Virtual environment

Virtual environments:

  • Allow different projects to be isolated from each other
  • Packages that are needed by different projects are in different places - for example, if one project requires 1.0 package and another project requires the same package but version 3.1, they will not interfere with each other
  • Packages that are installed in virtual environments do not impact on global packages


Python has several options for creating virtual environments. You can use any of them. To start with, you can use virtualenvwrapper and then eventually you can figure out which option you prefer.


Virtual environments are created with virtualenvwrapper.

Installing virtualenvwrapper with pip:

$ sudo pip3.7 install virtualenvwrapper

After installation, in . bashrc file in current user’s home folder, you need to add several lines:

export VIRTUALENVWRAPPER_PYTHON=/usr/local/bin/python3.7
export WORKON_HOME=~/venv
. /usr/local/bin/

If you are using a command interpreter other than bash, see if it is supported in virtualenvwrapper documentation. Environment variable VIRTUALENVWRAPPER_PYTHON points to Python command line binary file, WORKON_HOME – points to location of virtual environments. The third line indicates location of script installed with virtualenvwrapper package. To start script work with virtual environments, bash must be restarted.

Restart command interpreter:

$ exec bash

This may not always be the right option. More on Stack Overflow.

Working with virtual environments

Creating a new virtual environment in which Python 3.7 is used by default:

$ mkvirtualenv --python=/usr/local/bin/python3.7 pyneng
New python executable in PyNEng/bin/python
Installing distribute........................done.
Installing pip...............done.

The name of virtual environment is shown in parentheses before standard invitation. That means you’re inside it. Virtualenvwrapper uses Tab to autocomplete name of virtual environment. This is particularly useful when there are many virtual environments. Now “pyneng” directory was created in directory specified in environment variable WORKON_HOME:

(pyneng)$ ls -ls venv
total 52
4 -rwxr-xr-x 1 nata nata   99 Sep 30 16:41 preactivate
4 -rw-r--r-- 1 nata nata   76 Sep 30 16:41 predeactivate
4 -rwxr-xr-x 1 nata nata   91 Sep 30 16:41 premkproject
4 -rwxr-xr-x 1 nata nata  130 Sep 30 16:41 premkvirtualenv
4 -rwxr-xr-x 1 nata nata  111 Sep 30 16:41 prermvirtualenv
4 drwxr-xr-x 6 nata nata 4096 Sep 30 16:42 pyneng

Exit virtual environment:

(pyneng)$ deactivate

To move to created virtual environment, you should run “workon” command:

$ workon pyneng

If you want to go from one virtual environment to another, you don’t need to do deactivate, you can go directly through “workon”:

$ workon Test
(Test)$ workon pyneng

If you want to remove virtual environment, you should use “rmvirtualenv”:

$ rmvirtualenv Test
Removing Test...

See which packages are installed in a virtual environment using “lssitepackages”:

(pyneng)$ lssitepackages                                pexpect-3.3-py2.7.egg-info
ANSI.pyc                               pickleshare-0.5-py2.7.egg-info
decorator-4.0.4-py2.7.egg-info                           pickleshare.pyc
decorator.pyc                          pip-1.1-py2.7.egg
easy-install.pth                       pxssh.pyc                           requests
fdpexpect.pyc                          requests-2.7.0-py2.7.egg-info                       
FSM.pyc                                screen.pyc
IPython                                setuptools.pth
ipython-4.0.0-py2.7.egg-info           simplegeneric-0.8.1-py2.7.egg-info
ipython_genutils-0.1.0-py2.7.egg-info  simplegeneric.pyc                                 test_path.pyc
path.pyc                               traitlets
pexpect                                traitlets-4.0.0-py2.7.egg-info

Built-in venv module

Starting from version 3.5, it is recommended that Python use venv to create virtual environments:

$ python3.7 -m venv new/pyneng

Python or python3 can be used instead of python 3.7, depending on how Python 3.7 is installed. This command creates specified directory and all necessary subdirectories within it if they have not been created.

Command creates the following directory structure:

$ ls -ls new/pyneng
total 16
4 drwxr-xr-x 2 vagrant vagrant 4096 Aug 21 14:50 bin
4 drwxr-xr-x 2 vagrant vagrant 4096 Aug 21 14:50 include
4 drwxr-xr-x 3 vagrant vagrant 4096 Aug 21 14:50 lib
4 -rw-r--r-- 1 vagrant vagrant   75 Aug 21 14:50 pyvenv.cfg

To move to a virtual environment, you should execute command:

$ source new/pyneng/bin/activate

To exit virtual environment, use command “deactivate”:

$ deactivate

More about the venv module in documentation.

Package installation

For example, let’s install simplejson package in virtual environment.

(pyneng)$ pip install simplejson
Successfully installed simplejson
Cleaning up...

If you open Python interpreter and import simplejson, it is available and there are no errors:

(pyneng)$ python
>>> import simplejson
>>> simplejson
<module 'simplejson' from '/home/vagrant/venv/pyneng-py3-7/lib/python3.7/site-packages/simplejson/'>

But if you exit from virtual environment and try to do the same thing, there is no such module:

(pyneng)$ deactivate

$ python
>>> import simplejson
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
ModuleNotFoundError: No module named 'simplejson'