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PEP: 427
Title: The Wheel Binary Package Format 1.0
Version: $Revision$
Last-Modified: $Date$
Author: Daniel Holth <>
BDFL-Delegate: Nick Coghlan <>
Discussions-To: <>
Status: Final
Type: Standards Track
Content-Type: text/x-rst
Created: 20-Sep-2012
Post-History: 18-Oct-2012, 15-Feb-2013
Canonical specification
The canonical version of the wheel format specification is now maintained at .
This may contain amendments relative to this PEP.
This PEP describes a built-package format for Python called "wheel".
A wheel is a ZIP-format archive with a specially formatted file name and
the ``.whl`` extension. It contains a single distribution nearly as it
would be installed according to PEP 376 with a particular installation
scheme. Although a specialized installer is recommended, a wheel file
may be installed by simply unpacking into site-packages with the standard
'unzip' tool while preserving enough information to spread its contents
out onto their final paths at any later time.
PEP Acceptance
This PEP was accepted, and the defined wheel version updated to 1.0, by
Nick Coghlan on 16th February, 2013 [1]_
Python needs a package format that is easier to install than sdist.
Python's sdist packages are defined by and require the distutils and
setuptools build systems, running arbitrary code to build-and-install,
and re-compile, code just so it can be installed into a new
virtualenv. This system of conflating build-install is slow, hard to
maintain, and hinders innovation in both build systems and installers.
Wheel attempts to remedy these problems by providing a simpler
interface between the build system and the installer. The wheel
binary package format frees installers from having to know about the
build system, saves time by amortizing compile time over many
installations, and removes the need to install a build system in the
target environment.
Installing a wheel 'distribution-1.0-py32-none-any.whl'
Wheel installation notionally consists of two phases:
- Unpack.
a. Parse ``distribution-1.0.dist-info/WHEEL``.
b. Check that installer is compatible with Wheel-Version. Warn if
minor version is greater, abort if major version is greater.
c. If Root-Is-Purelib == 'true', unpack archive into purelib
d. Else unpack archive into platlib (site-packages).
- Spread.
a. Unpacked archive includes ``distribution-1.0.dist-info/`` and (if
there is data) ````.
b. Move each subtree of ```` onto its
destination path. Each subdirectory of ````
is a key into a dict of destination directories, such as
The initially supported paths are taken from
c. If applicable, update scripts starting with ``#!python`` to point
to the correct interpreter.
d. Update ``distribution-1.0.dist-info/RECORD`` with the installed
e. Remove empty ```` directory.
f. Compile any installed .py to .pyc. (Uninstallers should be smart
enough to remove .pyc even if it is not mentioned in RECORD.)
Recommended installer features
Rewrite ``#!python``.
In wheel, scripts are packaged in
``{distribution}-{version}.data/scripts/``. If the first line of
a file in ``scripts/`` starts with exactly ``b'#!python'``, rewrite to
point to the correct interpreter. Unix installers may need to add
the +x bit to these files if the archive was created on Windows.
The ``b'#!pythonw'`` convention is allowed. ``b'#!pythonw'`` indicates
a GUI script instead of a console script.
Generate script wrappers.
In wheel, scripts packaged on Unix systems will certainly not have
accompanying .exe wrappers. Windows installers may want to add them
during install.
Recommended archiver features
Place ``.dist-info`` at the end of the archive.
Archivers are encouraged to place the ``.dist-info`` files physically
at the end of the archive. This enables some potentially interesting
ZIP tricks including the ability to amend the metadata without
rewriting the entire archive.
File Format
File name convention
The wheel filename is ``{distribution}-{version}(-{build
tag})?-{python tag}-{abi tag}-{platform tag}.whl``.
Distribution name, e.g. 'django', 'pyramid'.
Distribution version, e.g. 1.0.
build tag
Optional build number. Must start with a digit. Acts as a
tie-breaker if two wheel file names are the same in all other
respects (i.e. name, version, and other tags). Sort as an
empty tuple if unspecified, else sort as a two-item tuple with
the first item being the initial digits as an ``int``, and the
second item being the remainder of the tag as a ``str``.
language implementation and version tag
E.g. 'py27', 'py2', 'py3'.
abi tag
E.g. 'cp33m', 'abi3', 'none'.
platform tag
E.g. 'linux_x86_64', 'any'.
For example, ``distribution-1.0-1-py27-none-any.whl`` is the first
build of a package called 'distribution', and is compatible with
Python 2.7 (any Python 2.7 implementation), with no ABI (pure Python),
on any CPU architecture.
The last three components of the filename before the extension are
called "compatibility tags." The compatibility tags express the
package's basic interpreter requirements and are detailed in PEP 425.
Escaping and Unicode
Each component of the filename is escaped by replacing runs of
non-alphanumeric characters with an underscore ``_``::
re.sub("[^\w\d.]+", "_", distribution, re.UNICODE)
The archive filename is Unicode. It will be some time before the tools
are updated to support non-ASCII filenames, but they are supported in
this specification.
