I'm new to this site which I find useful and refreshing until now.
And to my question ( WARNING: it's a bit long, so you can skip right to the question two paragraphs down).
I was educated in GIS using ArcGIS (Desktop and Workstation) and researched with it with (very) short peeks at MapInfo and uDig . During that time, I was satisfied with the program as I used relatively small databases and didn't do a lot of repeat tasks and ArcGIS has a lot of cool tools to analyze scientific data.
For two years now, since graduation, I been working in a company which is in a whole different scale. I deal with huge databases, doing relatively "simpler" tasks, but moreover they are composed of repetitive tasks (I do a series of simple tasks once a week to the whole database). During this time, I've used AutoCAD (as a lot of our data is drawn using AutoCAD) a lot and grew to appreciate it a lot – The greatest advantage is that using the LISP Programming language and using system variables you can control a whole lot of the settings – whether it concerns customizing the default value for a tool, eliminating the use of dialog boxes in the program, or options to script the automatic opening and manipulation of drawings.
Now, when I get back to the ArcGIS, I get frustrated: Python is a great language, but ArcGIS users can't manipulate default values, can't eliminate the use of certain shortcut keys, can't script the use of MXD's and more and more as I move along (Oh, I'm using ArcGIS 9.3.1, I heard 10.0 is a bit better but still). The Documentation around the Tools is very shallow (The Days of ArcDoc are long gone). I'd say the problem is probably with ArcGIS, except I know that with MapInfo and uDig the situation isn't better (and even worse)
Question: And now I'm wondering – Are there any GIS platforms out there, free or not, that have this high level of customizing, or am I doomed to frustrated manual work? I prefer platforms with a good UI along the scripting options, but that's not a must. My company will probably stay with ArcGIS, but by answering you'll probably make one GIS analyst very happy and probably a lot less frustrated.