27.1. distutils — Building and installing Python modulesΒΆ

The distutils package provides support for building and installing additional modules into a Python installation. The new modules may be either 100%-pure Python, or may be extension modules written in C, or may be collections of Python packages which include modules coded in both Python and C.

Most Python users will not want to use this module directly, but instead use the cross-version tools maintained by the Python Packaging Authority. In particular, setuptools is an enhanced alternative to distutils that provides:

  • support for declaring project dependencies
  • additional mechanisms for configuring which files to include in source releases (including plugins for integration with version control systems)
  • the ability to declare project “entry points”, which can be used as the basis for application plugin systems
  • the ability to automatically generate Windows command line executables at installation time rather than needing to prebuild them
  • consistent behaviour across all supported Python versions

The recommended pip installer runs all setup.py scripts with setuptools, even if the script itself only imports distutils. Refer to the Python Packaging User Guide for more information.

For the benefits of packaging tool authors and users seeking a deeper understanding of the details of the current packaging and distribution system, the legacy distutils based user documentation and API reference remain available: