Numbering polygons according to their spatial relationships?
If you create an ancillary table with the attributes (fkey,xcell,ycell), populated from the objectid and a gridding of the maximum Y coordinate (or centroid coordinate or upper-center envelope coordinate), then you could use SQL to update the table, with something like:
UPDATE poly SET num = vtab.rownum FROM ( SELECT row_number() over (order by ycell desc, xcell) as rownum, fkey FROM ancillary_tab ) AS vtab WHERE poly.objectid = vtab.fkey;
(The UPDATE syntax is different from RDBMS to RDBMS, and PostgreSQL doesn't have the ROWNUM reserved word of ORACLE, but the moral equivalent would work in other databases.)
You didn't specify the cell size, but if it's just 1 degree, then a floor() math function would work. The more generic formula would be:
cell = floor(coord / cellsize)
[Updated for gridding algorithm]
UPDATE: Thinking about it, you don't even need an ancillary table. I had to stand up a new database for this to prototype it, but after loading a similar dataset in PG 9.1.9 with ArcSDE 10.1sp1, this query:
UPDATE poly SET num = vtab.rownum FROM ( SELECT row_number() over (order by ycell desc, xcell) as rownum, fkey FROM ( SELECT floor(sde.ST_MaxY(shape)) as ycell, floor(sde.ST_MinX(shape) + sde.ST_MaxX(shape) / 2.0) as xcell, objectid as fkey FROM poly ) AS vpoly ) AS vtab WHERE poly.objectid = vtab.fkey;
Using GDAL >= 1.10.0 compiled with SQLite and SpatiaLite, it's quite simple.
Suppose we want to order the labels from left to right. Firstly, we have to calculate the distance of each feature from a common reference on the left of all geometries (e.g. -180th meridian) and then order the geometries by distance.
ogr2ogr FRA_adm1_temp.shp FRA_adm1.shp -dialect sqlite -sql "SELECT *, ST_Distance(geometry, GeomFromText('LINESTRING(-180 90, -180 -90)')) AS DIST FROM FRA_adm1 ORDER BY DIST"
Finally, simply update the table adding a LABEL column with autoincremental numbers:
ogr2ogr FRA_adm1_label.shp FRA_adm1_temp.shp -sql "SELECT FID+1 AS LABEL, * FROM FRA_adm1_temp"
This approach can be used also in PostgreSQL.