How to Package my Python Project for PyPI?

I have a small Python project and would like to make it easy for people to download and install it. Ideally it would be on the Python Package Index PyPI (because if it isn’t on PyPI it does not exist) with the proper dependency information to allow it to be installed with commands like Pip. So what do I do?

Where we are

So far as I understand it, the current situation is that Python’s built-in module Distutils has been superseded by Setuptools and easy_install, which has been forked to make Distribute, which will be replaced by Distutils2.

One consequence of this is that the documentation for Distribute is not finished, and will not be: development energy is concentrated on its future replacement. What they have is an introduction stating that Distribute is a fork and outlining some of its unique features, and a reference to a copy of the Setuptools documentation which has ben partially search-and-replaced with the new project name. This means that none of this document can be trusted, since the reader cannot tell which bits have been left as ‘setuptools’ because the old name is used for backward compatibility, and which bits have been left unchanged by mistake. There are whole sections describing features not supported by Distribute.

The Setuptools documentation itself was not self-contained: it starts with a long discussion of features it has distinguishing it from the old Distutils, and then describes its API in terms of the Distutils API. As a result you need to already know Distutils inside-out to understand the Setuptools documentation—including the parts of Distutils that Setuptools boasts of having rendered obsolete.

The upshot of this is I started writing an installer one weekend and gave up after several hours that might better have been spent on developing the module itself.

OK, enough of the mess we are in. What would I like to see?

Where We Need To Be

First, something somewhere which says definitively which packaging system is the correct one to use, or at least offers an algorithm for choosing one.

Second, instructions that tell you how to package your software, as opposed to what features the packaging software has. I do not care about the latter, and I want to spend a minimum amount of time on the former. Essentially after a minimum of introduction I would like to see a table of contents along the lines of:

  • Create a basic
  • Add list of modules
  • Add list of scripts
  • If your package includes extensions, add building instructions
  • If your package fits in to a larger namespace, add namespace definitions
  • Add metadata for the Packaging Index
  • Test installation in a virtualenv
  • Upload to PyPI

These would be links to instructions for doing each step. See how the more complex features are guarded by an ‘if’ that lets most people ignore the link without further reading. The aim is to allow simple packages to be packaged up in less than an hour, including reading the documentation.

Third, systems in place so that RPMs, DEBs, YUMs, etc., can be automatically generated from PyPI metadata. I think this is something the Distutils2 effort is intending to address. The ideal here would be that once I have properly set up my, people using these systems will be able to install it using their usual installer without further work being required.


I want to use my package in a Django site, and this will be easier by far if I can get my module in to Pip’s requirements file. So I plan to have another go at getting a Distribute-based installer done. If I succeed I will try to write a basic HOWTO for future reference.