Installing Packages#

This section covers the basics of how to install Python packages.

It’s important to note that the term “package” in this context is being used to describe a bundle of software to be installed (i.e. as a synonym for a distribution). It does not refer to the kind of package that you import in your Python source code (i.e. a container of modules). It is common in the Python community to refer to a distribution using the term “package”. Using the term “distribution” is often not preferred, because it can easily be confused with a Linux distribution, or another larger software distribution like Python itself.

Requirements for Installing Packages#

This section describes the steps to follow before installing other Python packages.

Ensure you can run Python from the command line#

Before you go any further, make sure you have Python and that the expected version is available from your command line. You can check this by running:

python3 --version
py --version

You should get some output like Python 3.6.3. If you do not have Python, please install the latest 3.x version from or refer to the Installing Python section of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Python.


If you’re a newcomer and you get an error like this:

>>> python3 --version
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
NameError: name 'python3' is not defined

It’s because this command and other suggested commands in this tutorial are intended to be run in a shell (also called a terminal or console). See the Python for Beginners getting started tutorial for an introduction to using your operating system’s shell and interacting with Python.


If you’re using an enhanced shell like IPython or the Jupyter notebook, you can run system commands like those in this tutorial by prefacing them with a ! character:

In [1]: import sys
        !{sys.executable} --version
Python 3.6.3

It’s recommended to write {sys.executable} rather than plain python in order to ensure that commands are run in the Python installation matching the currently running notebook (which may not be the same Python installation that the python command refers to).


Due to the way most Linux distributions are handling the Python 3 migration, Linux users using the system Python without creating a virtual environment first should replace the python command in this tutorial with python3 and the python -m pip command with python3 -m pip --user. Do not run any of the commands in this tutorial with sudo: if you get a permissions error, come back to the section on creating virtual environments, set one up, and then continue with the tutorial as written.

Ensure you can run pip from the command line#

Additionally, you’ll need to make sure you have pip available. You can check this by running:

python3 -m pip --version
py -m pip --version

If you installed Python from source, with an installer from, or via Homebrew you should already have pip. If you’re on Linux and installed using your OS package manager, you may have to install pip separately, see Installing pip/setuptools/wheel with Linux Package Managers.

If pip isn’t already installed, then first try to bootstrap it from the standard library:

python3 -m ensurepip --default-pip
py -m ensurepip --default-pip

If that still doesn’t allow you to run python -m pip:

  • Securely Download [1]

  • Run python [2] This will install or upgrade pip. Additionally, it will install Setuptools and wheel if they’re not installed already.


    Be cautious if you’re using a Python install that’s managed by your operating system or another package manager. does not coordinate with those tools, and may leave your system in an inconsistent state. You can use python --prefix=/usr/local/ to install in /usr/local which is designed for locally-installed software.

Ensure pip, setuptools, and wheel are up to date#

While pip alone is sufficient to install from pre-built binary archives, up to date copies of the setuptools and wheel projects are useful to ensure you can also install from source archives:

python3 -m pip install --upgrade pip setuptools wheel
py -m pip install --upgrade pip setuptools wheel

Optionally, create a virtual environment#

See section below for details, but here’s the basic venv [3] command to use on a typical Linux system:

python3 -m venv tutorial_env
source tutorial_env/bin/activate
py -m venv tutorial_env

This will create a new virtual environment in the tutorial_env subdirectory, and configure the current shell to use it as the default python environment.

Creating Virtual Environments#

Python “Virtual Environments” allow Python packages to be installed in an isolated location for a particular application, rather than being installed globally. If you are looking to safely install global command line tools, see Installing stand alone command line tools.

Imagine you have an application that needs version 1 of LibFoo, but another application requires version 2. How can you use both these applications? If you install everything into /usr/lib/python3.6/site-packages (or whatever your platform’s standard location is), it’s easy to end up in a situation where you unintentionally upgrade an application that shouldn’t be upgraded.

