What is Python Package Manager?

A Python Package Manager is an essential tool for managing Python software packages and libraries. It automates the processes of installing, upgrading, configuring, and managing Python packages, simplifying the development and maintenance of Python projects. The most commonly used Python Package Manager is pip, but there are others like conda, poetry, and pipenv.

What is a Python Package Manager?

A Python Package Manager provides several key functionalities:

  1. Installation: It allows users to install Python packages from various sources, typically from the Python Package Index (PyPI). This can include libraries, frameworks, tools, and scripts.
  2. Upgrading: It facilitates the upgrading of installed packages to newer versions, ensuring that projects can benefit from the latest features, improvements, and security patches.
  3. Dependency Management: It automatically handles dependencies, ensuring that all required packages and their correct versions are installed.
  4. Uninstallation: It provides the capability to uninstall packages that are no longer needed.
  5. Version Control: It can manage different versions of packages, allowing developers to specify exact versions to avoid compatibility issues.

How to Use a Python Package Manager?

Using pip

pip is the most widely used package manager for Python. Here are some basic commands and how they are used:

  1. Installing a Package:

    pip install package_name

    This command installs the specified package from PyPI. For example:

    pip install requests

    This will install the requests library, which is used for making HTTP requests.

  2. Upgrading a Package:

    pip install --upgrade package_name

    This command upgrades the specified package to the latest version. For example:

    pip install --upgrade requests
  3. Listing Installed Packages:

    pip list

    This command lists all installed packages and their versions.

  4. Uninstalling a Package:

    pip uninstall package_name

    This command removes the specified package from your environment. For example:

    pip uninstall requests
  5. Checking for Outdated Packages:

    pip list --outdated

    This command lists all installed packages that have newer versions available.

  6. Freezing Installed Packages:

    pip freeze > requirements.txt

    This command outputs all installed packages and their versions to a requirements.txt file, which can be used to recreate the environment. For example, to install all packages listed in a requirements.txt file:

    pip install -r requirements.txt

Working nowadays without package manager can be daunting or even impossible.

Using conda

conda is another popular package manager, particularly within the data science and scientific computing communities. It can manage packages from both Python and other languages. Here are some basic conda commands:

  1. Installing a Package:

    conda install package_name

    For example:

    conda install numpy
  2. Creating a Virtual Environment:

    conda create --name env_name

    For example:

    conda create --name myenv
  3. Activating a Virtual Environment:

    conda activate env_name

    For example:

    conda activate myenv
  4. Listing Installed Packages in an Environment:

    conda list
  5. Exporting an Environment:

    conda env export > environment.yml

    This command exports the environment's configuration to a YAML file, which can be used to recreate the environment.

  6. Creating an Environment from a YAML file:

    conda env create -f environment.yml

How it all began?

The creation of package managers is rooted in the need to simplify the process of software installation, dependency management, and version control. Here's a detailed look into how package managers, particularly Python package managers, were created and evolved:

Historical Context

  1. Early Software Distribution:

    • Initially, software distribution involved manually downloading source code and dependencies, then compiling and installing them. This process was time-consuming and error-prone, leading to dependency hell, where managing software dependencies and versions became unmanageable.
  2. Emergence of Package Management Concepts:

    • In the 1990s, package management systems began to emerge to address these issues. Unix-based systems like Debian's dpkg and Red Hat's RPM were among the first. These systems automated the installation, upgrading, and removal of software packages.

Development of Python Package Managers

  1. Early Days of Python Packaging:

    • Python initially used the distutils library (introduced in Python 1.6 in 2000) to manage package distribution. distutils provided a way to package and distribute Python software but lacked advanced features for dependency management.
  2. Setuptools and EasyInstall:

    • In 2004, setuptools was introduced as an enhancement to distutils. It included EasyInstall, a tool for downloading and installing Python packages. setuptools made it easier to define dependencies and manage package installations, marking a significant step forward.
  3. Introduction of pip:

    • pip was introduced in 2008 by Ian Bicking as a replacement for EasyInstall. The name stands for "pip installs packages". It provided a simpler and more reliable way to install and manage Python packages, with features like:
      • Better handling of dependencies
      • The ability to uninstall packages
      • Installation from PyPI, Git, Mercurial, and other repositories
      • Virtual environment support via virtualenv
  4. Python Package Index (PyPI):

    • PyPI, the Python Package Index, was created to serve as the central repository for Python packages. It allowed developers to upload their packages, making them easily accessible to the community. PyPI has grown to host hundreds of thousands of packages, becoming a vital part of the Python ecosystem.
  5. Enhancements and New Tools:

    • Over time, new tools and enhancements were developed to address specific needs:
      • virtualenv - A tool to create isolated Python environments, introduced in 2007 by Ian Bicking.
      • conda - Developed by Continuum Analytics (now Anaconda, Inc.), conda was introduced in 2012 to manage not just Python packages but also dependencies from other languages and systems. It is particularly popular in data science and scientific computing communities.
      • pipenv - Introduced by Kenneth Reitz in 2017, pipenv aimed to combine package management (pip) and virtual environments (virtualenv) into a single tool, promoting best practices in Python dependency management.
      • poetry - Released in 2018, poetry focuses on simplifying dependency management and project configuration, providing a modern alternative to setuptools and pip.

Key Features and Evolution

  1. Dependency Resolution:

    • Modern package managers like pip and conda include sophisticated algorithms for resolving dependencies, ensuring that compatible versions of packages are installed together.
  2. Version Control and Reproducibility:

    • Tools like pipenv and poetry include lock files (Pipfile.lock, poetry.lock) that record the exact versions of dependencies, promoting reproducible environments.
  3. Integration with CI/CD:

    • Package managers have integrated with continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines, automating the testing and deployment of Python applications.



Python Package Managers like pip and conda are indispensable tools for Python developers. They streamline the process of managing packages and dependencies, which is crucial for maintaining consistent and reproducible development environments. By using these tools, developers can focus more on writing code and less on managing the software stack.