How to setup your Python environment

TLDR: Use pyenv and pyev-virtualenv in a makefile to quickly set up the Python environment on your projects.


When you interact with multiple projects it becomes difficult to manually manage each one of their required environments. In this article we'll go through a way that I particularly like to deal with this issue, and you might like it too.

To make things clear, imagine you're working on two Python projects, each with its own dependency requirements. Let's say that my-first-project has Flask and SQLAlchemy as dependencies, while my-second-project depends on FastAPI and pymongo.

Installing all of these dependencies to the global environment on your computer might work just fine, although it's not recommended. What we could do to ensure each project has its own dependencies separate from the global environment is use a virtualenv for each one.

Another problem that becomes common with time is that each project may depend on a specific Python version. This is something that virtualenv itself cannot solve, but pyenv does! It allows us to install and select any Python version that we need.


Once its installed, pyenv can be used to:

  1. Install a specific Python version;
  2. Create a virtualenv specifically with that version;
  3. Activate the virtualenv to safely start installing dependencies;

Step three should be done within the project folder. The commands would look like this, respectively:

pyenv install 3.10.0
pyenv virtualenv 3.10.0 my-first-project
cd my-first-project
pyenv local my-first-project

These commands are enough to ensure that you'll be working on the optimal environment for that project, regarding Python version. But when it comes to dependency management, one common pattern is to specify them in a requirements.txt file. Considering this approach, the following steps could be used:

  1. Uninstall all currently installed dependencies;
  2. Update pip's version;
  3. Install the dependencies specified in requirements.txt;

Again, the commands would look like this:

cd my-first-project
pip freeze | xargs -r pip uninstall -y
python -m pip install --upgrade pip
pip install -r requirements.txt

The three steps above allows us to safely reset the dependencies installed in the current virtualenv without having to recreate it completely.

As remembering these can become annoying after a while, we could use the help of a makefile. Create a makefile in the root folder of your project and insert the following lines:

.PHONY: environment
    pyenv install -s 3.10.0
    pyenv uninstall --force my-project
    pyenv virtualenv 3.10.0 --force my-project
    pyenv local my-project

.PHONY: install
    pip freeze | xargs -r pip uninstall -y
    python -m pip install --upgrade pip
    pip install -r requirements.txt

Now all you have to do is run make environment and then make install to have a fresh Python environment with all its dependencies properly isolated from the rest of your system. Bumped a dependency version? Running only make install should be enough.


  • This Wikipedia article explains xargs;