How to Manage Python Dependencies using Virtual Environments

How to Manage Python Dependencies using Virtual Environments

Learn how to manage Python dependencies using Virtual Environments. Why do we need Python Virtual Environments? These virtual environments make use of isolated contexts (directories) for installing packages and dependencies. We need a tool to make use of Python virtual environments. The tool we use to make them is known as venv. It is built into the standard Python library for Python 3.3+.

When we start building a Python project that goes beyond simple scripts, we tend to start using third-party dependencies.

When working on a larger project, we need to think about managing these dependencies in an efficient manner. And when installing dependencies, we always want to be inside virtual environments. It helps keep things nice and clean. It also helps avoid messing up our Python environment.

Why do we need Python Virtual Environments?

We can use Pip to install packages to our Python project. And it is common to have multiple packages installed in a single Python project. This can lead to some issues regarding the versions of the packages installed and their dependencies.

When we use pip install <package name> in a project, we are installing the package and its dependencies in the global Python namespace. And this will install the package for the specific Python version that we have configured Python for.

We can find out where this directory is by using

python3.7 -c "import sys; print('\n'.join(sys.path))"

/usr/lib/python27.zip
/usr/lib/python2.7
/usr/lib/python2.7/lib-dynload
/usr/lib/python2.7/site-packages

And if we install the same package using pip3 install <package name>, it will be installed in a separate directory with the Python 3 version. We can overcome this by using the following command:

 python2.7 -m pip install <package name>

This still does not solve our problem of packages being installed system-wide, which can lead to the following problems:

  • Different projects having different versions of the same package will conflict with one another
  • A project’s dependencies can conflict with system-level dependencies which can break the system altogether
  • Multi-user projects is not a possibility
  • Testing code against different Python and library versions is a challenging task

To avoid those problems, Python developers use Virtual Environments. These virtual environments make use of isolated contexts (directories) for installing packages and dependencies.

How to Create a Virtual Environment

We need a tool to make use of Python virtual environments. The tool we use to make them is known as venv. It is built into the standard Python library for Python 3.3+.

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