Or more generally, what if you want to install an application and leave it be? If an application works, any change in its libraries or the versions of those libraries can break the application.

Also, what if you can’t install packages into the global site-packages directory? For instance, on a shared host.

In all these cases, virtual environments can help you. They have their own installation directories and they don’t share libraries with other virtual environments.

Currently, there are two common tools for creating Python virtual environments:

  • venv is available by default in Python 3.3 and later, and installs pip into created virtual environments in Python 3.4 and later (Python versions prior to 3.12 also installed Setuptools).

  • virtualenv needs to be installed separately, but supports Python 2.7+ and Python 3.3+, and pip, Setuptools and wheel are always installed into created virtual environments by default (regardless of Python version).

The basic usage is like so:

Using venv:

python3 -m venv <DIR>
source <DIR>/bin/activate
py -m venv <DIR>

Using virtualenv:

python3 -m virtualenv <DIR>
source <DIR>/bin/activate
virtualenv <DIR>

For more information, see the venv docs or the virtualenv docs.

The use of source under Unix shells ensures that the virtual environment’s variables are set within the current shell, and not in a subprocess (which then disappears, having no useful effect).

In both of the above cases, Windows users should not use the source command, but should rather run the activate script directly from the command shell like so:


Managing multiple virtual environments directly can become tedious, so the dependency management tutorial introduces a higher level tool, Pipenv, that automatically manages a separate virtual environment for each project and application that you work on.

Use pip for Installing#

pip is the recommended installer. Below, we’ll cover the most common usage scenarios. For more detail, see the pip docs, which includes a complete Reference Guide.

Installing from PyPI#

The most common usage of pip is to install from the Python Package Index using a requirement specifier. Generally speaking, a requirement specifier is composed of a project name followed by an optional version specifier. A full description of the supported specifiers can be found in the Version specifier specification. Below are some examples.

To install the latest version of “SomeProject”:

python3 -m pip install "SomeProject"
py -m pip install "SomeProject"

To install a specific version:

python3 -m pip install "SomeProject==1.4"
py -m pip install "SomeProject==1.4"

To install greater than or equal to one version and less than another:

python3 -m pip install "SomeProject>=1,<2"
py -m pip install "SomeProject>=1,<2"

To install a version that’s compatible with a certain version: [4]

python3 -m pip install "SomeProject~=1.4.2"
py -m pip install "SomeProject~=1.4.2"

In this case, this means to install any version “==1.4.*” version that’s also “>=1.4.2”.

Source Distributions vs Wheels#

pip can install from either Source Distributions (sdist) or Wheels, but if both are present on PyPI, pip will prefer a compatible wheel. You can override pip`s default behavior by e.g. using its –no-binary option.

Wheels are a pre-built distribution format that provides faster installation compared to Source Distributions (sdist), especially when a project contains compiled extensions.

If pip does not find a wheel to install, it will locally build a wheel and cache it for future installs, instead of rebuilding the source distribution in the future.

Upgrading packages#

Upgrade an already installed SomeProject to the latest from PyPI.

python3 -m pip install --upgrade SomeProject
py -m pip install --upgrade SomeProject

Installing to the User Site#

To install packages that are isolated to the current user, use the --user flag:

python3 -m pip install --user SomeProject
py -m pip install --user SomeProject

For more information see the User Installs section from the pip docs.

Note that the --user flag has no effect when inside a virtual environment - all installation commands will affect the virtual environment.

If SomeProject defines any command-line scripts or console entry points, --user will cause them to be installed inside the user base’s binary directory, which may or may not already be present in your shell’s PATH. (Starting in version 10, pip displays a warning when installing any scripts to a directory outside PATH.) If the scripts are not available in your shell after installation, you’ll need to add the directory to your PATH:

  • On Linux and macOS you can find the user base binary directory by running python -m site --user-base and adding bin to the end. For example, this will typically print ~/.local (with ~ expanded to the absolute path to your home directory) so you’ll need to add ~/.local/bin to your PATH. You can set your PATH permanently by modifying ~/.profile.

