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Packaging and Distributing Projects — Python Packaging User Guide documentation


Packaging and Distributing Projects — Python Packaging User Guide documentation

Page Status:Complete
Last Reviewed:2015-09-08

This section covers the basics of how to configure, package and distribute your own Python projects. It assumes that you are already familiar with the contents of the Installing Packages page.

The section does not aim to cover best practices for Python project development as a whole. For example, it does not provide guidance or tool recommendations for version control, documentation, or testing.

For more reference material, see Building and Distributing Packages in the setuptools docs, but note that some advisory content there may be outdated. In the event of conflicts, prefer the advice in the Python Packaging User Guide.

Configuring your Project

Initial Files


The most important file is “setup.py” which exists at the root of your project directory. For an example, see the setup.py in the PyPA sample project.

“setup.py” serves two primary functions:

  1. It’s the file where various aspects of your project are configured. The primary feature of setup.py is that it contains a global setup() function. The keyword arguments to this function are how specific details of your project are defined. The most relevant arguments are explained in the section below.
  2. It’s the command line interface for running various commands that relate to packaging tasks. To get a listing of available commands, run python setup.py --help-commands.

<your package>

Although it’s not required, the most common practice is to include your python modules and packages under a single top-level package that has the same name as your project, or something very close.

For an example, see the sample package that’s include in the PyPA sample project

setup() args

As mentioned above, The primary feature of setup.py is that it contains a global setup() function. The keyword arguments to this function are how specific details of your project are defined.

The most relevant arguments are explained below. The snippets given are taken from the setup.py contained in the PyPA sample project.


This is the name of your project, and will determine how your project is listed on PyPI. For details on permitted characters, see the name section from PEP 426.


This is the current version of your project, allowing your users to determine whether or not they have the latest version, and to indicate which specific versions they’ve tested their own software against.

Versions are displayed on PyPI for each release if you publish your project.

See Choosing a versioning scheme for more information on ways to use versions to convey compatibility information to your users.

If the project code itself needs run-time access to the version, the simplest way is to keep the version in both setup.py and your code. If you’d rather not duplicate the value, there are a few ways to manage this. See the “Single-sourcing the Project Version” Advanced Topics section.


description='A sample Python project',

Give a short and long description for you project. These values will be displayed on PyPI if you publish your project.



Give a homepage url for your project.


author='The Python Packaging Authority',

Provide details about the author.


Provide the type of license you are using.


    # How mature is this project? Common values are
    #   3 - Alpha
    #   4 - Beta
    #   5 - Production/Stable
    'Development Status :: 3 - Alpha',

    # Indicate who your project is intended for
    'Intended Audience :: Developers',
    'Topic :: Software Development :: Build Tools',

    # Pick your license as you wish (should match "license" above)
     'License :: OSI Approved :: MIT License',

    # Specify the Python versions you support here. In particular, ensure
    # that you indicate whether you support Python 2, Python 3 or both.
    'Programming Language :: Python :: 2',
    'Programming Language :: Python :: 2.6',
    'Programming Language :: Python :: 2.7',
    'Programming Language :: Python :: 3',
    'Programming Language :: Python :: 3.2',
    'Programming Language :: Python :: 3.3',
    'Programming Language :: Python :: 3.4',

Provide a list of classifiers the categorize your project. For a full listing, see https://pypi.python.org/pypi?%3Aaction=list_classifiers.


keywords='sample setuptools development',

List keywords that describe your project.


packages=find_packages(exclude=['contrib', 'docs', 'tests*']),

It’s required to list the packages to be included in your project. Although they can be listed manually, setuptools.find_packages finds them automatically. Use the exclude keyword argument to omit packages that are not intended to be released and installed.



“install_requires” should be used to specify what dependencies a project minimally needs to run. When the project is installed by pip, this is the specification that is used to install its dependencies.

For more on using “install_requires” see install_requires vs Requirements files.


