
# Using PYTHONPATH¶

PYTHONPATH is an environment variable.

See the Python 3 docs for PYTHONPATH.

The PYTHONPATH variable has a value that is a string with a list of directories that Python should add to the sys.path directory list.

The main use of PYTHONPATH is when we are developing some code that we want to be able to import from Python, but that we have not yet made into an installable Python package (see: making a Python package).

Returning to the example module and script in Where does Python look for modules?:

Contents of code/a_module.py
def func():
print("Running useful function")

Contents of scripts/a_script.py
import a_module

a_module.func()


At the moment, on my machine, PYTHONPATH is empty:

$echo$PYTHONPATH


Before we set PYTHONPATH correctly, a_script.py will fail with:

$python3 scripts/a_script.py Traceback (most recent call last): File "scripts/a_script.py", line 1, in <module> import a_module ModuleNotFoundError: No module named 'a_module'  Now I set the PYTHONPATH environment variable value to be the path to the code directory: $ # Set PYTHONPATH to path to the working directory + /code
$# This is for the "bash" shell on Unix / git bash on Windows$ export PYTHONPATH="$PWD/code"$ # Now the script can find "a_module"
$python3 scripts/a_script.py Running useful function  ## Setting PYTHONPATH more permanently¶ You probably don’t want to have to set PYTHONPATH every time you start up a terminal and run a Python script. Luckily, we can make the PYTHONPATH value be set for any terminal session, by setting the environment variable default. For example, let’s say I wanted add the directory /Users/my_user/code to the PYTHONPATH: ### If you are on a Mac¶ • Open Terminal.app; • Open the file ~/.bash_profile in your text editor – e.g. atom ~/.bash_profile; • Add the following line to the end: export PYTHONPATH="/Users/my_user/code"  • Save the file. • Close Terminal.app; • Start Terminal.app again, to read in the new settings, and type this: echo$PYTHONPATH


It should show something like /Users/my_user/code.

### If you are on Linux¶

• Open your favorite terminal program;

• Open the file ~/.bashrc in your text editor – e.g. atom ~/.bashrc;

• Add the following line to the end:

export PYTHONPATH=/home/my_user/code


Save the file.

• Start your terminal application again, to read in the new settings, and type this:

echo \$PYTHONPATH


It should show something like /home/my_user/code.

### If you are on Windows¶

Got to the Windows menu, right-click on “Computer” and select “Properties”:

From the computer properties dialog, select “Advanced system settings” on the left:

From the advanced system settings dialog, choose the “Environment variables” button:

In the Environment variables dialog, click the “New” button in the top half of the dialog, to make a new user variable:

Give the variable name as PYTHONPATH and the value is the path to the code directory. Choose OK and OK again to save this variable.

Now open a cmd Window (Windows key, then type cmd and press Return). Type:

echo %PYTHONPATH%


to confirm the environment variable is correctly set.

If you want your IPython sessions to see this new PYTHONPATH variable, you’ll have to restart your terminal and restart IPython so that it picks up PYTHONPATH from the environment settings.

### Checking system environment variables in Python¶

You can check the current setting of environment variables, using the os.environ dictionary. It contains all the defined environment variables of the shell that started Python. For example, you can check the value of the PYTHONPATH environment variable, if it is defined:

>>> import os
>>> os.environ['PYTHONPATH']
'/home/my_user/code'