To create applications that manipulate ArcObjects there is the VBA and Java runtimes. To create application that process data with ArcToolbox tools, there is ArcPy for Python.

Today, I discovered that there is a C and Java APIs for ArcSDE! What are ArcSDE APIs for? Do they provide exactly the same functionalities as ArcSDE command lines?

Are there any other ArcGIS API?

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The ArcSDE APIs date from the earliest days of ArcSDE. It was how you interacted with the data stored in a RDBMS. This was before there were ArcToolbox tools or many ArcObjects classes and methods. Because of this, the ArcSDE APIs have almost no support for geodatabase objects beyond points,lines,polygons--no feature datasets, network datasets, etc.

The APIs are being deprecated and no longer released because there are other ways to interact with ArcSDE data now--they're just geodatabase data like any other type of storage. Details on page 3 of this 10.1 and 10.2 deprecation document (pdf file).

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