Python Env Wrapper is a set of commands to manage multiple virtual environments. Pew can create, delete and copy your environments, using a single command to switch to them wherever you are, while keeping them in a single (configurable) location.

Virtualenvs makes it easier to work on more than one project at a time without introducing conflicts in their dependencies.

Pew is completely shell-agnostic and thus works on bash, zsh, fish, powershell, etc.

Code Quality Rank: L5
Programming language: Python
License: MIT License
Latest version: v1.2.0

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Pew - Python Env Wrapper

PyPi version CI test status PyPi

Releases & changelog

Python Env Wrapper is a set of commands to manage multiple virtual environments. Pew can create, delete and copy your environments, using a single command to switch to them wherever you are, while keeping them in a single (configurable) location.

Virtualenvs makes it easier to work on more than one project at a time without introducing conflicts in their dependencies.

Pew is completely shell-agnostic and thus works on bash, zsh, fish, powershell, etc.


Nix (Linux and Macos)

You can use Nix to install Pew on Nixos as well as other Linux distributions or Macos:

nix-env --install --attr pew

Arch linux

For Archlinux, there's an AUR package


Pew and its dependencies rely on a couple of features of pip/setuptools which might not be available on old versions. In case your distribution doesn't ship with one recent enough, you'll probably want to run pip install --upgrade pip before the installation.

If you cannot upgrade the version of setuptools on your system, and one of the packages listed below is of no use to you, I suggest to use pipsi rather than plain pip

pipsi install pew

See the troubleshooting section, if needed.


Which SHELL is Pew going to use?

Ok, Pew is shell-agnostic, but how is your shell going to be selected?

Look for the SHELL environment variable: on most unix-like systems it's already defined in a login shell, and you can verify it with commands like:

env | grep SHELL


python3 -c 'import os;print(os.environ.get("SHELL","No shell defined"))'

Since that variable is not commonly used on Windows, we're detecting the parent process from which pew has been invoked and use that as the user's preferred shell. If CMDER_ROOT is defined this will select Cmder (a custom configuration of cmd.exe).

In all other cases we default instead to sh.

Windows/Cygwin notes

A python installed from the normal .exe file behaves differently from a python installed inside Cygwin. For this reason if you want to use Pew inside a Cygwin shell, you should use a Cygwin python, and if you want to use it inside Powershell, you should use your normal Python install, and avoid a Cygwin one.

Common workflow

You can create a new virtualenv, with a non-default python and specifying some packages to be installed in it, like this:

~> pew new --python=pypy3 -i django myproject
created virtual environment PyPy3.6.9.final.0-64 in 817ms
creator PyPy3Posix(dest=/home/tadej/.local/share/virtualenvs/myproject, clear=False, global=False)
seeder FromAppData(extra_search_dir=/usr/share/python-wheels,download=False, pip=bundle, setuptools=bundle, wheel=bundle, via=copy, app_data_dir=/home/tadej/.local/share/virtualenv)
    added seed packages: pip==21.2.1, setuptools==57.4.0, wheel==0.36.2
activators BashActivator,CShellActivator,FishActivator,PowerShellActivator,PythonActivator,XonshActivator
Collecting django
Downloading Django-3.2.7-py3-none-any.whl (7.9 MB)
    |████████████████████████████████| 7.9 MB 1.8 MB/s
Collecting asgiref<4,>=3.3.2
Downloading asgiref-3.4.1-py3-none-any.whl (25 kB)
Collecting pytz
Downloading pytz-2021.1-py2.py3-none-any.whl (510 kB)
    |████████████████████████████████| 510 kB 10.6 MB/s
Collecting sqlparse>=0.2.2
Downloading sqlparse-0.4.2-py3-none-any.whl (42 kB)
    |████████████████████████████████| 42 kB 833 kB/s
Collecting typing-extensions
Downloading typing_extensions- (26 kB)
Installing collected packages: typing-extensions, sqlparse, pytz, asgiref, django
Successfully installed asgiref-3.4.1 django-3.2.7 pytz-2021.1 sqlparse-0.4.2 typing-extensions-
WARNING: You are using pip version 21.2.1; however, version 21.2.4 is available.
You should consider upgrading via the '/home/tadej/.local/share/virtualenvs/myproject/bin/pypy3 -m pip install --upgrade pip' command.
Launching subshell in virtual environment. Type 'exit' or 'Ctrl+D' to return.

