Homebrew Install Python

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May 02, 2020 tldr; install brew; brew install python. Homebrew is a great installer for Mac and its main job is to make it easier to install packages. Step 1: Download Homebrew here 'brew' hosts its package information here as “formulae“. Step 2: Use brew to install the latest version of Python $ brew install python -verbose. Installation happens with the brew command, which gives us access to thousands of command-line utilities, but not more complex applications. For us nerds, the utilities that fit into 'the stuff you need' category include the handy tree command that shows directory structures and pyenv, which I use to manage multiple versions of Python.

Question or problem about Python programming:

How can I install a previous version of Python 3 in macOS using brew?

With the command brew install python I got the latest version of Python 3 (currently v3.7.0), but I want the last version of Python 3.6 (currently 3.6.5).

In today’s blog post I demonstrated how to install OpenCV 3 with Python 2.7 and Python 3 bindings on your macOS system via Homebrew. As you can see, utilizing Homebrew is a great method to avoid the tedious process of manually configuring your CMake command to compile OpenCV via source (my full list of OpenCV install tutorials can be found on this page). Now could create a python 3.6.51 virtual environment to use it in a specific project, and then let brew update your python installation. To achieve that result with the module venv use the -copies option to make sure copies of the binaries (python, pip, etc.) were copied to the virtual environment folder.

I have read about another package pyenv that can assist in handle different python installation, but this solution is not suitable for me.

How to solve the problem:

Homebrew provides Python 3.6 for macOS: $ brew install python3 To create an isolated Python installation use virtualenv: $ virtualenv venv/eskapade -python = python3.

Solution 1:

Short Answer

To make a clean install of Python 3.6.5 use:

If you prefer to recover a previously installed version, then:

Long Answer

There are two formulas for installing Python with Homebrew: [email protected] and python.
The first is for Python 2 and the second for Python 3.

Note: You can find outdated answers on the web where it is mentioned python3 as the formula name for installing Python version 3. Now it’s just python!

By default, with these formulas you can install the latest version of the corresponding major version of Python. So, you cannot directly install a minor version like 3.6.


With brew, you can install a package using the address of the formula, for example in a git repository.

Or specifically for Python 3

The address you must specify is the address to the last commit of the formula (python.rb) for the desired version.
You can find the commint identifier by looking at the history for homebrew-core/Formula/python.rb

Python > 3.6.5

In the link above you will not find a formula for a version of Python above 3.6.5.
After the maintainers of that (official) repository released Python 3.7, they only submit updates to the recipe of Python 3.7.

As explained above, with homebrew you have only Python 2 ([email protected]) and Python 3 (python), there is no explicit formula for Python 3.6.

Although those minor updates are mostly irrelevant in most cases and for most users, I will search if someone has done an explicit formula for 3.6.

Solution 2:

As an update, when doing

You may encounter

To bypass it, add the --ignore-dependencies argument to brew install.

Solution 3:

What I did was first I installed python 3.7

then I installed python 3.6.5 using above link

After that I ran brew link --overwrite python. Now I have all pythons in the system to create the virtual environments.

To create Python 3.7 virtual environment.

To create Python 3.6 virtual environment

Solution 4:

I have tried everything but could not make it work. Finally I have used pyenv and it worked directly like a charm.

So having homebrew installed, juste do:

to manage virtualenvs:

See pyenv and pyenv-virtualenv for more info.

EDIT (2019/03/19)

I have found using the pyenv-installer easier than homebrew to install pyenv and pyenv-virtualenv direclty:

To manage python version, either globally:

or locally in a given directory:

Solution 5:

I tried all the answers above to install Python 3.4.4. The installation of python worked, but PIP would not be installed and nothing I could do to make it work. I was using Mac OSX Mojave, which cause some issues with zlib, openssl.

What not to do:

  • Try to avoid using Homebrew for previous version given by the formula Python or Python3.
  • Do not try to compile Python


  1. Download the macOS 64-bit installer or macOS 64-bit/32-bit installer: https://www.python.org/downloads/release/python-365/
  2. In previous step, it will download Python 3.6.5, if for example, you want to download Python 3.4.4, replace in the url above python-365 by python-344
  3. Download click on the file you downloaded a GUI installer will open
  4. If you downloaded python-365, after installation, to launch this version of python, you will type in your terminal python365, same thing for pip, it will be pip365

p.s: You don’t have to uninstall your other version of Python on your system.


I found a much much much better solution that work on MacOSX, Windows, Linux, etc.

  1. It doesn’t matter if you have already python installed or not.
  2. Download Anaconda
  3. Once installed, in terminal type: conda init
  4. In terminal,create virtual environment with any python version, for example, I picked 3.4.4: conda create -n [NameOfYour VirtualEnvironment] python=3.4.4
  5. Then, in terminal, you can check all the virtual environment you ahave created with the command: conda info --envs
  6. Then, in terminal, activate the virtual environment of your choice with: conda activate [The name of your virtual environment that was shown with the command at step 5]

Hope this helps!

pyenv lets you manage multiple versions of Python on your computer.

This blog post focuses on how pyenv uses the shim design pattern to provide a wonderful user experience (it doesn’t focus on installing and using the software like other posts).

Once pyenv is installed you can easily switch between one project that uses Python 3.6, another project that uses Python 3.7, and a system-wide default Python, without any additional thought.

Managing Python versions and packages can be a huge pain. It’s important to understand how pyenv works to debug issues. Complexities are layered on top of different Python versions… good luck understanding virtual environments if you don’t understand Python versioning.

pyenv is a fork of rbenv, a project to manage Ruby versions. The “shim design philosophy” used by pyenv and rbenv has proven to be a winner for maintaining multiple versions of a programming language on a given machine. Learning the shim design philosophy will make you a better programmer and teach you a powerful design pattern you can use with your own programs.

pyenv installation

You can install pyenv with Homebrew using the brew install pyenv command.

Homebrew runs this formula. We’ll cover how Homebrew works in another post.

Type which pyenv to see that there is a pyenv executable in the /usr/local/bin directory.

Enter open /usr/local/bin to view the pyenv executable in the directory.

Homebrew Python 3.6 Free

The pyenv executable is run whenever we run commands like pyenv versions or pyenv install --list. Simply run pyenv without any arguments to see a listing of all the pyenv commands that can be run.

Let’s dig into where pyenv installs Python code in the filesystem.

Python installations

Run pyenv versions to see the Python versions you currently have installed on your machine.

Run pyenv install --list to see the Python versions that can be installed.

One of the Python versions that can be installed is 3.6.10 – let’s install it with pyenv install 3.6.10. Here’s the console output:

Python 3.6.10 was downloaded to the /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/versions/3.6.10 directory.

Python versions

Type pyenv versions to see all the Python versions available on your machine.

My machine has the system Python version, 3.6.10, and 3.7.5.

Python 3.7.5 is the “current selected” version of Python that pyenv will use (as indicated by the * next to 3.7.5 when pyenv versions is run).

If you run python when 3.7.5 is the selected Python version, then a Python 3.7.5 shell will be started. Understanding how pyenv knows to launch a 3.7.5 shell when the python command is run is the central focus of this post.

The /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/version file only contains a single line of data.

pyenv global

Let’s view the current “global” python version with pyenv global:

The global Python version is set in the /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/version file.

Let’s change the global version to 3.6.10 with pyenv global 3.6.10.

We can run pyenv versions and see that pyenv is using 3.6.10 by default now.


Let’s inspect the contents of the /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/version file to decipher what the pyenv global 3.6.10 command did under the hood.

Looks like pyenv global 3.6.10 just clobbered the /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/version file with a new Python version number.

Let’s make a bad decision and clobber /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/version with echo and > to see if we can change the global Python version ourselves (don’t do this – we’re just hacking to learn how this all works).

The pyenv global version is set in the /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/version file. This approach simple and intuitive. Let’s see how we can modify Python versions for different projects.

pyenv local

Let’s create a ~/Documents/project1/ folder and cd into the directory.

We can run pyenv version to see this project is using Python 3.7.5 (it’s using the global Python version by default):

Let’s change the Python version to 3.6.10 for this project.

pyenv added a .python-version file to the project1 directory.

Let’s inspect the contents of /Users/matthewpowers/Documents/project1/.python-version:

The /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/version file that sets the global Python version is unchanged.

pyenv is somehow performing an analysis like “yes, I can see you have a global Python version set, but the python version command is being run from the project1 directory, and that has a .python-version file that takes precedence over the global Python version”.

Let’s create a ~/Documents/project2/ folder and set the local Python version to “system”.

Let’s verify that project2 is using the system Python version.

Homebrew Python 3.6 Full

Let’s run some commands to recap and demonstrate that the home directory is using a Python version of 3.7.5, project1 is using 3.6.10, and project2 is using the system Python.

Let’s keep digging and see how pyenv is switching these Python versions magically.

PATH basics

PATH is an environment variable that specifies an ordered list of folders where executables are saved.

Run echo $PATH on your machine to see the path on your machine.

The PATH is an ordered list of directories delimited by a colon. It’s easier to visualize a bulleted list:

  • /usr/local/bin
  • /usr/bin
  • /bin
  • /usr/sbin
  • /sbin
Homebrew Install Python

When you enter a command in Terminal, your computer will look for an executable in /usr/local/bin first, then /usr/bin, then /bin, then /bin/usr/sbin and finally /sbin.

When you run echo hi, your Terminal will start by looking for an executable named echo in the /usr/local/bin directory. There isn’t a echo executable in /usr/local/bin/ (run open /usr/local/bin/ on your machine and visually inspect to verify). echo isn’t in /usr/bin either. An echo executable is stored in /bin. The Terminal will use whatever executable it finds first.

