One of the things which makes Python awesome is the quality and quantity of open source packages available to extend its power. This means the with the right package and just a few lines of code, ridiculously complicated and impressive tasks can performed, such as as sentiment analysis of text, powerful 3D graphical image manipulation, advanced computational processing and much more besides.
None of this is much use though unless you know how to install Python packages!
Python Built-In Modules
Be aware that not all extended functionality requires installing packages. Several modules come shipped with a standard Python installation. These include
mathfor various mathematical functionality
osfor interacting with the operating system
randomfor working with random numbers
timefor working with time-related processes
collectionsfor access to some fancy data structures
You can go ahead and explore these without any further installation steps with your standard installation, if you haven’t done so already. All you need to do is import them at the top of your Python files using
import math, for example.
Here’s a simple example of using a built-in Python module:
import math print(math.pi) print(math.e)
This uses the
math module to display high-accuracy versions of the mathematical constants
Top tip: Do not name your programs with the same name as an existing module. E.g.
math.py. This creates a bug that can be surprisingly hard to track down until you’ve made the mistake once, after which you probably won’t do so again!
Some awesome Python packages
Beyond the built-in modules in Python, there are some amazing packages which add all kinds of functionality, according to your needs. For example:
matplotlibfor powerful graphing capabilities
pygamefor fun and easy game development
numpy– for powerful mathematical processing beyond what
pandas– an industry standard for data processing and analysis
nltkfor natural language processing
This is just a taster. For a more comprehensive list, check out the Python Package Index, here.
pip to install Python packages
Let’s say you want to install some awesome package like
These days there is rarely a reason not to use the standard package manager for Python:
pip, to install your project’s dependencies. It is extremely easy to use, assuming you know how to work with a command line interface on your machine. On Windows, this is usually
powershell. On Mac/Linux it may well be terminal/bash. Once you have this open (see Running python scripts from a command line for more info), you can type:
pip install pandason Windows
pip3 install pandason Mac/Linux
Ta da – this is all you should need to do to be able to import new package into you Python program and make use of the goodness they provide.
Please note: Python virtual environments are beyond the scope of this article, but you may want to consider their use. If using a virtual environment, you would want to use
pipfrom within that environment so that your packages are not installed to your main Python installation.
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Using PyCharm to Install Packages in Python
If you use PyCharm or another Python IDE that supports package installation, you may prefer to install via the IDE’s GUI. This applies to both virtual and non-virtual environments.
In PyCharm, the process is very simple. Just go to
settings->python interpreter and select the packages you want to install. You could also still use
pip by opening a terminal from within the IDE. Which method you should choose is merely a matter of preference.
So that’s it really. It’s very simple to install Python packages, assuming you know how to use a command line on your system or have an IDE that allows you to do it via a GUI. If you don’t yet know how to do this, it is a very useful skill to learn which is not that difficult, so maybe this is a good opportunity to extend your computing knowledge just a little. The rewards of working with all the amazing Python packages available are well worth it!