Installing Python and virtualenv on Arch Linux and Ubuntu
Installing Python and virtualenv on Arch Linux and Ubuntu

We use Python for pretty much all our software development at work. We also use virtualenv and virtualenvwrapper extensively, both for development and deployment.

Why is virtualenv so great?

It just is. Read the virtualenv documentation. If you’re a Python developer you need virtualenv in your life. You also need virtualenvwrapper too.

virtualenvwrapper is a set of extensions to Ian Bicking’s virtualenv tool for creating isolated Python development environments.

Installing Python and virtualenvwrapper

Outlined below is how I install Python and virtualenvwrapper. We have not yet made the jump to Python 3 at work, hence the references to Python 2.6 and 2.7. Some of us develop on Arch Linux, but all deployments are on Ubuntu.

Arch Linux

As Arch Linux is a rolling release we can simply install everything via pacman.

sudo pacman -Syy
sudo pacman -S --needed --noconfirm python-pip python-setuptools python-virtualenv
sudo pacman -S --needed --noconfirm python2-pip python2-setuptools python2-virtualenv python-virtualenvwrapper"



The following was done on Ubuntu Lucid 10.04 LTS.

Add some essential PPAs.

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:bzr/ppa
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:git-core/ppa
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:fkrull/deadsnakes

Update the system and install Python 2.6 and 2.7.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install libpython2.6 python2.6 python2.6-dev python2.6-minimal
sudo apt-get install libpython2.7 python2.7 python2.7-dev python2.7-minimal

Remove any apt installed Python packages that we are about to repalce. The versions of these packages in the Ubuntu repos and PPAs are too old.

sudo apt-get purge python-setuptools python-virtualenv python-pip python-profiler

Install distribute.

curl -O
sudo python2.6
sudo python2.7

Install pip.

curl -O
sudo python2.6
sudo python2.7

Use pip to install virtualenv and virtualenv wrapper.

sudo pip-2.6 install virtualenv --upgrade
sudo pip-2.7 install virtualenv --upgrade
sudo pip install virtualenvwrapper

Fairly simple.

The Snakepit

This step is common to Arch Linux and Ubuntu. Create a “Snakepit” directory for storing all the virtualenvs.

mkdir ~/Snakepit

Add the following your ~/.bashrc to enable virtualenvwrapper.

export WORKON_HOME=${HOME}/Snakepit
if [ -f /usr/local/bin/ ]; then
    source /usr/local/bin/
elif [ -f /usr/bin/ ]; then
    source /usr/bin/

Creating a virtualenv

Open a new shell to ensure that the virtualenvwrapper configuration is active.

The following will create a new virtualenv called Nikola5 based on Python 2.7 and will not give access to the global site-packages directory.

mkvirtualenv -p python2.7 --no-site-packages ~/Snakepit/Nikola5

mkvirtualenv_help shows a full list of arguments, the -r switch can install all the packages listed in a pip requirements file into the newly created virtualenv. Very useful.

Working on a virtualenv

To workon, or activate, an existing virtualenv do the following.

workon Nikola5

You can switch to another virtualenv at any time, just use workon envname. Your shell prompt will change while a virtualenv is being worked on to indicate which virtualenv is currently active.

While working on a virtualenv you can pip install what you need or manually install any Python libraries safe in the knowledge you will not adversely damage any other virtualenvs or the global packages in the process. Very useful for developing a new branch which may have different library requirements than the master/head.

When you are finished working in a virtualenv you can deactivate it by simply executing:


That just about sums up my notes.