The filenames *inside* the archive are encoded as UTF-8. Although some
ZIP clients in common use do not properly display UTF-8 filenames,
the encoding is supported by both the ZIP specification and Python's
File contents
The contents of a wheel file, where {distribution} is replaced with the
name of the package, e.g. ``beaglevote`` and {version} is replaced with
its version, e.g. ``1.0.0``, consist of:
#. ``/``, the root of the archive, contains all files to be installed in
``purelib`` or ``platlib`` as specified in ``WHEEL``. ``purelib`` and
``platlib`` are usually both ``site-packages``.
#. ``{distribution}-{version}.dist-info/`` contains metadata.
#. ``{distribution}-{version}.data/`` contains one subdirectory
for each non-empty install scheme key not already covered, where
the subdirectory name is an index into a dictionary of install paths
(e.g. ``data``, ``scripts``, ``include``, ``purelib``, ``platlib``).
#. Python scripts must appear in ``scripts`` and begin with exactly
``b'#!python'`` in order to enjoy script wrapper generation and
``#!python`` rewriting at install time. They may have any or no
#. ``{distribution}-{version}.dist-info/METADATA`` is Metadata version 1.1
or greater format metadata.
#. ``{distribution}-{version}.dist-info/WHEEL`` is metadata about the archive
itself in the same basic key: value format::
Wheel-Version: 1.0
Generator: bdist_wheel 1.0
Root-Is-Purelib: true
Tag: py2-none-any
Tag: py3-none-any
Build: 1
#. ``Wheel-Version`` is the version number of the Wheel specification.
#. ``Generator`` is the name and optionally the version of the software
that produced the archive.
#. ``Root-Is-Purelib`` is true if the top level directory of the archive
should be installed into purelib; otherwise the root should be installed
into platlib.
#. ``Tag`` is the wheel's expanded compatibility tags; in the example the
filename would contain ``py2.py3-none-any``.
#. ``Build`` is the build number and is omitted if there is no build number.
#. A wheel installer should warn if Wheel-Version is greater than the
version it supports, and must fail if Wheel-Version has a greater
major version than the version it supports.
#. Wheel, being an installation format that is intended to work across
multiple versions of Python, does not generally include .pyc files.
#. Wheel does not contain or setup.cfg.
This version of the wheel specification is based on the distutils install
schemes and does not define how to install files to other locations.
The layout offers a superset of the functionality provided by the existing
wininst and egg binary formats.
The .dist-info directory
#. Wheel .dist-info directories include at a minimum METADATA, WHEEL,
#. METADATA is the package metadata, the same format as PKG-INFO as
found at the root of sdists.
#. WHEEL is the wheel metadata specific to a build of the package.
#. RECORD is a list of (almost) all the files in the wheel and their
secure hashes. Unlike PEP 376, every file except RECORD, which
cannot contain a hash of itself, must include its hash. The hash
algorithm must be sha256 or better; specifically, md5 and sha1 are
not permitted, as signed wheel files rely on the strong hashes in
RECORD to validate the integrity of the archive.
#. PEP 376's INSTALLER and REQUESTED are not included in the archive.
#. RECORD.jws is used for digital signatures. It is not mentioned in
#. RECORD.p7s is allowed as a courtesy to anyone who would prefer to
use S/MIME signatures to secure their wheel files. It is not
mentioned in RECORD.
#. During extraction, wheel installers verify all the hashes in RECORD
against the file contents. Apart from RECORD and its signatures,
installation will fail if any file in the archive is not both
mentioned and correctly hashed in RECORD.
The .data directory
Any file that is not normally installed inside site-packages goes into
the .data directory, named as the .dist-info directory but with the
.data/ extension::
The .data directory contains subdirectories with the scripts, headers,
documentation and so forth from the distribution. During installation the
contents of these subdirectories are moved onto their destination paths.
Signed wheel files
Wheel files include an extended RECORD that enables digital
signatures. PEP 376's RECORD is altered to include a secure hash
``digestname=urlsafe_b64encode_nopad(digest)`` (urlsafe base64
encoding with no trailing = characters) as the second column instead
of an md5sum. All possible entries are hashed, including any
generated files such as .pyc files, but not RECORD which cannot contain its
own hash. For example::,sha256=AVTFPZpEKzuHr7OvQZmhaU3LvwKz06AJw8mT\_pNh2yI,3144
The signature file(s) RECORD.jws and RECORD.p7s are not mentioned in
RECORD at all since they can only be added after RECORD is generated.
Every other file in the archive must have a correct hash in RECORD
or the installation will fail.
If JSON web signatures are used, one or more JSON Web Signature JSON
Serialization (JWS-JS) signatures is stored in a file RECORD.jws adjacent
to RECORD. JWS is used to sign RECORD by including the SHA-256 hash of
RECORD as the signature's JSON payload::
{ "hash": "sha256=ADD-r2urObZHcxBW3Cr-vDCu5RJwT4CaRTHiFmbcIYY" }
(The hash value is the same format used in RECORD.)
If RECORD.p7s is used, it must contain a detached S/MIME format signature
A wheel installer is not required to understand digital signatures but
MUST verify the hashes in RECORD against the extracted file contents.
