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ActivePython FAQ

This document contains frequently asked questions (and answers) regarding ActivePython. More FAQs are available at Please send suggestions for new FAQ entries to activepython-feedback.

Table of Contents

1   Mac OS X

1.1   Does ActivePython collide with other Python distributions on Mac OS X?

There are many Python distributions for Mac OS X: Apple's system Python installation, MacPython, Python from the Fink and Darwin ports projects and ActivePython. In general, ActivePython can co-exist with these other Python installations. However, there are some things of which to be aware.

1. Only one python can be first on your PATH environment variable at the same time. This determines what Python is run when you type python at the terminal. Likewise for pythonw. ActivePython on Mac OS X sets up symlinks for python, pythonw, and versioned ones (e.g. python2.4 and pythonw2.4) in /usr/local/bin. You can ensure that ActivePython is first on your PATH in the terminal by including the following in your ~/.bashrc file (if you use Bash as your shell, the default on Mac OS X 10.3 and later):

export PATH=/usr/local/bin:$PATH

or the following in your ~/csh.cshrc (if you use the tcsh shell):

setenv PATH /usr/local/bin:$PATH

Note that this will only effect your PATH in the shell. To change your system path (e.g. if you need you environment changes to exist for GUI apps) you must modify your ~/.MacOSX/environment.plist file. See Apple's Technical Q&A QA1067 document for details.

2. Both ActivePython and MacPython install to the same location on disk (/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/... with some links in /usr/local/bin), therefore ActivePython and MacPython installations of the same versions can collide. The ActivePython installer will properly install over a MacPython installation of the same version. However it is recommended that you first uninstall MacPython 2.6 before installing ActivePython 2.6.

1.2   How do I open the ActivePython help on Mac OS X?

On Mac OS X, ActivePython registers its documentation set with the Apple Help System. You can open the ActivePython help in "Help Viewer" as follows:

ActivePython's help documentation is physically located in:


with a shorter symlink to that directory at:


If "ActivePython 2.6 Help" does not appear in the Help Viewer's "Library" menu, this means that the ActivePython help book has not been registered. You may need to log out and log back in. You can always view the ActivePython documentation in your browser (instead of in Help Viewer) by browsing to index.html in the mentioned folders or by running a command like the following:

open /Library/Documentation/Help/ActivePython-2.6/index.html

1.3   How do I run ActivePython in 32-bit mode?

Beginning, 2.7, and 3.2, ActivePython for Mac is built with 2-way architecture: i386 and x86_64. By default, if your processor architecture supports it, Python will run in 64-bit mode. To launch the interpreter in 32-bit mode, run:

$ arch -i386 python

Python 2.6 and 3.1 do not support architecture selection via the arch command on OSX 10.6. For this reason, architecture-specific binaries are provided:

$ python3.1-32
$ python2.6-32

2   PyPM

See also: PyPM Index FAQ

2.1   How do I install a package that is not available in PyPM?

While you can install most packages registered in PyPI using the PyPM client, some packages may not yet be available in the ActiveState repository. You can either download these package manually and build them yourself or, if the package is registered in PyPI, try using pip (pip is included in ActivePython)

$ pip install twisted

2.2   Can both 32-bit and 64-bit packages co-exist on the same machine?

By default, PyPM installs packages in to the user site directory, which - according to PEP 370 - is the same for 32-bit and 64-bit Python. Therefore it is not recommended to mix 32-bit and 64-bit packages. To workaround this limitation, always install packages into your global ActivePython installation; this can be done using the -g option, for example:

$ pypm -g install pycrpto

2.3   What if I have setuptools installed?

ActivePython includes Distribute (which is a compatible fork of the setuptools project) that contains several bug fixes; PyPM depends on these bug fixes and as such requires it to function properly. Since setuptools and Distribute share the same module namespace (import setuptools), both cannot co-exist in the same running Python instance. Therefore PyPM may not function properly if a version of setuptools is found in your sys.path.

PyPM will error out - if setuptools is imported - giving the full path to the setuptools package. You must remove this manually. If the setuptools package is found in your global ActivePython site-packages directory, then you may safely remove the following file/directory:

  • setuptools-*.egg

Instead if setuptools is installed in some other location such as the user site directory (eg: ~/.local, ~/Library/Python or %APPDATA%), then you may safely remove the following files:

  • setuptools/
  • setuptools-*.egg-info/

If this is not helpful, don't hesitate to contact us at activepython-feedback.