Getting to know the Python installer

Command Line – pip3

© Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

© Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Article from Issue 246/2021

As a replacement for pip, pip3 offers a complete solution for binary packages. Here's how to get started with this increasingly popular Python installer.

You can tell the popularity of Linux tools by how often they are used to install packages outside of distro repositories. For years, source packages have been installed by the trinity of commands configure, make, and make install for compiling. More recently, deb packages have become the norm, usually configured for Ubuntu. Both these installation choices are still popular, but, today, the popularity of the Python programming language is reflected in the increasing use of pip3 [1].

Pip3 is the Python installer for Python 3.x releases. It replaces pip, which is used for earlier versions of Python, as well as easy_install, and can also work with eggs [2] and wheels [3], two other standard Python tools designed to simplify packaging. In basic functionality, it is similar to package managers in other programming languages, such as npm in JavaScript or gem in Ruby. You should note, however that in a command, pip3 is often referenced as pip.

Like the packages in a distribution's repositories, pip3 automatically handles dependencies, installing them first to avoid the problems of a half-installed package. In addition, pip3 packages are simpler to build than their predecessors and include detailed error and warning messages, as well as a requirement file [4] that makes cloning installations on multiple machines easier. In fact, pip3 is so similar to deb and RPM that it is often talked about in terms of distributions and packages, a habit that causes considerable confusion. Regardless, pip3 has advantages for developers and users alike.


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