I started working on Python recently and we need a dependency manager that gives us reproducible builds, similar to bundler or npm.

In a nutshell, we need to ensure that the same code is being run everywhere, including the project source, its libraries and the version of Python on which it is run.

Below are some quick notes on one way to achieve this.

  1. Summary
  2. Installation
    1. pyenv
    2. pipenv
  3. Usage
    1. Setting up a new project
    2. Syncing a project
    3. Running a project
    4. Updating dependencies
  4. Conclusion


We will use pipenv and pyenv to get this done.

pipenv is a package manager that uses pip and virtualenv under the hood. The project’s direct dependencies are added to a Pipfile, and the dependency graph is locked down in Pipfile.lock, which is generated automatically and never touched by hand. The lock file is crucial for reproducible builds, we will see how that is under project syncing.

pyenv makes it a breeze to install and manage multiple versions of Python. You specify the desired Python version in your Pipfile and pipenv will use pyenv to fetch and install the relevant Python version.



  1. See pyenv installation instructions
  2. While installing pyenv is pretty simple, however building a brand new Python (which is what pyenv does) may create problems, so make sure to go through pyenv’s wiki entry on common build problems.
  3. Make sure that you add eval "$(pyenv init -)" towards the end of your shell’s init file (e.g. ~/.bash_profile, ~/.profile or ~/.bashrc).


If you use Homebrew or Linuxbrew you can simply run

brew install pipenv

Otherwise you will need to make use of the Python and Pip that already ship with your OS, or get it via pyenv. And then run something like:

pip install --user pipenv

Yeah, installing pipenv itself requires Python and pip. But this only needs to be done once.

See Installing Pipenv for more details.


Make sure that pyenv and pipenv are installed as indicated in the previous section.

Setting up a new project

  1. Create a project directory e.g. mkdir test
  2. cd test
  3. Setup Python for your project: pipenv install --python 3. This will create a Pipfile and Pipfile.lock in the project directory.

    If you use this command, by default pipenv will try to pick the Python 3 available on your system. If it doesn’t find one, it will ask if you want it to fetch a Python from pyenv.

    If you want a more specific version of Python, use: pipenv install --python 3.7.

  4. Install the libraries that your project depends on using pipenv install.

    pipenv install django~=2.1.5
    pipenv install djangorestframework~=3.9.1

    You can skip specifying the version, but I won’t recommend doing that. Note the use of the ~= operator. It is the compatible release operator and essentially means that a breaking version of the library won’t be installed when you try to update it. More on this under updating dependencies.

  5. Add Pipfile and Pipfile.lock to version control. Now you can share your project with the team.

Syncing a project

Fetch the project from version control. Make sure that it contains both Pipfile and Pipfile.lock.

  1. Go to the project’s directory
  2. Run pipenv sync

That’s it. pipenv will install all your project’s dependencies (including Python, via pyenv) and allow you to start using them.

pipenv sync only looks at Pipfile.lock, installs the given dependencies locally and ensures that the hashes match. This is exactly what we need to ensure that the build is reproducible.

You should pipenv sync everytime the project’s dependencies are updated.

Running a project

There are two ways to run our project using the newly installed Python and libraries:

The first is to invoke pipenv shell. This will drop you into a new shell with PATH and sys.path setup so that you get the correct version of everything. You can exit this shell at any time via Ctrl-D or exit.

The other way is to use pipenv run <cmd>. E.g. If you are, say, running django, all you need to do is pipenv run python manage.py runserver and everything should work as expected.

Updating dependencies

How do you upgrade a library to a newer version?

One way is to simply run pipenv update name-of-library. If you used the compatible release operator, which you should, this will update the library to the newest version allowed by this operator.

For example, if you specified django~=2.0.0 in your Pipfile, then pipenv update django will update django to the highest version available under 2.0.x but not to a newer version in the 2.1.x series.

And if you specified django~=2.0, then it will update django to the highest version available under 2.x but will not go up to 3.x.

If you want to update django to a higher version than the one allowed by the compatible release operator, you need to use the install subcommand i.e. do something like pipenv install django~=2.1.0.

The other way to do this is to simply update the Pipfile by hand, and subsequently run pipenv install. This will install the specified library version and also update Pipfile.lock.


Once you get past the installation hurdle, it seems easy and simple enough to use pipenv (with help from pyenv) to manage a project’s dependencies and get reproducible builds.

For more on pipenv, you can go through: