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Installing and Using Distribute


About the fork

Distribute is a fork of the Setuptools project.

Distribute is intended to replace Setuptools as the standard method for working with Python module distributions.

The fork has two goals:

  • Providing a backward compatible version to replace Setuptools and make all distributions that depend on Setuptools work as before, but with less bugs and behaviorial issues.

    This work is done in the 0.6.x series

    Starting with version 0.6.2, Distribute supports Python 3. Installing and using distribute for Python 3 code works exactly the same as for Python 2 code, but Distribute also helps you to support Python 2 and Python 3 from the same source code by letting you run 2to3 on the code as a part of the build process, by setting the keyword parameter use_2to3 to True. See for more information.

  • Refactoring the code, and releasing it in several distributions. This work is being done in the 0.7.x series but not yet released.

The roadmap is still evolving, and the page that is up-to-date is located at :

If you install Distribute and want to switch back for any reason to Setuptools, get to the Uninstallation instructions section.

More documentation

You can get more information in the Sphinx-based documentation, located at This documentation includes the old Setuptools documentation that is slowly replaced, and brand new content.

About the installation process

The Distribute installer modifies your installation by de-activating an existing installation of Setuptools in a bootstrap process. This process has been tested in various installation schemes and contexts but in case of a bug during this process your Python installation might be left in a broken state. Since all modified files and directories are copied before the installation starts, you will be able to get back to a normal state by reading the instructions in the Uninstallation instructions section.

In any case, it is recommended to save you site-packages directory before you start the installation of Distribute.

Installation Instructions

Distribute is only released as a source distribution.

It can be installed using easy_install or pip, and can be done so with the source tarball, the eggs distribution, or by using the script provided online. is the simplest and preferred way on all systems.

Download and execute it, using the Python interpreter of your choice.

If your shell has the curl program you can do:

$ curl -O
$ python

If you are under Python 3, use

$ curl -O
$ python

Notice that both files are provided in the source release.

easy_install or pip

Run easy_install or pip:

$ easy_install Distribute
$ pip install Distribute

Source installation

Download the source tarball, uncompress it, then run the install command:

$ curl -O
$ tar -xzvf distribute-0.6.4.tar.gz
$ cd distribute-0.6
$ python install

Uninstallation Instructions

Like other distutils-based distributions, Distribute doesn’t provide an uninstaller yet. It’s all done manually! We are all waiting for PEP 376 support in Python.

Distribute is installed in three steps:

  1. it gets out of the way an existing installation of Setuptools

  2. it installs a fake setuptools installation

  3. it installs distribute

Distribute can be removed like this:

  • run easy_install -m Distribute. This will remove the Distribute reference from easy-install.pth. Otherwise, edit the file and remove it yourself.

  • remove the distribute*.egg file located in your site-packages directory

  • remove the setuptools.pth file located in you site-packages directory

  • remove the easy_install script located in you sys.prefix/bin directory

  • remove the setuptools*.egg directory located in your site-packages directory, if any.

If you want to get back to setuptools:

  • reinstall setuptools using its instruction.


  • remove the .OLD. directory located in your site-packages directory if any, once you have checked everything was working correctly again.

Quick help for developers

To use Distribute in your package, the recommended way is to ship alongside your script and call it at the very begining of like this:

from distribute_setup import use_setuptools

Another way is to add Distribute in the install_requires option:

from setuptools import setup


Install FAQ

  • Why Distribute turn my Setuptools installation into an fake one?

    Since Distribute is a fork, and since it provides the same package and modules, it fakes that the Setuptools installation is still present, so all the programs that where using Setuptools still work.

    If it wasn’t doing it, a program that would try to install Setuptools would overwrite in turn Distribute.

  • How does Distribute interacts with virtualenv?

    Everytime you create a virtualenv it will install setuptools, so you need to re-install Distribute in it right after. The Distribute project will not attempt to patch virtualenv so it uses it when globally installed. We will just wait for virtualenv to eventually switch to Distribute.

    Once installed, your virtualenv will use Distribute transparently.

    Although, if you have Setuptools installed in your system-wide Python, and if the virtualenv you are in was generated without the –no-site-packages option, the Distribute installation will stop.

    You need in this case to build a virtualenv with the –no-site-packages option or to install Distribute globally.

  • How does Distribute interacts with zc.buildout?

    You can use Distribute in your zc.buildout.

    Although you have to run a specific file that is available at The code is located at

    Beware that if you use a shared eggs folder with buildout, you need to switch all buildouts that use it to distribute. This is due to the fact that the setuptools eggs located in the shared folder will be replaced by a fake one, alongside distribute.

Feedback and getting involved





  • Fixed a bunch of calls to file() that caused crashes on Python 3.


  • Fixed a bug in sorting that caused bootstrap to fail on Python 3.











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