Python Virtual Environments

Why do we need a Virtual Environment?

To keep dependencies isolated from one project to another. In one project we can use a package v1.X and in other we can use v2.X. Not just project dependencies we can even have different python versions in each project using virtual environments

There are tools which allow us to create virtual environments. virtualenv is popular one.

pip install virtualenv

Settingup virtual environment for python2.7

$ virtualenv <path_to_store_your_virtual_environment>

# activating virtual environment
$ source <path_to_virtual_evnironment/bin/activate>

# check version of the python
$ python --version # Python 2.7.11

# deactivating
$ deactivate

Settingup virtual environment for python3

$ virtualenv -p python3 <path_to_store_your_virtual_environment>

# activate and check the python version
$ python --version # Python 3.5.1

With virtualenv we have to manage all the virtual environment folders ourself and everytime to activate we need to provide the entire path. There is a nice little wrapper virtualenvwrapper around virtualenv which simplifies the creation, activating and managing python virtual environments.

pip install virtualenvwrapper

With virtualenvwrapper you can configure where to put all your python virtual environments. Default location is ~/.virtualenvs, to change this configure the environment variable WORKON_HOME.

After installing virtualenvwrapper you need to source it to use magic commands or place the following line in ~/.bashrc.

source /usr/local/bin/

Creating virtual envs using virtualenvwrapper

# this creates virtual env in ~/.virtualenvs
directory and activates it by default
$ mkvirtualenv env1

# to deactivate
$ deactivate

# to activate
$ workon env1 # we don't have to specify location of the virtualenv.

Along with the magic commands virtualenvwrapper also provides preactivate, predeactivate, postactivate and postdeactivate scripts to perform actions before, after activating and deactivating virtual environments.

One use case I use these start scripts is to set environment variables for a project. I set environment variables in postactivate script and unset them in postdeactivate script.

Location of these startup scripts: ~/.virtualenvs/env1/bin. Here env1 is your name of the virtual environment.




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