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Python Dev Environment Part 1: setup.py, venv, and pip

bowmanjd profile image Jonathan Bowman Updated on ・3 min read

While Poetry and similar tools are being utilized more and more, I sometimes find that my Python development needs are satisfied by built-in Python features.

The tools venv and pip, and pip's cousin dependency setuptools, are usually included in your Python distribution. Add a robust and well-documented Python test framework like pytest, as introduced in Part 2, and you are golden.

In this first article, we will set up a simple directory structure, write a Python module, configure the distribution package using setup.py, and install our new package in a virtual environment.

Create a new directory

Create a new directory for the project. We'll call the directory pygreet. Now cd into that directory in your favorite terminal so that it is your current working directory.

Create package directory

While a variety of ways to structure your distribution package exist, I like the approach of placing Python code in a src directory.

So, let's create the src directory. Now your directory structure should look something like this:

└── src
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Write the code

Now let's edit greet.py:

"""Functions useful for sending greetings."""

def greet(greeting="Hello", recipient="World"):
    """Greet someone."""
    return f"{greeting}, {recipient}"
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Friendly. Flexible.

(This is a simple module. Want to make a more complex package with submodules, or still deciding which to do? You might enjoy reading my article on Python modules and packages.)

Define the distribution package in setup.py

Now we create the setup.py file to define the distribution package. Here is a basic one that should serve the needs of the moment:

"""Package configuration."""
from setuptools import find_packages, setup

    package_dir={"": "src"},
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Explicitly specifying the src directory is necessary, since we have our code in that location.

See the Python Packaging Guide for more details about setup.py and packaging in general.

Create and activate a Python virtual environment

Within the pygreet directory (or any other directory) use the following to set up a new virtual environment with the Python you specify and its own dependencies, etc.

python -m venv venv
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To parse that out a bit more: use the Python executable you want to use in the virtual environment. That might be called python, as above, or it might be python3 or python3.8 or python3.9; you get the idea. Then tell it to execute the venv module, followed by the name of the directory in which you want the virtual environment to reside. As seen above, I usually use the name venv.

List the contents of your directory (using ls or dir) and you should see the new directory (likely named venv).

Now activate the virtual environment with

source ./venv/bin/activate
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or, on Windows:

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If not using Bash or Powershell, you might look in the ./venv/bin or .\venv\Scripts directory to see other options for CMD, fish, or csh.

Install the new distribution package in the virtual environment

We can use pip to install the package. When a package is still under active development, I like to install with pip using "editable mode". That way, I can make changes to the package and continue testing and development without needing to reinstall.

pip install -e .
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Of course, if pygreet is not your current working directory (and you don't want it to be), then adjust the path. For instance, if you put pygreet in your my_dev directory in your home directory, then something like this may work for you: pip install -e ~/my_dev/pygreet/

Now, try it out:

>>> import greet
>>> greet.greet()
'Hello, World'
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If the above works, then you have built and installed a Python distribution package!

See Part 2 for adding tests with pytest.


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