Python Packaging

Packaging a Python project for distrubtion is just not straight forward.

Some parameters:

  • Distributing a library or an application
  • Distributing the source or byte-code, or some sort of executable
  • Including a Python run-time with the application, or is it up to the user to install Python and know how to run your application inside Python
  • How to avoid all the pit-falls that come with library paths, external packages, dependencies, Python v2 vs v3 compatibility, and the target host/OS it will be run on.

A simple Google search reveals that I’m not alone, in, my, trials.

My real-world example is the application I wrote as a front-end to the dar backup utility, darfortie. It started out as a bash script, quickly outgrew that and became a Python script with a few supporting modules as well as external dependancies, not the least of which is the dar application itself.

The PyPI distribution described below works as it should, but it took me all of the steps below to realize that my problem was that I was installing it using pip as a normal user, instead of sudo pip... and so the execuatable was not ending up in a directory in my system PATH.

Originally I had published the project as source code and as two executable formats, as described in this ablepear post, which I summarize below.

Source format

The source format lives in a directory

/home/ken/darfortie/darfortie and contains three files:


The file imports the other two files and contains a main(), along with the requisite

if __name__ == '__main__':

So, if I’m in the directory /home/ken/darfortie, I can run the app using

$ python darfortie

A shell script also works:

cd /home/ken/darfortie
/usr/bin/python darfortie $@

Executable format

The first executable format is a zip file that contains the same three files, above:

  • This app runs in a similar way, I can run the app using:

    $ python /home/ken/darfortie/

    The second executable format is zip file renamed as darfortie, has its attributes set to executable and with the line #!/usr/bin/env python prepended to the file. This runs as:

    $ python /home/ken/darfortie/bin/darfortie

    All of this is fine and works as expected. Enter PyPI…


PyPI is the defacto repository for Python software, and so to make my project available this way, I made some changes to the project.

  1. PyPI only supports ReStructured text (.rst) for the readme. Github supports both .rst and Markdown (.md). So I converted my readme file to .rst and updated the contents, removing the information about running darfortie from source, or zip, as I described above, and changed it to instruct how to install the project using pip which is the application that interfaces with the PyPI repository and installs applications on a client machine.
  2. Renamed the module to
  3. Created a new module which simply imports the three modules of the project: text darfortie_main darfortie_params darfortie_previous_file
  4. Created a file which PyPI uses to register the application.

This was uploaded and as a result you can run this to install darfortie on a machine:

pip install -i darfortie

If this is done as a normal user, then the install puts the package in


and creates an execuatable such that the application can be run by:

$ ./local/bin/darfortie

If installed as root, then the install is done into


and the executable is created as:


which is normally on the system PATH.