Creating a Python Virtual Environment on Ubuntu 18.04

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What is a Python Virtual Environment?

A Python virtual environment is an isolated project space on your system that contains its own Python executable, packages, and modules. Your Python applications and projects often have their own specific dependencies. With a virtual environment you can manage each of your project’s distinct dependencies without having them interfere with each other. You can use the virtualenv tool to create a virtual environment on your system. This guide will show you how to use virtualenv to create and run a Python virtual environment on an Ubuntu 18.04 Linode.

Before You Begin

  1. Complete the Getting Started and Securing Your Server guides to prepare your system.

  2. Update your system:

    sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade
    This guide is written for a non-root user. Commands that require elevated privileges are prefixed with sudo. If you’re not familiar with the sudo command, you can check our Users and Groups guide.

Create a Python Virtual Environment

Python 3.6 is the default Python interpreter for the Ubuntu 18.04 distribution.
  1. Install the virtualenv tool using your package manager:

    sudo apt install virtualenv
  2. Create a python-environments directory in your user’s home directory and navigate to it:

    mkdir ~/python-environments && cd ~/python-environments
  3. Create a Python virtual environment. By default, virtualenv will attempt to use the Python 2.5 interpreter to create a new environment. Since Ubuntu 18.04 does not have Python 2 installed, you should use the --python option to tell virtualenv to use your system’s Python 3.6 interpreter. Replace env with the name you would like to assign to your virtual environment.

    virtualenv --python=python3 env

    The command will create a new directory with the name you assigned to your virtual environment. This directory will contain all of the isolated files, packages, modules, and executables that will be used by your new environment.

  4. Validate that your environment is installed with the version of Python that you expect:

    ls env/lib

    You should see your env environments Python version:


Activate Your Virtual Environment

  1. Activate the newly created virtual environment:

    source env/bin/activate

    The name of the working environment will appear in parentheses after it’s created.

    (env) [email protected]:~/python-environments$

    You can now begin installing Python packages and libraries that will remain isolated to your virtual environment.

Deactivate a Virtual Environment

  1. To deactivate an active virtual environment, issue the following command:


    Your virtual environment will be deactivated and you should no longer see its name listed next to your command line’s prompt

    [email protected]:~/python-environments$

More Information

You may wish to consult the following resources for additional information on this topic. While these are provided in the hope that they will be useful, please note that we cannot vouch for the accuracy or timeliness of externally hosted materials.

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This guide is published under a CC BY-ND 4.0 license.