Python is a very powerful scripting language. The language has lots of Python packages you can install and use in your projects. Sometimes, you may have different projects that need different versions of the same package/module. For example, let’s say you’re developing a web application with the latest version of Django for a customer. At the same time, you support some old projects that require Django version 1.0. In that case, you have to change the path that points to Django every time you switch the projects. It would be very handy to have some tools that allows you to switch from one environment to another without affecting each other. That tool is called virtualenv. In this article we will show you how to install Virtualenv, and get started.
Virtualenv lets you create virtual Python environments. Everything you install or remove in that environment stays there and other environments are not affected. Most importantly, you don’t pollute the global package directory of your system. For example, if you want to test an unstable package, virtualenv is the best way to go. If the unstable module you’re testing has some errors in the installation/uninstallation process, your system will not be affected by it. When you are ready to remove the new unstable module, what you need to do is just removing the virtualenv environment you created.
Installing Virtualenv with pip
In this article, we will be using
pip as the Python Package Manager. You can also use
easy_install if you like. First, let’s setup up pip (You may need to become root or use
sudo on a Unix machine):
$ easy_install pip
The next step is to install the virtualenv package:
$ pip install virtualenv
And that’s it! To install virtualenv, it’s very easy.
Create an Environment with virtualenv
The next step is to create the environment with virtualenv:
virtualenv --no-site-packages my_blog_environment
With the previous command, we created an isolated Python environment under the directory
my_blog_environment. The option
--no-site-packages is telling virtualenv to create an empty Python environment for us. If we didn’t supply that option, our virtual environment would contain all of the packages in our global Python directory (eg. C:\Python27 or /usr/lib/python2.7). If you need all of your global packages and just want to add a few packages to them, you can ignore that argument and create your environment that way.
Exploring the Virtual Environment
The next step is to activate your virtual environment:
$ cd my_blog_environment/ $ source bin/activate
You should now be seeing that your prompt changed a little bit (refer to the parenthesis at the beginning):
Now you’re in your virtual environment. If you list the contents of the current directory (virtualenv) you will see 3 directories:
user@hostname:~/my_blog_environment$ ls bin include lib
The “bin” directory includes the executables for our virtualenv environment. That is the place where the Python interpreter is. Also the executables that are installed by some packages will be included in that directory. The ”include” directory contains the header files of the environment. Finally, the ”lib” directory includes the Python files of the installed modules of our virtualenv system.
Install Virtualenv Packages
The next step is to install some packages and use our environment. As we stated in our example let’s install an old version of Django, version 1.0.
pip install Django==1.0
Now, we can check if Django is installed in our virtual environment by checking in Python shell.
>>> import django >>> print django.VERSION (1, 0, 'final') >>> exit() $ deactivate
Another interesting feature of virtualenv is the ability to create sandboxes for different versions of Python interpreter. With the
-p flag you can create environments that use different versions of the Python interpreter. Let’s say for example that you want to create a project with Python’s latest version 3. To be able to do that, you first need to install the version of Python you want to try on your system. After that, you need to find the path of the executable of the interpreter. You can typically find it under
/usr/bin/python3) for Linux, and
C:\Python31) for Windows.
$ virtualenv --no-site-packages -p /usr/bin/python3 p3_test $ cd p3_test $ source bin/activate $ python Python 3.2 (r32:88445, Dec 8 2011, 15:26:51) [GCC 4.5.2] on linux2 Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information. >>> print('Hello There') Hello There
Now, you are ready to experiment with your new Python 3 environment.