    'sample': ['package_data.dat'],

Often, additional files need to be installed into a package. These files are often data that’s closely related to the package’s implementation, or text files containing documentation that might be of interest to programmers using the package. These files are called “package data”.

The value must be a mapping from package name to a list of relative path names that should be copied into the package. The paths are interpreted as relative to the directory containing the package.

For more information, see Including Data Files from the setuptools docs.


data_files=[('my_data', ['data/data_file'])],

Although configuring package_data is sufficient for most needs, in some cases you may need to place data files outside of your packages. The data_files directive allows you to do that.

Each (directory, files) pair in the sequence specifies the installation directory and the files to install there. If directory is a relative path, it is interpreted relative to the installation prefix (Python’s sys.prefix for pure-Python distributions, sys.exec_prefix for distributions that contain extension modules). Each file name in files is interpreted relative to the setup.py script at the top of the project source distribution.

For more information see the distutils section on Installing Additional Files.


setuptools allows absolute “data_files” paths, and pip honors them as absolute, when installing from sdist. This is not true when installing from wheel distributions. Wheels don’t support absolute paths, and they end up being installed relative to “site-packages”. For discussion see wheel Issue #92.


Although setup() supports a scripts keyword for pointing to pre-made scripts to install, the recommended approach to achieve cross-platform compatibility is to use console_scripts entry points (see below).


Use this keyword to specify any plugins that your project provides for any named entry points that may be defined by your project or others that you depend on.

For more information, see the section on Dynamic Discovery of Services and Plugins from the setuptools docs.

The most commonly used entry point is “console_scripts” (see below).

Choosing a versioning scheme

Standards compliance for interoperability

Different Python projects may use different versioning schemes based on the needs of that particular project, but all of them are required to comply with the flexible public version scheme specified in PEP 440 in order to be supported in tools and libraries like pip and setuptools.

Here are some examples of compliant version numbers:

1.2.0.dev1  # Development release
1.2.0a1     # Alpha Release
1.2.0b1     # Beta Release
1.2.0rc1    # Release Candidate
1.2.0       # Final Release
1.2.0.post1 # Post Release
15.10       # Date based release
23          # Serial release

To further accommodate historical variations in approaches to version numbering, PEP 440 also defines a comprehensive technique for version normalisation that maps variant spellings of different version numbers to a standardised canonical form.

Scheme choices

Semantic versioning (preferred)

For new projects, the recommended versioning scheme is based on Semantic Versioning, but adopts a different approach to handling pre-releases and build metadata.

The essence of semantic versioning is a 3-part MAJOR.MINOR.MAINTENANCE numbering scheme, where the project author increments:

  1. MAJOR version when they make incompatible API changes,
  2. MINOR version when they add functionality in a backwards-compatible manner, and
  3. MAINTENANCE version when they make backwards-compatible bug fixes.

Adopting this approach as a project author allows users to make use of “compatible release” specifiers, where name ~= X.Y requires at least release X.Y, but also allows any later release with a matching MAJOR version.

Python projects adopting semantic versioning should abide by clauses 1-8 of the Semantic Versioning 2.0.0 specification.

Date based versioning

Semantic versioning is not a suitable choice for all projects, such as those with a regular time based release cadence and a deprecation process that provides warnings for a number of releases prior to removal of a feature.

A key advantage of date based versioning is that it is straightforward to tell how old the base feature set of a particular release is given just the version number.

Version numbers for date based projects typically take the form of YEAR.MONTH (for example, 12.04, 15.10).

Serial versioning

This is the simplest possible versioning scheme, and consists of a single number which is incremented every release.

While serial versioning is very easy to manage as a developer, it is the hardest to track as an end user, as serial version numbers convey little or no information regarding API backwards compatibility.

Hybrid schemes

Combinations of the above schemes are possible. For example, a project may combine date based versioning with serial versioning to create a YEAR.SERIAL numbering scheme that readily conveys the approximate age of a release, but doesn’t otherwise commit to a particular release cadence within the year.

