or Avenue, Python is really easy to get started with and the community support available is much greater than ESRI ever had with Avenue or AML or even those of us who used SML and PC/ARCINFO. ;)