Once inside, you can check the current Python version, list the packages present in its python's site-packages directory, and install additional packages like this:

myproject ~> python -V
Python 3.6.9 (831ff17f8cd1, May 26 2021, 11:41:48)
[PyPy 7.3.1 with GCC 10.3.1 20210422 (Red Hat 10.3.1-1)]
myproject ~> pew lssitepackages
myproject ~> pip install pdbpp
Collecting pdbpp
Downloading pdbpp-0.10.3-py2.py3-none-any.whl (23 kB)
Collecting fancycompleter>=0.8
Downloading fancycompleter-0.9.1-py3-none-any.whl (9.7 kB)
Collecting wmctrl
Downloading wmctrl-0.4.tar.gz (5.4 kB)
Collecting pygments
Downloading Pygments-2.10.0-py3-none-any.whl (1.0 MB)
    |████████████████████████████████| 1.0 MB 2.4 MB/s
Collecting pyrepl>=0.8.2
Downloading pyrepl-0.9.0.tar.gz (48 kB)
    |████████████████████████████████| 48 kB 3.0 MB/s
Building wheels for collected packages: pyrepl, wmctrl
Building wheel for pyrepl (setup.py) ... done
Created wheel for pyrepl: filename=pyrepl-0.9.0-py3-none-any.whl size=59906 sha256=de1c4017634f07823025e3cd6db0221c5ec6eafaade32f48c306b4774809c0db
Stored in directory: /home/tadej/.cache/pip/wheels/bd/32/c9/a638d4a50ae3bf39e8d6ac32f889746687f858794f2a841f84
Building wheel for wmctrl (setup.py) ... done
Created wheel for wmctrl: filename=wmctrl-0.4-py3-none-any.whl size=3858 sha256=e5aee6309b7b919a44423b524b6d0b66a238e6efdcafcefee34757cf2057f408
Stored in directory: /home/tadej/.cache/pip/wheels/1c/8e/da/50ccb9bb858eb7462f6047965be9badfa6f4d36d707ac5c5a2
Successfully built pyrepl wmctrl
Installing collected packages: pyrepl, wmctrl, pygments, fancycompleter, pdbpp
Successfully installed fancycompleter-0.9.1 pdbpp-0.10.3 pygments-2.10.0 pyrepl-0.9.0 wmctrl-0.4
myproject ~> pip freeze
myproject ~> ^D

You can also specify a requirements file, to be passed on to pip, and activate another virtualenv with workon:

~> pew new -r ~/Projects/topaz/requirements.txt topaz
New python executable in topaz/bin/python
Successfully installed rply pytest invoke requests py
Cleaning up...
Launching subshell in virtual environment. Type 'exit' or 'Ctrl+D' to return.
topaz ~> ^D

~> pew workon myproject
Launching subshell in virtual environment. Type 'exit' or 'Ctrl+D' to return.
myproject ~>

Since 0.1.16, Pew integrates Pythonz, which allows you to easily install a new python version (only on linux and macosx):

~> pew install 2.6.1 --type pypy
WARNING: Linux binaries are dynamically linked, as is usual, and thus might not be usable due to the sad story of linux binary    compatibility,  check the PyPy website for more information
Downloading pypy-2.6.1-linux64.tar.bz2 as /home/dario/.pythonz/dists/pypy-2.6.1-linux64.tar.bz2
########################################################################## 100%
Extracting pypy-2.6.1-linux64.tar.bz2 into /home/dario/.pythonz/build/PyPy-2.6.1
Installing PyPy-2.6.1 into /home/dario/.pythonz/pythons/PyPy-2.6.1

Installed PyPy-2.6.1 successfully.
~> pew new --python=$(pythonz locate 2.6.1 --type pypy) latest_pypy
Running virtualenv with interpreter /home/dario/.pythonz/pythons/PyPy-2.6.1/bin/python
New pypy executable in latest_pypy/bin/python
Also creating executable in latest_pypy/bin/pypy
Installing setuptools, pip, wheel...done.
Launching subshell in virtual environment. Type 'exit' or 'Ctrl+D' to return.
latest_pypy ~> python -V
Python 2.7.10 (f3ad1e1e1d62, Aug 28 2015, 10:45:29)
[PyPy 2.6.1 with GCC 4.8.4]

Command Reference

When invoked without arguments pew will output the list of all commands with each one's description


Create a new environment, in the WORKON_HOME.

usage: pew new [-hd] [-p PYTHON] [-i PACKAGES] [-a PROJECT] [-r REQUIREMENTS] envname

The new environment is automatically activated after being initialized.

The -a option can be used to associate an existing project directory with the new environment.

The -i option can be used to install one or more packages (by repeating the option) after the environment is created.

The -r option can be used to specify a text file listing packages to be installed. The argument value is passed to pip -r to be installed.


List or change working virtual environments.

usage: pew workon [-h] [--no-cd] [envname]

If no envname is given the list of available environments is printed to stdout. If -n or --no-cd is provided, current directory is not changed even if a project path is associated with envname.


Create a temporary virtualenv.

usage: pew mktmpenv [-h] [-p PYTHON] [-i PACKAGES] [-a PROJECT] [-r REQUIREMENTS]


List all of the environments.

usage: pew ls [-h] [-b | -l]

The --long options will print each virtualenv side-by-side with its Python version and the contents of its site-packages


usage: pew show [env]


Run a command in each virtualenv.

usage: pew inall [command]


Run a command in the given virtualenv.

usage: pew in [env] [command]


Remove one or more environments, from the WORKON_HOME.

usage: pew rm envs [envs ...]

You have to exit from the environment you want to remove.


Use Pythonz to download and build a Python vm

usage: pew install [options] version

To install Python3.8.0

pew install 3.8.0

To install Pypy:

pew install 2.6.1 --type pypy


List the pythons installed by Pythonz

usage: pew list_pythons [options]

You can list all the Pythons available to install with -a or --all-versions


Locate the path for the python version installed by Pythonz

usage: pew locate_python [options] version


Duplicate an existing virtualenv environment. The source can be an environment managed by virtualenvwrapper or an external environment created elsewhere.

Copying virtual environments is not well supported. Each virtualenv has path information hard-coded into it, and there may be cases where the copy code does not know to update a particular file. Use with caution.

usage: pew cp [-hd] source [targetenvname]

Target environment name is required for WORKON_HOME duplications. However, target environment name can be omitted for importing external environments. If omitted, the new environment is given the same name as the original.


Returns the location of the currently active's site-packages


Equivalent to ls $(sitepackages_dir).


Adds the specified directories to the Python path for the currently-active virtualenv.

usage: pew add [-h] [-d] dirs [dirs ...]

Sometimes it is desirable to share installed packages that are not in the system site-packages directory and which should not be installed in each virtualenv. One possible solution is to symlink the source into the environment site-packages directory, but it is also easy to add extra directories to the PYTHONPATH by including them in a .pth file inside site-packages using pew add.

The -d flag removes previously added directiories.

The directory names are added to a path file named _virtualenv_path_extensions.pth inside the site-packages directory for the environment.


Controls whether the active virtualenv will access the packages in the global Python site-packages directory.

usage: pew toggleglobalsitepackages [-q]


Create a new virtualenv in the WORKON_HOME and project directory in PROJECT_HOME.

usage: pew mkproject [-hd] [-p PYTHON] [-i PACKAGES] [-a PROJECT] [-r REQUIREMENTS] [-t TEMPLATES] [-l] envname

The template option may be repeated to have several templates used to create a new project. The templates are applied in the order named on the command line. All other options are passed to pew new to create a virtual environment with the same name as the project.

A template is simply an executable to be found in WORKON_HOME, it will be called with the name of the project, and the project directory as first and second argument, respectively. A template_django script is given as an example inside the pew package.


Bind an existing virtualenv to an existing project.

usage: pew setproject [virtualenv_path] [project_path]

When no arguments are given, the current virtualenv and current directory are assumed.


Return a virtualenv's project directory.

usage: pew getproject [env]

When no arguments are given, the current virtualenv is assumed.


Try to restore a broken virtualenv by reinstalling the same python version on top of it

usage: pew restore env


Rename a virtualenv (by copying it over to the new name, and deleting the old one)

usage: pew rename source target


Remove all installed packages from the current (or supplied) env.

usage: pew wipeenv [env]


Prints the path for the current $SHELL helper file

usage: pew shell_config


Prints the path for the supplied env

usage: pew dir env


You can customize pew's virtualenvs directory location, with the $XDG_DATA_HOME or $WORKON_HOME environment variables, and the locations of new projects created with mkproject by setting $PROJECT_HOME (otherwise, the current directory will be selected).