Pre-release versioning

Regardless of the base versioning scheme, pre-releases for a given final release may be published as:

  • zero or more dev releases (denoted with a ”.devN” suffix)
  • zero or more alpha releases (denoted with a ”.aN” suffix)
  • zero or more beta releases (denoted with a ”.bN” suffix)
  • zero or more release candidates (denoted with a ”.rcN” suffix)

pip and other modern Python package installers ignore pre-releases by default when deciding which versions of dependencies to install.

Local version identifiers

Public version identifiers are designed to support distribution via PyPI. Python’s software distribution tools also support the notion of a local version identifier, which can be used to identify local development builds not intended for publication, or modified variants of a release maintained by a redistributor.

A local version identifier takes the form <public version identifier>+<local version label>. For example:

1.2.0.dev1+hg.5.b11e5e6f0b0b  # 5th VCS commmit since 1.2.0.dev1 release
1.2.1+fedora.4                # Package with downstream Fedora patches applied

Working in “Development Mode”

Although not required, it’s common to locally install your project in “editable” or “develop” mode while you’re working on it. This allows your project to be both installed and editable in project form.

Assuming you’re in the root of your project directory, then run:

Although somewhat cryptic, -e is short for --editable, and . refers to the current working directory, so together, it means to install the current directory (i.e. your project) in editable mode. This will also install any dependencies declared with “install_requires” and any scripts declared with “console_scripts”. Dependencies will be installed in the usual, non-editable mode.

It’s fairly common to also want to install some of your dependencies in editable mode as well. For example, supposing your project requires “foo” and “bar”, but you want “bar” installed from vcs in editable mode, then you could construct a requirements file like so:

-e .
-e git+https://somerepo/bar.git#egg=bar

The first line says to install your project and any dependencies. The second line overrides the “bar” dependency, such that it’s fulfilled from vcs, not PyPI. For more on requirements files, see the Requirements File section in the pip docs. For more on vcs installs, see the VCS Support section of the pip docs.

Lastly, if you don’t want to install any dependencies at all, you can run:

pip install -e . --no-deps

For more information, see the Development Mode section of the setuptools docs.

Packaging your Project

To have your project installable from a Package Index like PyPI, you’ll need to create a Distribution (aka “Package” ) for your project.

Source Distributions

Minimally, you should create a Source Distribution:

A “source distribution” is unbuilt (i.e, it’s not a Built Distribution), and requires a build step when installed by pip. Even if the distribution is pure python (i.e. contains no extensions), it still involves a build step to build out the installation metadata from setup.py.


You should also create a wheel for your project. A wheel is a built package that can be installed without needing to go through the “build” process. Installing wheels is substantially faster for the end user than installing from a source distribution.

If your project is pure python (i.e. contains no compiled extensions) and natively supports both Python 2 and 3, then you’ll be creating what’s called a “Universal Wheel” (see section below).

If your project is pure python but does not natively support both Python 2 and 3, then you’ll be creating a “Pure Python Wheel” (see section below).

If you project contains compiled extensions, then you’ll be creating what’s called a “Platform Wheel” (see section below).

Universal Wheels

“Universal Wheels” are wheels that are pure python (i.e. contains no compiled extensions) and support Python 2 and 3. This is a wheel that can be installed anywhere by pip.

To build a Universal Wheel:

python setup.py bdist_wheel --universal

You can also permanently set the --universal flag in “setup.cfg” (e.g., see sampleproject/setup.cfg)


Only use the --universal setting, if:

  1. Your project runs on Python 2 and 3 with no changes (i.e. it does not require 2to3).
  2. Your project does not have any C extensions.

Beware that bdist_wheel does not currently have any checks to warn if you use the setting inappropriately.

If your project has optional C extensions, it is recommended not to publish a universal wheel, because pip will prefer the wheel over a source installation, and prevent the possibility of building the extension.

