There are many packages that extend Python’s standard functionality. While we try to satisfy all requests for specific Python packages, we may not be able to meet your needs for various reasons. When this is the case, we provide directions below to help you install Python packages on your own.

Easy Alternative!

Using Anaconda Python is the easiest way to install a custom Python (version) or Python package. For more information, please see our documentation.

First we recommend requesting that SCV install a python package globally, and if we cannot immediately meet your needs, we will recommend one of the following options:

  1. How to install Python packages in your home directory
  2. How to install packages for a group of users to a commonly shared install location.
  3. How to make a custom copy of python using a tool called conda. This creates a local copy of Python that allows you to easily install Python packages in the same location. This is useful if you want to try out a development version of a package without breaking your other projects that use the stable version. It is also useful when you track the dependencies of your Python programming project. This option is typically used to create a programming-project-specific version of python. conda is a tool that replaces the traditionally used virtualenv
Note: These instructions are for any of the Python 2.7.X versions, which you can access by loading one of the Python modules, but these instructions do not apply to the default Python, version 2.6.6. If you are interested in other versions of Python, please contact us.

How to install packages locally

easy_install is a tool that automatically searches for your package at, an online repository, downloads the files, and then installs them for you. To install packages in the default location, easy_install requires you to have special permissions. Fortunately, there are several ways to control the default location, and --user is the easiest option (run easy_install --help to see the others). For example, this is how one might install BioPython in their home directory:

scc1% easy_install --user biopython

With this command, BioPython is installed to ~/.local/lib/python2.7/site-packages, which is a directory Python automatically looks for when loading Python packages. If you have the package source code, and you want to install the package using its script, then you can use this flag as well:

scc1% python build
scc1% python install --user

If your package installs scripts, then you will want to load the module python_modules/local, which simply prepends $HOME/.local/bin to your PATH environment variable. In other words, it tells the shell/terminal where to look for your scripts.

What about pip?

pip is an alternative to easy_install. Very often installation documentation recommends using pip. Currently pip is not installed with all versions of Python on the SCC, and we recommend using easy_install, which is universally available on the SCC. If you would prefer to use pip, you can install pip yourself using the previous directions:

scc1% easy_install --user pip

How to install shared packages locally

Installing code to a shared directory follows a similar process, but you use a different flag. Here is a step by step guide using the following example shared directory, which you can customize to your liking: /projectnb/your_project/python_packages.

1. Make the directories where Python libraries and scripts will go:

scc1% mkdir -p /projectnb/your_project/python_packages/lib/python2.7/site-packages
scc1% mkdir -p /projectnb/your_project/python_packages/bin

2. Define important environment variables (interactively then again in your login script)

For csh/tcsh:

scc1% setenv PYTHONPATH /projectnb/your_project/python_packages/lib/python2.7/site-packages:$PYTHONPATH
scc1% setenv PATH /projectnb/your_project/python_packages/bin:$PATH

For bash:

scc1% export PYTHONPATH=/projectnb/your_project/python_packages/lib/python2.7/site-packages:$PYTHONPATH
scc1% export PATH=/projectnb/your_project/python_packages/bin:$PATH

3. Use easy_install or python install with the --prefix option:

scc1% easy_install --prefix=projectnb/your_project/python_packages biopython

Now you and your colleagues will need to set the PYTHONPATH and PATH environment variables in each of your login (.bashrc or .cshrc) scripts to get access to these packages every time you login.


virtualenv is a tool to setup an isolated Python installation using a currently installed Python. It is the traditional tool developers use to quickly configure custom python installations. With virtualenv, however, you are still required to compile every third party tool, e.g. numpy. conda, documented elsewhere, is an alternative that relies on pre-compiled applications and therefore it is easier to use. We recommend using it instead of virtualenv. If for any reason, you require using virtualenv, then please contact us.