Installing Packages

Page Status:Complete
Last Reviewed:2016-06-24

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 as a synonym for a distribution (i.e. a bundle of software to be installed), not to 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.

Install pip, setuptools, and wheel

  • If you have Python 2 >=2.7.9 or Python 3 >=3.4 installed from, you will already have pip and setuptools, but will need to upgrade to the latest version:

    On Linux or OS X:

    pip install -U pip setuptools

    On Windows:

    python -m pip install -U pip setuptools
  • If you’re using a Python install on Linux that’s managed by the system package manager (e.g “yum”, “apt-get” etc...), and you want to use the system package manager to install or upgrade pip, then see Installing pip/setuptools/wheel with Linux Package Managers

  • Otherwise:

  • 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.

Optionally, Create a virtual environment

See section below for details, but here’s the basic commands:

Using virtualenv:

pip install virtualenv
virtualenv <DIR>
source <DIR>/bin/activate

Using venv: [3]

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

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.

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/python2.7/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 viable tools for creating Python virtual environments:

  • venv is available by default in Python 3.3 and later, and installs pip and setuptools into created virtual environments in Python 3.4 and later.
  • virtualenv needs to be installed separately, but supports Python 2.6+ 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 virtualenv:

virtualenv <DIR>
source <DIR>/bin/activate

Using venv:

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

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

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.

There are a few cases where you might want to use easy_install instead of pip. For details, see the the pip vs easy_install breakdown in the Advanced Topics section.

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. PEP 440 contains a full specification of the currently supported specifiers. Below are some examples.

To install the latest version of “SomeProject”:

pip install 'SomeProject'

To install a specific version:

pip install 'SomeProject==1.4'

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

pip install 'SomeProject>=1,<2'

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

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.

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.

pip install --upgrade SomeProject

Installing to the User Site

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

pip install --user SomeProject

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

Requirements files

Install a list of requirements specified in a Requirements File.

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.

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

Installing from other Indexes

Install from an alternate index

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

Search an additional index during install, in addition to PyPI

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.

pip install -e <path>

You can also install normally from src

pip install <path>

Installing from local archives

Install a particular source archive file.

pip install ./downloads/SomeProject-1.0.4.tar.gz

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

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

Installing Prereleases

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

pip install --pre SomeProject

Installing Setuptools “Extras”

Install setuptools extras.

$ pip install SomePackage[PDF]
$ pip install SomePackage[PDF]==3.0
$ pip install -e .[PDF]==3.0  # editable project in current directory

[1]“Secure” in this context means using a modern browser or a tool like curl that verifies SSL certificates when downloading from https URLs.
[2]Depending on your platform, this may require root or Administrator access. pip is currently considering changing this by making user installs the default behavior.
[3]Beginning with Python 3.4, venv (a stdlib alternative to virtualenv) will create virtualenv environments with pip pre-installed, thereby making it an equal alternative to virtualenv.
[4]The compatible release specifier was accepted in PEP 440 and support was released in setuptools v8.0 and pip v6.0