The environment doesn't seem to be activated

If you've defined in your shell rc file to export a PATH location that might shadow the executables needed by pew (or your project), you might find that when getting into the environment, they will still be at the head of the PATH.

There're multiple way to overcome this issue:

  • Move your export statements into the profile (.bash_profile and .zprofile for bash and zsh respectively, or in fish wrap your statements in a if status --is-login block ) and set up your terminal emulator to launch your shell as a login shell
  • Change your exports to put the new location at the tail, instead of the head of the PATH, e.g.: export PATH=${PATH}:/usr/bin
  • Change the files your OS provides to setup the base environment (it might be useful to look into /etc/paths.d, /etc/profile, and environment.plist)

If you're running the zsh configuration tool prezto, and/or you're on MacOSX, you might want to read this (it's about another project for handling dotfiles, but the misconfiguration described is quite similar to one witnessed on other OSX/prezto systems).

pkg_resources.DistributionNotFound: virtualenv

This might happen after a Python update, especially on MacOSX, upgrading setuptools might fix that (you should need superuser permissions to do it)

easy_install -U setuptools


pip install --upgrade setuptools

Other issues

Congratulations! You found a bug, please let me know :)

Running Tests

The test suite for pew uses tox. Most tests are actually integration tests that will fork shells, create virtualenvs and in some cases even download python packages from Pypi. The whole test suite takes around 1 minute to run on a single interpreter.

With every commit and pull request, the test suite is run over all supported interpreters on GitHub Actions (which runs tests on Linux and Windows).

To run individual test scripts, run from the top level directory of the repository a command like:

tox tests/test_setproject.py

To run tests under a single version of Python, specify the appropriate environment when running tox:

tox -e py38

Combine the two modes to run specific tests with a single version of Python:

tox -e py38 tests/test_setproject.py

You can also filter them:

tox -e py38 -- -k workon

Add new tests by modifying an existing file or creating new script in the tests directory.

Display the environment name in the terminal prompt


The first run setup should take care of this for you.

You can do it manually by appending to your .bashrc/.zshrc

source $(pew shell_config)


Just like for bash/zsh, but since fish uses a fish_prompt function and not a PS1 environment variable, the setup will only make available to you a fish function pew_prompt. Just use its output in the fish_prompt function.

powershell prompt

Add this to a prompt function:

Write-Host -NoNewLine -f blue ([System.IO.Path]::GetFileName($env:VIRTUAL_ENV))

no hooks (for now)

(There's currently a Pull Request open for it)

Adding hooks for installing some packages on each new virtualenv creation is quite easy, but I couldn't find some comprehensive hook examples, and virtualenvwrapper's hook implementation lets the hook return a script to be sourced.

This could be handled by (instead of getting back a script to be sourced) getting back an environment/list of key-values to be applied when invoking inve.

But to handle just the simple case, using the existing virtualenvwrapper's infrastructure (which relied on stevedore) seemed like overkill, and given that the most interesting virtualenvwrapper's extensions have been merged to the trunk at the end, and that I never used virtualenvwrapper's hook first hand, I decided to skip them, at least for now.


Everyone who submitted patches/PR, as of September 2015:

  • José Luis Lafuente
  • Arthur Vuillard
  • Jakub Stasiak
  • Ryan Hiebert
  • Michael Hofer
  • Daniel Harding
  • Timothy Corbett-Clark
  • Simon Junod
  • Robin
  • Matei Trușcă
  • Lucas Cimon
  • Alexandre Decan
  • Ashwin Vishnu Mohanan

Thanks also to Michael F. Lamb for his thought provoking gist and to Doug Hellman for virtualenvwrapper


Pew is written in pure python and leverages inve: the idea for a better activate script.

Pew was originally a rewrite of virtualenvwrapper, the advantage is that pew doesn't hook into a shell, but is only a set of commands, thus completely shell-agnostic:

It works on bash, zsh, fish, powershell, etc.

Thanks to using Python libraries and setuptools for dependency management, to Python stricter error handling and the fact that "shelling out" let us avoid keeping track of the previous environment variable values, pew code is much shorter and easier to understand than virtualenvwrapper's. How many Python programmers know at a glance what does "${out_args[@]-}" do? Or eval "envname=\$$#"? Or all other bash quirks for that matter?