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Reference Guide
``virtualenv`` Command
.. _usage:
:command:`virtualenv [OPTIONS] ENV_DIR`
Where ``ENV_DIR`` is an absolute or relative path to a directory to create
the virtual environment in.
.. _options:
.. program: virtualenv
.. option:: --version
show program's version number and exit
.. option:: -h, --help
show this help message and exit
.. option:: -v, --verbose
Increase verbosity.
.. option:: -q, --quiet
Decrease verbosity.
.. option:: -p PYTHON_EXE, --python=PYTHON_EXE
The Python interpreter to use, e.g.,
``--python=python2.5`` will use the python2.5 interpreter
to create the new environment. The default is the
interpreter that virtualenv was installed with
(like ``/usr/bin/python``)
.. option:: --clear
Clear out the non-root install and start from scratch.
.. option:: --system-site-packages
Give the virtual environment access to the global
.. option:: --always-copy
Always copy files rather than symlinking.
.. option:: --relocatable
Make an EXISTING virtualenv environment relocatable.
This fixes up scripts and makes all .pth files relative.
.. option:: --unzip-setuptools
Unzip Setuptools when installing it.
.. option:: --no-setuptools
Do not install setuptools in the new virtualenv.
.. option:: --no-pip
Do not install pip in the new virtualenv.
.. option:: --no-wheel
Do not install wheel in the new virtualenv.
.. option:: --extra-search-dir=DIR
Directory to look for setuptools/pip distributions in.
This option can be specified multiple times.
.. option:: --prompt=PROMPT
Provides an alternative prompt prefix for this
.. option:: --download
Download preinstalled packages from PyPI.
.. option:: --no-download
Do not download preinstalled packages from PyPI.
.. option:: --no-site-packages
DEPRECATED. Retained only for backward compatibility.
Not having access to global site-packages is now the
default behavior.
.. option:: --distribute
.. option:: --setuptools
Legacy; now have no effect. Before version 1.10 these could be used
to choose whether to install Distribute_ or Setuptools_ into the created
virtualenv. Distribute has now been merged into Setuptools, and the
latter is always installed.
.. _Distribute:
.. _Setuptools:
Environment Variables
Each command line option is automatically used to look for environment
variables with the name format ``VIRTUALENV_<UPPER_NAME>``. That means
the name of the command line options are capitalized and have dashes
(``'-'``) replaced with underscores (``'_'``).
For example, to automatically use a custom Python binary instead of the
one virtualenv is run with you can also set an environment variable::
$ export VIRTUALENV_PYTHON=/opt/python-3.3/bin/python
$ virtualenv ENV
It's the same as passing the option to virtualenv directly::
$ virtualenv --python=/opt/python-3.3/bin/python ENV
This also works for appending command line options, like ``--find-links``.
Just leave an empty space between the passed values, e.g.::
$ export VIRTUALENV_EXTRA_SEARCH_DIR="/path/to/dists /path/to/other/dists"
$ virtualenv ENV
is the same as calling::
$ virtualenv --extra-search-dir=/path/to/dists --extra-search-dir=/path/to/other/dists ENV
Any virtualenv *activated* when this is set to a non-empty value will leave
the shell prompt unchanged during processing of the
:ref:`activate script <activate>`, rather than modifying it to indicate
the newly activated environment.
Configuration File
virtualenv also looks for a standard ini config file. On Unix and Mac OS X
that's ``$HOME/.virtualenv/virtualenv.ini`` and on Windows, it's
The names of the settings are derived from the long command line option,
e.g. the option :option:`--python <-p>` would look like this::
python = /opt/python-3.3/bin/python
Appending options like :option:`--extra-search-dir` can be written on multiple
extra-search-dir =
Please have a look at the output of :option:`--help <-h>` for a full list
of supported options.
Extending Virtualenv
Creating Your Own Bootstrap Scripts
While this creates an environment, it doesn't put anything into the
environment. Developers may find it useful to distribute a script
that sets up a particular environment, for example a script that
installs a particular web application.
.. note::
A bootstrap script requires a ``virtualenv_support`` directory containing
``pip`` and ``setuptools`` wheels alongside it, just like the actual virtualenv
script. Running a bootstrap script without a ``virtualenv_support`` directory
is unsupported (but if you use ``--no-setuptools`` and manually install ``pip``
and ``setuptools`` in your virtualenv, it will work).
To create a script like this, call
:py:func:`virtualenv.create_bootstrap_script`, and write the
result to your new bootstrapping script.
