I have just spent three frustrating days trying to make sense of a simple job work process in ArcGIS 10.3.1 -- whatever that is. I am not a geographer but a computer science geek and Python afficianado. But ArcGIS is like something out of Carlos Castena
Took the liberty of editing the title and more your original into the question section. I also provided tags to facilitate a better chance of meeting your target audience... Dan
Yes, thank you, that is precisely my dilemma. I have looked over the docs and they seem to be helpful. However, they seem to be written for the ArcGIS audience, and I believe I am a different audience. And my problem is that I don't even have hardware that would run a trial copy anymore, and in the office all they want me to do is point-click graphical dialogues. And having been there, done that, I know there has to be a better way.
So where do I get the essentials as they relate to a Python API? For example, all that stuff in layers accumulated on the left hand side of a map-in-progress (I am assuming the equivalent of a data frame.) is sort of blind to me at home, and at work I would not have time to explore it. Conversely, all those ArcPy classes and methods look for parameters in the data catalog on the right hand side of the map-in-progress, I guess.
See? A general overview of the ArcGIS UI would be helpful. Or, perhaps some kind of insight into the underlying ArcGIS, what, platform, framework, components, whatever.
So there are many ways for you to learn about ArcGIS.
Overview of help for ArcMap
and for geoprocessing and automation, a good place to start.... (notice the python and arcpy topics too)
Since you said you free trial ran out, maybe you would be willing to spend $100 for a year for a personal (non-work, non-profit) that you can install and play with at home....full "Advanced" level with many of the most popular extensions.
On the developer's side of things...
The Esri Developer Network (EDN) annual subscription is how you would access the server side of things, but a free "developer" account gives you access to the ArcGIS Online stuff for testing/developing.
For training, lots of free or cheap resources...
arcpy specific resources from one of the classes above Introduction to Writing Geoprocessing Scripts with Python 10.2/10.3 Class Resources
So there is a list of things to check out. But as Chris asked, if you want specific info, you may need to give us some idea of what you are trying to automate. That will help us give a more focused answer. But most of all, have fun with it....GIS is fun.
Thanks again, I will look at all that. As for specifics, hold that thought, I am sort of a contractor and they kicked me off the current project due to deadline pressure -- I guess I wasn't clicking fast enough. There promises to be more, though.