Python Pip: Install, Manage, and Remove Packages

Pip is Python’s package installer. If you’re wondering what Pip stands for, the name Pip is a recursive acronym for ‘Pip Installs Packages.’ There are two ways of installing Python packages using pip:

  1. Manual installation
  2. Using a requirements.txt file that defines the required packages and their version numbers.

But before we start working with Pip, we must first make sure it’s installed!

Install Pip

Make sure it’s needed

Good news; chances are that Pip is already installed on your system. Most Python installers also install Pip. Pip is already installed if you are using Python 2 >=2.7.9 or Python 3 >=3.4 downloaded from python.org. If you are working in a virtual environment, pip is also installed for you.

Some people still end up without Pip on their system, so let’s first take a look at how you can manually install Pip. Before you try to install Pip, make sure it’s not installed. Open a terminal (Linux/MacOS) or a Windows shell, and type in the following command:

pip help

If the pip command gives an error, try pip3 instead. On some systems, Python 2 and 3 can be installed next to each other. On those systems, pip is often installed under the name pip3:

pip3 help

If that didn’t work either, you can try the pip module that is build into most modern Python installations:

python3 -m pip help

If that failed too, you need to install pip.

Install Pip on Windows and MacOS

On Windows and MacOS, you can download a Python script to install pip, called get-pip.py. Download the file and run it with Python from a command prompt or terminal window:

python3 get-pip.py

Make sure you are in the directory where the script was downloaded.

Install Pip on Linux

You can install pip with the apt package manager on Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and other Debian derivatives. It’s the most recommended method and ensures your system will stay in a consistent state.

$ pip freeze > requirements.txt

If you system uses the yum package manager, pip can often be installed with:

$ pip freeze > requirements.txt
$ yum -y install python-pip

Pip is part of EPEL (Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux), so you might need to enable that first.

If these methods fail, you can also download a Python script that will install pip for you, with the following commands:

$ curl "https://bootstrap.pypa.io/get-pip.py" -o "get-pip.py"
....
$ python3 get-pip.py

Install Python packages with Pip

We can use pip to install packages inside our newly created environment. Pip is installed inside your virtual environment by default. Because everything in our venv is installed locally, you don’t need to become a superuser with sudo or su.

Alternatively, you can install packages outside of your venv as well. This is only recommended for very generic packages, like pip itself. In fact, let’s try to upgrade our system-wide pip installation first. Make sure you are not currently in a virtual environment and enter:

pip3 install --upgrade pip

This command asks pip to install pip, and update it if it’s already installed.

Now that we’re up-to-date, let’s try to install simplejson. Enter your virtual environment and type in:

$ pip install simplejson

Install Python packages using a requirements.txt file

In a virtual environment, it’s a good habit to install specific versions of packages. It ensures that you reap the full benefits of using virtual environments in the first place. After all, we do this to make sure our software always works as intended by pinning down specific dependency versions.

requirements.txt file contains a very simple list of dependencies, one per line. In its most simple form, it could look like this:

simplejson
chardet

But what we really want is to pin the versions. That’s not hard either:

chardet==3.0.4
simplejson==3.17.0

You can also relax these constraints a little, by using >= and <=, or even a combination of those:

chardet>=3.0.0,<=3.1.0
simplejson>=3.17.0

How do you know what range to use? Unfortunately, there are no rules to this. You will have to read the release notes and such from the package in question.

Pip freeze

You can make your life a little easier by creating your requirements file using pip’s freeze option. First, write your software and install all the requirements you need as you go with pip. Once you’re done, use the following command:

$ pip freeze > requirements.txt

Pip will create a requirements file with all the currently installed dependencies, including version numbers. Neat!

Install from a requirements file

Finally, to install all the dependencies listed in this file, use:

$ pip install -r requirements.txt

Custom repository with pip install -i

The default PyPI repository is located at https://pypi.org/simple. You can use an alternative repository as well, though. For example, if your company only allows a subset of packages from an internal mirror. This repository can be located on a HTTP(s) URL or on a file system location.

To specify a custom repository, use the -i or --index-url option, like so:

$ pip install -i https://your-custom-repo/simple <package name>

or

$ pip install -i /path/to/your/custom-repo/simple <package name>

The URL must point to a repository compliant with PEP 503 (the simple repository API) or a local directory laid out in the same format.

Install packages locally with pip install –user

By default, pip will try to install a package system-wide. This can be fine, e.g. for generic libraries like Numpy and Pandas, or for complete environments like Jupyter Notebook. However, you won’t always have the right to install packages system-wide, e.g. when you’re working on a shared system at work or at school.

In such cases, pip can install packages to the Python user install directory for your platform.
On Unix-like systems this will typically be ~/.local/, and on Windows it will be %APPDATA%\Python.

On Debian-based systems, installing packages in the local install directory is often the default when running outside of a virtual environment and not as root.

Uninstall packages

To uninstall a package with Pip, we can use the ‘uninstall’ subcommand, e.g.:

pip uninstall <package name>

In line with the installation using a requirements file, you can also use such a file to uninstall packages:

pip uninstall -r <requirements file name>

Get more information

Listing installing packages with Pip

To list all the currently installed packages using pip, use the following command:

$ pip list

Package                 Version
----------------------- ---------------------
async-generator         1.10
attrs                   20.3.0
autopep8                1.5.7
...

It will show both package names and versions.

Show package details

Now that you now which packages are installed, you may need to inspect one in more details. For this, we have the ‘show’ sub-command:

$ pip show attrs
Name: attrs
Version: 20.3.0
Summary: Classes Without Boilerplate
Home-page: https://www.attrs.org/
Author: Hynek Schlawack
Author-email: [email protected]
License: MIT
Location: /usr/lib/python3/dist-packages
Requires: 
Required-by: 

Keep learning

If you want to learn more about pip and all its options, head over to the official pip documentation.

About the author

Erik is the owner of Python Land and the author of many of the articles and tutorials on this website. He's been working as a professional software developer for 25 years, and he holds a Master of Science degree in computer science. His favorite language of choice: Python!