.. py:function:: create_bootstrap_script(extra_text)
Creates a bootstrap script from ``extra_text``, which is like
this script but with extend_parser, adjust_options, and after_install hooks.
This returns a string that (written to disk of course) can be used
as a bootstrap script with your own customizations. The script
will be the standard script, with your extra text
added (your extra text should be Python code).
If you include these functions, they will be called:
.. py:function:: extend_parser(optparse_parser)
You can add or remove options from the parser here.
.. py:function:: adjust_options(options, args)
You can change options here, or change the args (if you accept
different kinds of arguments, be sure you modify ``args`` so it is
only ``[DEST_DIR]``).
.. py:function:: after_install(options, home_dir)
After everything is installed, this function is called. This
is probably the function you are most likely to use. An
example would be::
def after_install(options, home_dir):
if sys.platform == 'win32':
bin = 'Scripts'
bin = 'bin'[join(home_dir, bin, 'easy_install'),
'MyPackage'])[join(home_dir, bin, 'my-package-script'),
'setup', home_dir])
This example immediately installs a package, and runs a setup
script from that package.
Bootstrap Example
Here's a more concrete example of how you could use this::
import virtualenv, textwrap
output = virtualenv.create_bootstrap_script(textwrap.dedent("""
import os, subprocess
def after_install(options, home_dir):
etc = join(home_dir, 'etc')
if not os.path.exists(etc):
os.makedirs(etc)[join(home_dir, 'bin', 'easy_install'),
'BlogApplication'])[join(home_dir, 'bin', 'paster'),
'make-config', 'BlogApplication',
join(etc, 'blog.ini')])[join(home_dir, 'bin', 'paster'),
'setup-app', join(etc, 'blog.ini')])
f = open('', 'w').write(output)
Another example is available `here`__.
.. __:
Compatibility with the stdlib venv module
Starting with Python 3.3, the Python standard library includes a ``venv``
module that provides similar functionality to ``virtualenv`` - however, the
mechanisms used by the two modules are very different.
Problems arise when environments get "nested" (a virtual environment is
created from within another one - for example, running the virtualenv tests
using tox, where tox creates a virtual environment to run the tests, and the
tests themselves create further virtual environments).
``virtualenv`` supports creating virtual environments from within another one
(the ``sys.real_prefix`` variable allows ``virtualenv`` to locate the "base"
environment) but stdlib-style ``venv`` environments don't use that mechanism,
so explicit support is needed for those environments.
A standard library virtual environment is most easily identified by checking
``sys.prefix`` and ``sys.base_prefix``. If these differ, the interpreter is
running in a virtual environment and the base interpreter is located in the
directory specified by ``sys.base_prefix``. Therefore, when
``sys.base_prefix`` is set, virtualenv gets the interpreter files from there
rather than from ``sys.prefix`` (in the same way as ``sys.real_prefix`` is
used for virtualenv-style environments). In practice, this is sufficient for
all platforms other than Windows.
On Windows from Python 3.7.2 onwards, a stdlib-style virtual environment does
not contain an actual Python interpreter executable, but rather a "redirector"
which launches the actual interpreter from the base environment (this
redirector is based on the same code as the standard ``py.exe`` launcher). As
a result, the virtualenv approach of copying the interpreter from the starting
environment fails. In order to correctly set up the virtualenv, therefore, we
need to be running from a "full" environment. To ensure that, we re-invoke the
```` script using the "base" interpreter, in the same way as we
do with the ``--python`` command line option.
The process of identifying the base interpreter is complicated by the fact
that the implementation changed between different Python versions. The
logic used is as follows:
1. If the (private) attribute ``sys._base_executable`` is present, this is
the base interpreter. This is the long-term solution and should be stable
in the future (the attribute may become public, and have the leading
underscore removed, in a Python 3.8, but that is not confirmed yet).
2. In the absence of ``sys._base_executable`` (only the case for Python 3.7.2)
we check for the existence of the environment variable
``__PYVENV_LAUNCHER__``. This is used by the redirector, and if it is
present, we know that we are in a stdlib-style virtual environment and need
to locate the base Python. In most cases, the base environment is located
at ``sys.base_prefix`` - however, in the case where the user creates a
virtualenv, and then creates a venv from that virtualenv,
``sys.base_prefix`` is not correct - in that case, though, we have
``sys.real_prefix`` (set by virtualenv) which *is* correct.
There is one further complication - as noted above, the environment variable
``__PYVENV_LAUNCHER__`` affects how the interpreter works, so before we
re-invoke the virtualenv script, we remove this from the environment.