  • On Windows you can find the user base binary directory by running py -m site --user-site and replacing site-packages with Scripts. For example, this could return C:\Users\Username\AppData\Roaming\Python36\site-packages so you would need to set your PATH to include C:\Users\Username\AppData\Roaming\Python36\Scripts. You can set your user PATH permanently in the Control Panel. You may need to log out for the PATH changes to take effect.

Requirements files#

Install a list of requirements specified in a Requirements File.

python3 -m pip install -r requirements.txt
py -m pip install -r requirements.txt

Installing from VCS#

Install a project from VCS in “editable” mode. For a full breakdown of the syntax, see pip’s section on VCS Support.

python3 -m pip install -e SomeProject @ git+https://git.repo/some_pkg.git          # from git
python3 -m pip install -e SomeProject @ hg+https://hg.repo/some_pkg                # from mercurial
python3 -m pip install -e SomeProject @ svn+svn://svn.repo/some_pkg/trunk/         # from svn
python3 -m pip install -e SomeProject @ git+https://git.repo/some_pkg.git@feature  # from a branch
py -m pip install -e SomeProject @ git+https://git.repo/some_pkg.git          # from git
py -m pip install -e SomeProject @ hg+https://hg.repo/some_pkg                # from mercurial
py -m pip install -e SomeProject @ svn+svn://svn.repo/some_pkg/trunk/         # from svn
py -m pip install -e SomeProject @ git+https://git.repo/some_pkg.git@feature  # from a branch

Installing from other Indexes#

Install from an alternate index

python3 -m pip install --index-url http://my.package.repo/simple/ SomeProject
py -m pip install --index-url http://my.package.repo/simple/ SomeProject

Search an additional index during install, in addition to PyPI

python3 -m pip install --extra-index-url http://my.package.repo/simple SomeProject
py -m pip install --extra-index-url http://my.package.repo/simple SomeProject

Installing from a local src tree#

Installing from local src in Development Mode, i.e. in such a way that the project appears to be installed, but yet is still editable from the src tree.

python3 -m pip install -e <path>
py -m pip install -e <path>

You can also install normally from src

python3 -m pip install <path>
py -m pip install <path>

Installing from local archives#

Install a particular source archive file.

python3 -m pip install ./downloads/SomeProject-1.0.4.tar.gz
py -m pip install ./downloads/SomeProject-1.0.4.tar.gz

Install from a local directory containing archives (and don’t check PyPI)

python3 -m pip install --no-index --find-links=file:///local/dir/ SomeProject
python3 -m pip install --no-index --find-links=/local/dir/ SomeProject
python3 -m pip install --no-index --find-links=relative/dir/ SomeProject
py -m pip install --no-index --find-links=file:///local/dir/ SomeProject
py -m pip install --no-index --find-links=/local/dir/ SomeProject
py -m pip install --no-index --find-links=relative/dir/ SomeProject

Installing from other sources#

To install from other data sources (for example Amazon S3 storage) you can create a helper application that presents the data in a format compliant with the simple repository API:, and use the --extra-index-url flag to direct pip to use that index.

./s3helper --port=7777
python -m pip install --extra-index-url http://localhost:7777 SomeProject

Installing Prereleases#

Find pre-release and development versions, in addition to stable versions. By default, pip only finds stable versions.

python3 -m pip install --pre SomeProject
py -m pip install --pre SomeProject

Installing “Extras”#

Extras are optional “variants” of a package, which may include additional dependencies, and thereby enable additional functionality from the package. If you wish to install an extra for a package which you know publishes one, you can include it in the pip installation command:

python3 -m pip install 'SomePackage[PDF]'
python3 -m pip install 'SomePackage[PDF]==3.0'
python3 -m pip install -e '.[PDF]'  # editable project in current directory
py -m pip install "SomePackage[PDF]"
py -m pip install "SomePackage[PDF]==3.0"
py -m pip install -e ".[PDF]"  # editable project in current directory