Pure Python Wheels

“Pure Python Wheels” that are not “universal” are wheels that are pure python (i.e. contains no compiled extensions), but don’t natively support both Python 2 and 3.

To build the wheel:

python setup.py bdist_wheel

bdist_wheel will detect that the code is pure Python, and build a wheel that’s named such that it’s usable on any Python installation with the same major version (Python 2 or Python 3) as the version you used to build the wheel. For details on the naming of wheel files, see PEP 425

If your code supports both Python 2 and 3, but with different code (e.g., you use “2to3”) you can run setup.py bdist_wheel twice, once with Python 2 and once with Python 3. This will produce wheels for each version.

Platform Wheels

“Platform Wheels” are wheels that are specific to a certain platform like linux, OSX, or Windows, usually due to containing compiled extensions.

To build the wheel:

python setup.py bdist_wheel

bdist_wheel will detect that the code is not pure Python, and build a wheel that’s named such that it’s only usable on the platform that it was built on. For details on the naming of wheel files, see PEP 425


PyPI currently only allows uploads of platform wheels for Windows and OS X, NOT linux. Currently, the wheel tag specification (PEP 425) does not handle the variation that can exist across linux distros.

Uploading your Project to PyPI


Before releasing on main PyPI repo, you might prefer training with PyPI test site which is cleaned on a semi regular basis. See these instructions on how to setup your configuration in order to use it.

When you ran the command to create your distribution, a new directory dist/ was created under your project’s root directory. That’s where you’ll find your distribution file(s) to upload.

Create an account

First, you need a PyPI user account. There are two options:

  1. Create an account manually using the form on the PyPI website.
  2. (Not recommended): Have an account created as part of registering your first project (not recommended due to the related security concerns, see option #3 below).

If you created your account using option #1 (the form), you’ll need to manually write a ~/.pypirc file like so.


repository = https://upload.pypi.org/legacy/
username = <username>
password = <password>

You can leave out the password line if you use twine with its -p PASSWORD argument or prefer to simply enter your password when prompted.

Register your project

Next, if this is the first release, you currently need to explicitly register your project prior to uploading.

There are three ways to do this:

  1. Use the form on the PyPI website, to upload your PKG-INFO info located in your local project tree at myproject.egg-info/PKG-INFO. If you don’t have that file or directory, then run python setup.py egg_info to have it generated.
  2. Run twine register dist/mypkg.whl, and twine will register your project based on the package metadata in the specified files. Your ~/.pypirc must already be appropriately configured for twine to work.
  3. (Not recommended): Run python setup.py register. If you don’t have a user account already, a wizard will create one for you. This approach is covered here due to it being mentioned in other guides, but it is not recommended as it may use a plaintext HTTP or unverified HTTPS connection on some Python versions, allowing your username and password to be intercepted during transmission.

Upload your distributions

Finally, you can upload your distributions to PyPI.

There are two options:

  1. Use twine

    The biggest reason to use twine is that python setup.py upload (option #2 below) uploads files over plaintext. This means anytime you use it you expose your username and password to a MITM attack. Twine uses only verified TLS to upload to PyPI in order to protect your credentials from theft.

    Secondly it allows you to precreate your distribution files. python setup.py upload only allows you to upload something that you’ve created in the same command invocation. This means that you cannot test the exact file you’re going to upload to PyPI to ensure that it works before uploading it.

    Finally it allows you to pre-sign your files and pass the .asc files into the command line invocation (twine upload twine-1.0.1.tar.gz twine-1.0.1.tar.gz.asc). This enables you to be assured that you’re typing your gpg passphrase into gpg itself and not anything else since you will be the one directly executing gpg --detach-sign -a <filename>.

  2. (Not recommended): Use setuptools:

    python setup.py sdist bdist_wheel upload

    This approach is covered here due to it being mentioned in other guides, but it is not recommended as it may use a plaintext HTTP or unverified HTTPS connection on some Python versions, allowing your username and password to be intercepted during transmission.