Install Python

In this chapter, you learn how to install Python on MacOS, Windows, and Linux. We will look at multiple ways to install Python on your platform and discuss what I think is the best option to choose from.

Most of the time, it’s not advisable to install Python by using the official installer from the python.org website. Instead, it’s better to install the version packaged by your operating system. The advantage of installing the Python version supplied by your operating system is that you’ll get automatic updates.

If you don’t feel like installing Python, or you are unable to install it for whatever reason, I’ll offer an alternative too: you can use Python right from your browser; no installation necessary! It’s a nice way to try Python and see if it’s for you, without the hassle of installation. The online option will give you a fully-fledged Python version, so you don’t have to be afraid your missing something. Much of what you’ll learn in this guide can be done in the on-line version as well. However, I still recommend installing Python yourself. It’s nice to have everything running on your PC, especially if you start creating real programs. Also, it allows you to work offline.

Install Python on Windows

There are three ways to install Python on Windows.

Using The Microsoft Store

Microsoft hosts a community release of Python 3 in the Microsoft Store. This is the recommended way to install Python on Windows because it handles updates automatically and can be uninstalled easily too.

To install it:

With the Python.org installer

You can download a Python installer from the official Python download website too. This method does not give you automatic updates, and I would recommend it only if you don’t have access to the Microsoft store.

Install Python inside WSL

If you’re familiar with Windows Subsystem For Linux, you may want to consider that option too. It’s what I use myself, and I’m truly loving it. It offers me the advantages that Windows has to offer (mainly great hardware support), while still enjoying Linux which is, in my opinion, the best platform for Python development.

To install Python in WSL, you’ll first need to install WSL. Go for WSL2 if you can. It’s much better. After that, simply follow the Linux installation instructions below!

Install Python on MacOS

On most versions of MacOS before Catalina, a distribution of Python is already included. Unfortunately, it’s almost certainly an old version, Python 2.7. Luckily, there are two ways to install Python 3 on a Mac with ease.

Homebrew

First and foremost, I recommend looking into Homebrew. It allows you to install almost anything easily. The added benefit is that it’s also easy to upgrade to newer versions later on.

Once you are up and running with homebrew, installing Python on MacOS is as easy as:

$ brew install python

Official installer

Alternatively, you can download an installer from the Python download website. The downside to this approach is that you won’t get automatic updates.

Install Python on Linux

There are several ways to install Python on Linux, that is, if you need to install it at all!

Check what’s installed first

Most Linux distributions include Python. Many will include both Python 2 and Python 3.

If you enter python --version on the command line, you’ll see the version number. It’s probably version 2.7:

$ python --version
Python 2.7.16

You don’t want Python 2, but some OS’es still ship with it, unfortunately.

Now try python3 --version. If you get a “command not found,” you need to install Python 3. If your output looks similar to this, you’re in luck:

$ python3 --version
Python 3.8.5

Using a package manager

Depending on the distribution of Linux you are running, you can install python with the default package manager: Yum, APT, etcetera. You’ll need to find out for your specific Linux distribution which package manager is used and how to use it.

If you’re on Ubuntu, Linux Mint, or Debian, you can install python using apt:

$ apt install python3

Homebrew

Another interesting option for Linux is using Homebrew. That’s right, the package manager for Macs also works on Linux.

The major advantages of using Homebrew:

  • You’ll get the latest version of Python, instead of the version your OS shipped with
  • You don’t need root access to your system. All the software installed with Homebrew is installed in your home directory

I find myself using Homebrew more and more while working under Linux — give it a try!

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