Managing Relative Package Requirements with pip

What will you learn?

In this comprehensive guide, you will delve into the world of managing package requirements in Python projects using pip, with a specific focus on handling relative packages. By the end of this tutorial, you will master the art of specifying and installing local or relative packages using pip, empowering you to efficiently manage dependencies closely associated with your projects.

Introduction to Problem and Solution

When developing Python projects, integrating external libraries or packages is a common practice. Typically, these dependencies are outlined in a requirements.txt file and installed via pip from the Python Package Index (PyPI). However, there are instances where you may need to rely on packages that are not accessible on PyPI but instead reside locally within your project structure or in a private repository. This scenario presents a challenge: How can we effectively specify these local or relative path dependencies for seamless installation alongside other packages?

To address this challenge, we will explore how pip facilitates referencing packages by their filesystem paths�both absolute and relative�directly within our requirements.txt file or through editable installs using the -e flag for development purposes. This approach grants flexibility in seamlessly managing non-PyPI dependencies alongside standard ones.


# Example of specifying a local package in requirements.txt

# Using editable installs for development purposes
-e ../my_local_package_directory

# Copyright PHD


To include local or relative package paths in your requirements.txt, simply list them as demonstrated above. Absolute paths pinpoint an exact location on your filesystem, while relative paths offer more portability across various environments by referencing locations relevant to the requirements.txt file itself.

The -e flag facilitates “editable” installs primarily utilized during development. When employing -e, pip establishes a direct link between your installation and the specified source code directory instead of merely copying files over. This linkage ensures that any modifications made in the source code instantly reflect without necessitating reinstallation�a valuable asset for developers iterating on their changes swiftly.

    1. What is pip?

      • Pip is a package installer for Python designed to simplify the process of installing libraries and tools from PyPI.
    2. What is PyPI?

      • The Python Package Index (PyPI) serves as a repository housing software dedicated to the Python programming language.
    3. Can version numbers be specified for local packages?

      • No, versioning cannot be applied when specifying local directories or paths as dependencies via requirements.txt. Manual management is required.
    4. Can virtual environments be used with local package installations?

      • Yes! Local installations seamlessly integrate with virtual environments created by tools like venv or virtualenv.
    5. Is there a way to distribute projects with their local/relative dependencies included?

      • While distributing projects with their necessary dependencies poses challenges due to path complexities, consider packaging applications into wheels (.whl) when feasible and leveraging distribution-focused dependency management tools such as Poetry.
    6. How does pip handle nested requirements?

      • Pip recursively resolves nested requirements if each referenced package has its own requirements.txt.
    7. Are there limitations concerning operating systems when referencing paths?

      • Reference paths function across all operating systems supported by Python & pip; however, ensure correct path formatting aligned with OS conventions.
    8. Can locally referenced packages be uninstalled via pip post-installation?

      • Uninstallation operates similarly to any other package installed through pip.
    9. Is admin/root access necessary when installing global system-level packages from a local path?

      • Yes, similar permissions apply whether installing globally from PyPI or from a filesystem location.
    10. What occurs if an error arises during installation?

      • Pip attempts rollback operations; however, errors typically require resolution based on their specific nature�often involving permission issues or missing setup files.

Navigating direct references to local packages may initially appear daunting but offers significant advantages in terms of flexibility and control over dependency management�particularly beneficial within monorepository strategies or when concurrently developing proprietary libraries alongside primary applications.

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