Quick Start

Here’s how to create a new project, which we’ll call TowelStuff.

1. Lay out your project

The smallest python project is two files. A setup.py file which describes the metadata about your project, and a file containing Python code to implement the functionality of your project.

In this example project we are going to add a little more to the project to provide the typical minimal layout of a project. We’ll create a full Python package, a directory with an __init__.py file, called towelstuff/. This anticipates future growth as our project’s source code is likely to grow beyond a single module file.

We’ll also create a README.txt file describing an overview of your project, and a LICENSE.txt file containing the license of your project.

That’s enough to start. There are a number of other types of files a project will often have, see the Arranging your file and directory structure for an example of a more fully fleshed out project.

Your project will now look like:


2. Describe your project

The setup.py file is at the heart of a Python project. It describes all of the metadata about your project. There a quite a few fields you can add to a project to give it a rich set of metadata describing the project. However, there are only three required fields: name, version, and packages. The name field must be unique if you wish to publish your package on the Python Package Index (PyPI). The version field keeps track of different releases of the project. The packages field describes where you’ve put the Python source code within your project.

Our initial setup.py will also include information about the license and will re-use the README.txt file for the long_description field. This will look like:

from distutils.core import setup

    license='Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license',

3. Create your first release

In the version field, we specified 0.1dev. This indicates that we are developing towards the 0.1 version. Right now there isn’t any code in the project. After you’ve written enough code to make your first release worthwhile, you will change the version field to just 0.1, dropping the dev marker.

To create a release, your source code needs to be packaged into a single archive file. This can be done with the sdist command:

$ python setup.py sdist

This will create a dist sub-directory in your project, and will wrap-up all of your project’s source code files into a distribution file, a compressed archive file in the form of:


The compressed archive format defaults to .tar.gz files on POSIX systems, and .zip files on Windows systems.

By default, Distutils does not include all files in your project’s directory. Only the following files will be included by default:

  • all Python source files implied by the py_modules and packages options
  • all C source files mentioned in the ext_modules or libraries options
  • scripts identified by the scripts option
  • anything that looks like a test script: test/test*.py
  • Top level files named: README.txt, README, setup.py, or setup.cfg

If you want to include additional files, then there are a couple options for including those files:

  • Use a package which extends Distutils with more functionality. Setuptools and Distribute allow you to include all files checked into your version control system.
  • Write a top-level MANIFEST.in file. This is a template file which specifies which files (and file patterns) should be included. (TO-DO: link to a MANIFEST.in document)

When you run the sdist command, a file named MANIFEST will be generated which contains a complete list of all files included. You can view this file to double check that you’ve setup your project to include all files correctly. Now your project is ready for a release. Before releasing, it’s a good idea to double check to make sure that you have:

  • The correct version number.

    While it’s handy to append a dev marker to the version number during development, so that you can distinguish between code under development and a released version, you never want to publish a release with dev in the version name.

  • All desired project files are included.

    Go over the MANIFEST file, or open the archive file generated by running the sdist command.

4. Register your package with the Python Package Index (PyPI)

The distribution file generated by running sdist can be published anywhere. There is a central index of all publically available Python projects maintained on the python.org web site named the The Python Package Index (PyPI). This is where you will want to release your distribution if you intend to make your project public.

You will first have to visit that site, where you can register for an account. Project’s are published on PyPI in the format of:


Your project will have to choose a name which is not already taken on PyPI. You can then claim your new project’s name by registering the package by running the command:

$ python setup.py register

5. Upload your release, then grab your towel and save the Universe!

Now that you are happy that you can create a valid source distribution, it’s time to upload the finished product to PyPI. We’ll also create a bdist_wininst distribution file of our project, which will create a Windows installable file. There are a few different file formats that Python distributions can be created for. Each format must be specified when you run the upload command, or they won’t be uploaded (even if you’ve previously built them previously). You should always upload a source distribution file. The other formats are optional, and will depend upon the needs of your anticipated user base:

$ python setup.py sdist bdist_wininst upload

At this point you should announce your package to the community!

Finally, in your setup.py you can make plans for your next release, by changing the version field to indicate which version you want to work towards next (e.g. 0.2dev).

This Quick Start is a good brief introduction, but does not cover a lot of obscure use-cases. For more details, please see Introduction to Packaging, to gain a better understanding of the Current State of Packaging.