Setup and use a virtual python environment in Ubuntu

With virtualenvwrapper (user-friendly wrappers for the functionality of virtualenv)

Install virtualenv

Install virtualenv with

sudo apt-get install virtualenv

(for Ubuntu 14.04 (trusty) install python-virtualenv)

Install virtualenvwrapper

The reason we are also installing virtualenvwrapper is that it offers nice and simple commands to manage your virtual environments. There are two ways to install virtualenvwrapper:

As Ubuntu package (from Ubuntu 16.04)

Run sudo apt install virtualenvwrapper then run echo "source /usr/share/virtualenvwrapper/" >> ~/.bashrc

Using pip

  1. Install and/or update pip

    Install pip for Python 2 with
    sudo apt-get install python-pip

    or for Python 3
    sudo apt-get install python3-pip

    (if you use Python 3, you may need to use pip3 instead of pip in the rest of this guide).

    Optional (but recommended): 
    Turn on bash autocomplete for pip Run
    pip completion --bash >> ~/.bashrc

    and run 

    source ~/.bashrc 

    to enable.
  2. Install virtualenvwrapper Because we want to avoid sudo pip we install virtualenvwrapper locally (by default under ~/.local) with:
    pip install --user virtualenvwrapper


    echo "export VIRTUALENVWRAPPER_PYTHON=/usr/bin/python3" >> ~/.bashrc
  3. Source virtualenvwrapper in .bashrc

    echo "source ~/.local/bin/" >> ~/.bashrc

Setup virtualenv and virtualenvwrapper:

First, we export the WORKON_HOME variable which contains the directory in which our virtual environments are to be stored. Let’s make this ~/.virtualenvs

export WORKON_HOME=~/.virtualenvs

now also create this directory


and put this export in our ~/.bashrc file so this variable gets automatically defined

echo "export WORKON_HOME=$WORKON_HOME" >> ~/.bashrc

We can also add some extra tricks like the following, which makes sure that if pip creates an extra virtual environment, it is also placed in our WORKON_HOME directory:

echo "export PIP_VIRTUALENV_BASE=$WORKON_HOME" >> ~/.bashrc

Source ~/.bashrc to load the changes

source ~/.bashrc

Test if it works

Now we create our first virtual environment. The -p argument is optional, it is used to set the Python version to use; it can also be python3 for example.

mkvirtualenv -p python2.7 test

You will see that the environment will be set up, and your prompt now includes the name of your active environment in parentheses. Also if you now run

python -c "import sys; print sys.path"

you should see a lot of /home/user/.virtualenv/... because it now doesn’t use your system site packages.

You can deactivate your environment by running


and if you want to work on it again, simply type

workon test

Finally, if you want to delete your environment, type

rmvirtualenv test