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Seamlessly manage Python virtual environment with a Makefile
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Seamlessly manage Python virtual environment with a Makefile

Makefile.venv takes care of creating, updating and invoking Python virtual environment that you can use in your Makefiles. It will allow you to reduce venv related routines to almost zero!


Recommended method

Copy Makefile.venv to your project directory and add include statement to the bottom of your Makefile:

include Makefile.venv

Alternative method

Alternatively, you can add installation actions as the Makefile rule:

Note the checksum step! Do not skip it, it would be as bad as piping curl to shell!

include Makefile.venv
	curl \
		-o Makefile.fetched \
		-L ""
	echo "7a0a5a7a25ab959c6686b839cd45eb522f1a0662aa6096be5d56106c940aee95 *Makefile.fetched" \
		| sha256sum --check - \
		&& mv Makefile.fetched Makefile.venv


When writing your Makefile use $(VENV)/python to refer to the Python interpreter within virtual environment and $(VENV)/executablename for any other executable in venv.

This Makefile provides the following targets:

  • venv - use this as a dependency for any target that requires virtual environment to be created and configured
  • python, ipython - use these to launch interactive Python shell within virtual environment
  • shell, bash, zsh - launch interactive command line shell. shell target launches the default shell Makefile executes its rules in (usually /bin/sh). bash and zsh can be used to refer to the specific desired shell.
  • show-venv - show versions of Python and pip, and the path to the virtual environment
  • clean-venv - remove virtual environment

This Makefile can be configured via following variables:

  • PY - Command name for system Python interpreter. It is used only initially to create the virtual environment. Default: python3
  • WORKDIR - Parent directory for the virtual environment. Default: current working directory

This Makefile was written for GNU Make and may not work with other make implementations.

This Makefile has been tested both on Linux and on Windows (Msys). Any inconsistency encountered when running on Windows should be considered a bug and should be reported via issues.



.PHONY: test
test: venv
	$(VENV)/python -m unittest

include Makefile.venv

Larger sample from a real project can be seen here. Also see an introductory blog post from project author.

Command line:

$ make test

...Skipped: creating and updating virtual environment...

Ran 3 tests in 0.000s

$ make show-venv
Python 3.5.4 (v3.5.4:3f56838, Aug  8 2017, 02:07:06) [MSC v.1900 32 bit (Intel)]
pip 19.2.3 from c:\users\99e7~1\appdata\local\temp\.venv\lib\site-packages\pip (python 3.5)
venv: C:\Users\99E7~1\AppData\Local\Temp\.venv
$ make python
Python 3.5.4 (v3.5.4:3f56838, Aug  8 2017, 02:07:06) [MSC v.1900 32 bit (Intel)] on win32
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> _

Support and contributing

If you need help with using this Makefile or including it into your project, please create an issue. Issues are also the primary venue for reporting bugs and posting feature requests. General discussion related to this project is also acceptable and very welcome!

In case you wish to contribute code or documentation, feel free to open a pull request. That would certainly make my day!

I'm open to dialog and I promise to behave responsibly and treat all contributors with respect. Please try to do the same, and treat others the way you want to be treated.

If for some reason you'd rather not use the issue tracker, contacting me via email is OK too. Please use a descriptive subject line to enhance visibility of your message. Also please keep in mind that public discussion channels are preferable because that way many other people may benefit from reading past conversations. My email is visible under the GitHub profile and in the commit log.

License and copyright

Copyright 2019 Vitaly Potyarkin

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License");
you may not use this file except in compliance with the License.
You may obtain a copy of the License at

Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software
distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS,
See the License for the specific language governing permissions and
limitations under the License.
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