Python setuptools

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The most common way to distribute Python modules is using PyPI, the Python Package Index (formerly known as the Cheese shop).

The tool to download and install packages is pip. Predecessors like EasyInstall are no longer recommended, with only a few exceptions (in particular pip does not support binary distributions).

There are tool to build and upload packages is or setuptools. Make sure to use version 0.7 or later.

There are a few alternatives to setuptools: distutils is a tool in the standard library with limited functionality. The downside of both distutils and setuptools is that they use a script rather than a file format to store metadata, and force the developer an end-user to use the same tool to build and install the software. distutils2 (the module will be named `package`) is an attempt to move to a modern packaging system for Python, but has not been included as of Python 3.4.

Release Steps

Credit: These steps are based on the sphinxcontrib-aafig documentation.

In order to make a PyPi release, do the following steps:

  1. Make sure the repository is up-to date.
  2. Ensure the version is incremented:
    • must be updated
    • libary/ must be updated
    • doc/changes.rst must contain a summary of the changes
  3. Make sure all changes are committed, including the version number changes.
  4. Tag the sources with hg tag -m 'Tag mymodule-X.Y' mymodule-X.Y or git tag mymodule-X.Y.
  5. Push the code and tag: hg push or git push --tags origin
  6. Temporarily modify setup.cfg file to comment out the variables tag_build = dev and tag_date = true (do not commit this change).
  7. Register and upload the new release python register sdist upload.
  8. Generate the documentation with cd doc; make.
  9. Upload the new documentation (to PyPi or to github repository).

Package and Egg Loading Trickery

Python has a rather poor system of loading modules. Tools such as setuptools work around this problem, but sometimes these workarounds have unintended consequences.

import sphinxcontrib.restbuilder always loaded this package from site-packages directory, despite that the sphinxcontrib.restbuilder module was also available in the current directory, and sys.path contained the current directory as first entry.
easy-install 'only' modifies sys.path (overriding $PYTHONPATH). setuptools takes it a step further and creates a .pth file that manipulates sys.modules.
del sys.modules['sphinxcontrib'] if it exists.

First of all: Python eggs are a neat way to distribute different software packages inside the same Python package. Consider the following two directory structures:




The second directory structure allows separate release cycles for all three packages. The downside is that all *.egg directories need to be included in sys.path. However, this leads to problems when a user tries to import sphinxcontrib. Which of these directories should be included? setuptools accommodates for this by adding scripts in .pth files that select the correct packages. This is even the case if the directory structure is merged, as it is in the first example directory structure above.

To be exact, setuptools adds an empty module to sys.modules with just the name and the desired path of each module inside an egg folder. As a consequence, as soon as that module is loaded, sys.path is not used, and that directory specified in sys.modules is used.

Here is the .pth file installed by setuptools. It is slightly rewritten for clarity.

import sys, types, os
p = os.path.join(sys._getframe(1).f_locals['sitedir'], 'sphinxcontrib')
if os.path.exists(os.path.join(p,'')):
    mp = []
    m = sys.modules.setdefault('sphinxcontrib', types.ModuleType('sphinxcontrib'))
    mp = m.__dict__.setdefault('__path__',[])
if (p not in mp):

In case a script must use another version of the module, manipulating sys.path won't help. Instead, take one of these steps: 1. Delete the .pth file beforehand. (This may give problems when normally loading the module if it is in an egg file) 2. Delete the entry in sys.modules for the given module: if 'sphinxcontrib in sys.modules: del sys.modules['sphinxcontrib'], and manipulate sys.path as usual. 3. Replace the entry in sys.modules with one pointing to another path: sys.modules['sphinxcontrib'].__dict__['__path__'] = desired_path

Further reading: