Additional Python Guidelines

Here are some additional Python-related guidelines, moved here in order to keep the main page manageable.

Python 2 packages

If your package needs to build for Python 2 only, follow the regular Python guidelines, except substitute 3 for 2. For example instead of %{python3_sitearch}, use %{python2_sitearch}.

Special emphasis on the rule that packages MUST NOT use /usr/bin/python.


The source package for a Python library MUST be named with the python- prefix except for a specific case bellow. A built package must include the Python major version in the name, using the python2- prefix. This is accomplished by adding a subpackage.

If you need to package the python2 module as a separate source package (usually because upstream has dropped Python 2 support in newer versions but still supports the last version that works with Python 2), you MUST name the source package using the python2- prefix instead of creating a subpackage.

Common spec files for python3 and python2

It is possible to create both python3 and python2 subpackage from one common spec file. The following is a very simple spec file for a module building for both python2 and python3. It builds both versions in the same directory; this is possible because the build products for different versions of Python usually do not conflict.

There are cases where it is not possible to build in a single directory. Most commonly this happens when the sources are modified during the build process to convert them from python2 to python3 using the the 2to3 tool (see bellow).

As you can see in the %install section below, the order in which you do the python2 versus python3 install can sometimes matter. You need to be aware of when the install is writing to the same file in both packages (in this example, a script in %{_bindir}) and make sure that you’re getting the version you expect.

%global srcname example

Name:           python-%{srcname}
Version:        1.2.3
Release:        1%{?dist}
Summary:        An example python module

License:        MIT
URL:  {srcname}
Source0:        %pypi_source

BuildArch:      noarch
BuildRequires:  python2-devel python3-devel

An python module which provides a convenient example.

%package -n python2-%{srcname}
Summary:        %{summary}
%{?python_provide:%python_provide python2-%{srcname}}

%description -n python2-%{srcname}
An python module which provides a convenient example.

%package -n python3-%{srcname}
Summary:        %{summary}
%{?python_provide:%python_provide python3-%{srcname}}

%description -n python3-%{srcname}
An python module which provides a convenient example.

%autosetup -n %{srcname}-%{version}


# Must do the python2 install first because the scripts in /usr/bin are
# overwritten with every install, and in general we want the
# python3 version to be the default.

%{__python2} test
%{__python3} test

# Note that there is no %%files section for the unversioned python module if we are building for several python runtimes
%files -n python2-%{srcname}
%license COPYING
%doc README.rst

%files -n python3-%{srcname}
%license COPYING
%doc README.rst


Using separate build directories

Sometimes is it impossible to build both versions from the same source directory. Most often this happens when sources are "translated" to python3 in the source directory and made incompatible with python2 in the process. This used to be fairly common, but is fortunately much rarer now. Some things to look for are:

  • Sources are not Python 3 compatible (print without parentheses is used, old module names like ConfigParser are imported),

  • six module is not used,

  • 2to3 is run in without creating a separate build directory.

Our method in building from the same code to make the two separate modules is to keep each build as independent as possible. To do that, we copy the source tree to python3 so that the python 2 sources are entirely independent from the python 3 sources.

Some things to watch out for:

  • Make sure that you are copying the correct code. The example is copying the code from within the top directory of the untarred source. If the %prep has changed directory you will need to change back to the tarball location.

  • Patching the source code is done before copying to python3. Since you have both a python2 and a python3 directory you might be tempted to patch each one separately. Resist! Upstream for your package has chosen to distribute a single source tree that builds for both python2 and python3. For your patches to get into upstream, you need to write patches that work with both as well.

rpmbuild resets the directory at the end of each phase, so you don’t need to restore the directory at the end of %prep.

%setup -qc
mv %{srcname}-%{version} python2
pushd python2
%patch0 -p1 -b .testfix

find -name '*.txt' | xargs chmod -x
# copy common doc files to top dir
cp -pr docs psfl.txt zpl.txt ../

cp -a python2 python3
find python3 -name '*.py' | xargs sed -i '1s|^#!.*|#!%{__python3}|'
find python2 -name '*.py' | xargs sed -i '1s|^#!.*|#!%{__python2}|'
pushd python2

pushd python3

# Must do the python2 install first because the scripts in /usr/bin are
# overwritten with every install, and in general we want the
# python3 version to be the default.
pushd python2

pushd python3

pushd python2
%{__python2} test

pushd python3
%{__python3} test

You’ll notice that the %build, %install, and %check sections again follow a pattern similar to the previous example. They switch to the python2 directory and do the normal steps for building the python2 module, and then switch to the python3 directory and run the same steps for python3. The usage of pushd/popd commands will ensure that the directories are logged.

Avoiding collisions between the python 2 and python 3 stacks

The python 2 and python 3 stacks are intended to be fully-installable in parallel. When generalizing the package for both python 2 and python 3, it is important to ensure that two different built packages do not attempt to place different payloads into the same path.

Executables in /usr/bin

Many existing python packages install executables into /usr/bin.

For example if we have a console_scripts in a shared between python 2 and python 3 builds: these will spit out files in /usr/bin/, and these will collide.

For example python-coverage has a that contains:

    entry_points = {
        'console_scripts': [
            'coverage = coverage:main',

which thus generates a /usr/bin/coverage executable (this is a python script that runs another python script whilst generating code-coverage information on the latter).

Similarly for the 'scripts' clause; see e.g. python-pygments: Pygments-1.1.1/ has:

    scripts = ['pygmentize'],

which generates a /usr/bin/pygmentize (this is a python script that leverages the pygments syntax-highlighting module, giving a simple command-line interface for generating syntax-highlighted files)

If the executables provide the same functionality independent of whether they are run on top of Python 2 or Python 3, then only the Python 3 version of the executable SHOULD be packaged, the python2 version MUST NOT be packaged.

Examples of this:

  • /usr/bin/pygmentize ought to generate the same output regardless of whether it’s implemented via Python 2 or Python 3, so only one version needs to be shipped.

If the executables provide different functionality for Python 2 and Python 3, then Python 2 version MAY be packaged.

Examples of this:

  • /usr/bin/coverage runs a python script, augmenting the interpreter with code-coverage information. Given that the interpreter itself is the thing being worked with, it’s reasonable to package both versions of the executable.

  • /usr/bin/bpython augments the interpreter with a "curses" interface. Again, it’s reasonable to package both versions of this.

  • /usr/bin/easy_install installs a module into one of the Python runtimes: we need a version for each runtime.


Many executables already contain a "-MAJOR.MINOR" suffix, for example /usr/bin/easy_install-3.4. These obviously can be used as-is, as they won’t conflict.

For other executables, the general rule is:

  • If only one executable is to be shipped, then it owns its own slot and should use /usr/bin/python3.

  • If executables are to be shipped for both python 2 and python 3:

    • Both python 2 and python 3 variants must provide symlinks with a '-X' and '-X.Y' suffix (python runtime major version, or python runtime major.minor version), unless upstream already provides appropriately versioned executables without the dash.

    • The unversioned executable should be the python3 version, unless it would break users expectations, in that case it may be the python2 version.

    • For example, the python3 version of "twisted" must ship executables /usr/bin/twistd-3 and /usr/bin/twistd-3.7 (assuming python3 is currently version 3.7) and it should ship /usr/bin/twistd; while the python2 version must provide /usr/bin/twistd-2 and /usr/bin/twistd-2.7.

    • As an example of the exception, users might except that the ipython command will run the same Python version as python.

    • For compatibility packages, the Python version is appended after the specific package version, for example /usr/bin/coverage-v1.2-3 and /usr/bin/coverage-v1.2-3.4 for python3-coverage1.2 compat package.

Running 2to3 from the spec file

Sometimes, upstream hasn’t integrated running 2to3 on the code into their build scripts but they support making a python3 module from it if you manually run 2to3 on the source. This is the case when it’s documented on the upstream’s website, in a file in the tarball, or even when email with the module’s author has instructions for building a python3 module from the python2 source and the authors are willing to support the result. In these cases it’s usually just a matter of the upstream not having written the build script that can turn the python2 source into python3. When this happens you can run 2to3 from the spec file. Once you have it working, you can also help upstream integrate it into their build scripts which will benefit everyone in the long term.

You should usually follow upstream’s directions on how to run 2to3 and build the python3 module in these cases but there’s a few things you should check to make sure upstream is doing it correctly.

  • Since the code is being built from a unified source, you need to copy the code to a new directory before invoking 2to3 just like the building more than once method.

  • If the 2to3 program is invoked instead of using the lib2to3 library functions, make sure it’s invoked with --write --nobackups. --write is needed to make 2to3 actually change the files. --nobackups avoids leaving files in the module directories that then make it into the final package payload.

  • Be sure to run 2to3 on the correct directory. When you run 2to3 you need to run it on the whole tree. A common mistake here for distutils packages has been to run it on the directory below, missing the file itself. This leads to errors when python3 tries to execute

  • If you need to run 2to3 to fix code, use 2to3 or /usr/bin/2to3. At the moment, this program is coming from the python-tools rpm. Using 2to3 means that you’ll be using a name that is supported upstream and across distros rather than /usr/bin/python3-2to3 which we have renamed in Fedora to avoid filesystem conflicts. This also makes it easier for us to test and eventually change from using the python2 2to3 to the python3 2to3. We just need to change the python3 package to provide the /usr/bin/2to3 program instead of python and all of our python packages will start using that version instead.

  • If 2to3 runs into a problem, please file a Fedora bug. Please try to isolate a minimal test case that reproduces the problem when doing so.

Manual byte compilation

When byte compiling a .py file, python embeds a magic number in the byte compiled files that correspond to the runtime. Files in %{python?_sitelib} and %{python?_sitearch} MUST correspond to the runtime for which they were built. For instance, a pure python module compiled for the 3.4 runtime MUST be below %{_usr}/lib/python3.4/site-packages

The brp-python-bytecompile script tries to figure this out for you. The script determines which interpreter to use when byte compiling the module by checking what directory the file is installed in. If it’s /usr/lib{,64}/pythonX.Y, then pythonX.Y is used to byte compile the module. If pythonX.Y is not installed, then an error is returned and the rpm build process will exit on an error so remember to BuildRequire the proper python package.

If you have *.py files outside of the /usr/lib(64)?/pythonX.Y/ directories and you require those files to be byte compiled (e.g. it’s an importable Python module) you MUST compile them explicitly using the %py_byte_compile macro. Note that not all Python files are importable Python modules; when in doubt, grep the sources for the appropriate import statement.

An example for a package that has both Python versions:

# Buildrequire both python2 and python3
BuildRequires: python2-devel python3-devel

# Installs a python2 private module into %{buildroot}%{_datadir}/mypackage/foo
# and installs a python3 private module into %{buildroot}%{_datadir}/mypackage/bar
make install DESTDIR=%{buildroot}

# Manually invoke the python byte compile macro for each path that needs byte
# compilation.
%py_byte_compile %{__python2} %{buildroot}%{_datadir}/mypackage/foo
%py_byte_compile %{__python3} %{buildroot}%{_datadir}/mypackage/bar

The %py_byte_compile macro takes two arguments. The first is the python interpreter to use for byte compiling. The second is a file or directory to byte compile. If the second argument is a directory, the macro will recursively byte compile any *.py file in the directory.

You can opt-in for this behavior on Fedora 29 by setting %global _python_bytecompile_extra 0 in the spec.

Manual byte compilation for Fedora 29 or earlier (including EPEL)

The script interpreter defined in %{__python} is used to compile the modules outside of /usr/lib(64)?/pythonX.Y/ directories. This defaults to /usr/bin/python (that’s Python 2.7 on Fedora). If you need to compile the modules for python3, set it to /usr/bin/python3 instead:

%global __python %{__python3}

Doing this is useful when you have a python3 application that’s installing a private module into its own directory. For instance, if the foobar application installs a module for use only by the command line application in %{_datadir}/foobar. Since these files are not in one of the python3 library paths (ie. /usr/lib/python3.1) you have to override %{__python} to tell brp-python-bytecompile to use the python3 interpreter for byte compiling.

These settings are enough to properly byte compile any package that builds python modules in %{python?_sitelib} or %{python?_sitearch} or builds for only a single python interpreter. However, if the application you’re packaging needs to build with both python2 and python3 and install into a private module directory (perhaps because it provides one utility written in python2 and a second utility written in python3) then you need to do this manually. Here’s a sample spec file snippet that shows what to do:

# Turn off the brp-python-bytecompile script
%undefine __brp_python_bytecompile
# Buildrequire both python2 and python3
BuildRequires: python2-devel python3-devel

# Installs a python2 private module into %{buildroot}%{_datadir}/mypackage/foo
# and installs a python3 private module into %{buildroot}%{_datadir}/mypackage/bar
make install DESTDIR=%{buildroot}

# Manually invoke the python byte compile macro for each path that needs byte
# compilation.
%py_byte_compile %{__python2} %{buildroot}%{_datadir}/mypackage/foo
%py_byte_compile %{__python3} %{buildroot}%{_datadir}/mypackage/bar

Note that this does disable the compilation of files in /usr/lib(64)?/pythonX.Y/.

In EPEL7 or earlier, use %global __os_install_post %(echo '%{__os_install_post}' | sed -e 's!/usr/lib[^[:space:]]*/brp-python-bytecompile[[:space:]].*$!!g') instead of the %undefine line above.