When the installer checks file hashes against RECORD, a separate signature
checker only needs to establish that RECORD matches the signature.
Comparison to .egg
#. Wheel is an installation format; egg is importable. Wheel archives
do not need to include .pyc and are less tied to a specific Python
version or implementation. Wheel can install (pure Python) packages
built with previous versions of Python so you don't always have to
wait for the packager to catch up.
#. Wheel uses .dist-info directories; egg uses .egg-info. Wheel is
compatible with the new world of Python packaging and the new
concepts it brings.
#. Wheel has a richer file naming convention for today's
multi-implementation world. A single wheel archive can indicate
its compatibility with a number of Python language versions and
implementations, ABIs, and system architectures. Historically the
ABI has been specific to a CPython release, wheel is ready for the
stable ABI.
#. Wheel is lossless. The first wheel implementation bdist_wheel
always generates egg-info, and then converts it to a .whl. It is
also possible to convert existing eggs and bdist_wininst
#. Wheel is versioned. Every wheel file contains the version of the
wheel specification and the implementation that packaged it.
Hopefully the next migration can simply be to Wheel 2.0.
#. Wheel is a reference to the other Python.
Wheel defines a .data directory. Should I put all my data there?
This specification does not have an opinion on how you should organize
your code. The .data directory is just a place for any files that are
not normally installed inside ``site-packages`` or on the PYTHONPATH.
In other words, you may continue to use ``pkgutil.get_data(package,
resource)`` even though *those* files will usually not be distributed
in *wheel's* ``.data`` directory.
Why does wheel include attached signatures?
Attached signatures are more convenient than detached signatures
because they travel with the archive. Since only the individual files
are signed, the archive can be recompressed without invalidating
the signature or individual files can be verified without having
to download the whole archive.
Why does wheel allow JWS signatures?
The JOSE specifications of which JWS is a part are designed to be easy
to implement, a feature that is also one of wheel's primary design
goals. JWS yields a useful, concise pure-Python implementation.
Why does wheel also allow S/MIME signatures?
S/MIME signatures are allowed for users who need or want to use
existing public key infrastructure with wheel.
Signed packages are only a basic building block in a secure package
update system. Wheel only provides the building block.
What's the deal with "purelib" vs. "platlib"?
Wheel preserves the "purelib" vs. "platlib" distinction, which is
significant on some platforms. For example, Fedora installs pure
Python packages to '/usr/lib/pythonX.Y/site-packages' and platform
dependent packages to '/usr/lib64/pythonX.Y/site-packages'.
A wheel with "Root-Is-Purelib: false" with all its files
in ``{name}-{version}.data/purelib`` is equivalent to a wheel with
"Root-Is-Purelib: true" with those same files in the root, and it
is legal to have files in both the "purelib" and "platlib" categories.
In practice a wheel should have only one of "purelib" or "platlib"
depending on whether it is pure Python or not and those files should
be at the root with the appropriate setting given for "Root-is-purelib".
Is it possible to import Python code directly from a wheel file?
Technically, due to the combination of supporting installation via
simple extraction and using an archive format that is compatible with
``zipimport``, a subset of wheel files *do* support being placed directly
on ``sys.path``. However, while this behaviour is a natural consequence
of the format design, actually relying on it is generally discouraged.
Firstly, wheel *is* designed primarily as a distribution format, so
skipping the installation step also means deliberately avoiding any
reliance on features that assume full installation (such as being able
to use standard tools like ``pip`` and ``virtualenv`` to capture and
manage dependencies in a way that can be properly tracked for auditing
and security update purposes, or integrating fully with the standard
build machinery for C extensions by publishing header files in the
appropriate place).
Secondly, while some Python software is written to support running
directly from a zip archive, it is still common for code to be written
assuming it has been fully installed. When that assumption is broken
by trying to run the software from a zip archive, the failures can often
be obscure and hard to diagnose (especially when they occur in third
party libraries). The two most common sources of problems with this
are the fact that importing C extensions from a zip archive is *not*
supported by CPython (since doing so is not supported directly by the
dynamic loading machinery on any platform) and that when running from
a zip archive the ``__file__`` attribute no longer refers to an
ordinary filesystem path, but to a combination path that includes
both the location of the zip archive on the filesystem and the
relative path to the module inside the archive. Even when software
correctly uses the abstract resource APIs internally, interfacing with
external components may still require the availability of an actual
on-disk file.
Like metaclasses, monkeypatching and metapath importers, if you're not
already sure you need to take advantage of this feature, you almost
certainly don't need it. If you *do* decide to use it anyway, be
aware that many projects will require a failure to be reproduced with
a fully installed package before accepting it as a genuine bug.
.. [1] PEP acceptance
Example urlsafe-base64-nopad implementation::
# urlsafe-base64-nopad for Python 3
import base64
def urlsafe_b64encode_nopad(data):
return base64.urlsafe_b64encode(data).rstrip(b'=')
def urlsafe_b64decode_nopad(data):
pad = b'=' * (4 - (len(data) & 3))
return base64.urlsafe_b64decode(data + pad)
This document has been placed into the public domain.
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