You can also find where executables are located with the whereis command:

pyenv changes PATH

pyenv adds this code to the ~/.bash_profile which changes the PATH on your machine:

Run echo $PATH to see the PATH is different now: /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/shims:/usr/local/bin:/usr/bin:/bin:/usr/sbin:/sbin.

The /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/shims directory has been added before all the other directories in the PATH.

All Terminal commands will go through /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/shims first now. This allows pyenv to “intercept” any relevant Python commands.

  • The $ python command will go to /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/shims/python.
  • The $ pip command will go to /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/shims/pip.

/Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/shims doesn’t contain an executable named echo, so the echo hi there command will still use the echo executable that’s in /bin.

Rehashing design pattern

Once you have pyenv installed and run a simple command like pip install pandas, what exactly happens? How does pyenv execute this code?

The pyenv README has a great high level description on shims and the rehashing pattern. From the README:

Shims are lightweight executables that simply pass your command along to pyenv. So with pyenv installed, when you run, say, pip, your operating system will do the following:

  • Search your PATH for an executable file named pip
  • Find the pyenv shim named pip at the beginning of your PATH
  • Run the shim named pip, which in turn passes the command along to pyenv

Let’s describe these steps in more detail:

  • When you run pip install pandas, your Terminal will search your PATH for a pip executable. It’ll find that executable in the /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/shims directory that is at the front of your path. pyenv is intercepting this command and handling it before it can be picked up by another executable lower in the PATH hierarchy. The python command will use the executable in /usr/bin, the dreaded system Python version, it it’s not intercepted.
  • /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/shims/pip is an executable file that’s referred to as a “shim”. A shim intercepts a call and redirects the operation elsewhere.
  • The shim redirects the command to pyenv. Let’s take a look at the code with cat /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/shims/pip:

We can see that exec '/usr/local/Cellar/pyenv/1.2.18/libexec/pyenv' is “passing the command along to pyenv”.

Intercepting the python command

The python command will be intercepted by /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/shims/python, as you can see by running which python:

The code in /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/shims/python is exactly the same as the code in /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/shims/pip.

This is what cat /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/shims/python returns:

The shim passes the command to pyenv without doing any processing.

pyenv executable

Let’s look at the pyenv executable that’s being passed commands from the shims.

Run cat /usr/local/Cellar/pyenv/1.2.18/libexec/pyenv to inspect the contents of the pyenv executable. Prepare yourself for 150 lines of Bash code.

Here is where this script is defined in the pyenv repo.

pip install for different Python versions

Suppose you’re using Python 3.7.5 and run pip install pandas.

The Pandas code will be stored in .pyenv/versions/3.7.5/lib/python3.7/site-packages.

If you switch to Python 3.6.10 with pyenv shell 3.6.10, you’ll need to reinstall pandas with another pip install pandas. The Python 3.6.10 pandas will be stored in /Users/matthewpowers/.pyenv/versions/3.6.10/lib/python3.6/site-packages.

pyenv doesn’t share library versions across different Python versions.

See pyenv-virtualenv for more details about managing virtual environments with pyenv.

pyenv is not bootstrapped by Python

You might wonder why the pyenv codebase is almost entirely Shell and Roff code.

pyenv intentionally avoids Python. If pyenv was written in Python, then the system would need Python installed to run pyenv commands. pyenv can install Python on machines that don’t have any version of Python installed (most machines come with an old Python version pre-installed).

Homebrew Python 3.6 Tutorial

You don’t want a program that installs Python to depend on Python.

The system version of Python that comes pre-installed in machines causes a huge headache for programmers that don’t understand the PATH, executable, etc. The shell scripting patterns you’ve learned in this post will save you from a lot of Python development hell.


Homebrew Install Python 3.6

We learned a lot about pyenv and have a good understanding of how it works.

The shims are injected at the beginning of your PATH so pyenv can route commands to the right Python version. pyenv is using versions specified in text files to see what version of Python should be used to run the commands.

pyenv offers an elegant user interface for managing different Python versions for end users. The codebase is amazingly clean.

Homebrew Python 3.6 Free

Programs like these make you sit back with awe – you’re starstruck that other programmers can architect such beauty.

Brew Install Python 3.6.5_1

Study their design patterns and try to copy them! Copy what you like.

This page describes how Python is handled in Homebrew for users. See Python for Formula Authors for advice on writing formulae to install packages written in Python.

Homebrew should work with any CPython and defaults to the macOS system Python.

Homebrew provides formulae to brew Python 3.x.

Homebrew provided a [email protected] formula until the end of 2019, at which point it was removed due to the Python 2 deprecation.

Important: If you choose to use a Python which isn’t either of these two (system Python or brewed Python), the Homebrew team cannot support any breakage that may occur.

Python 3.x

Homebrew provides a formula for Python 3.x ([email protected]).

Important: Python may be upgraded to a newer version at any time. Consider using a versionmanager such as pyenv if you require stability of minor or patch versions for virtual environments.

The executables are organised as follows:

  • python3 points to Homebrew’s Python 3.x (if installed)
  • pip3 points to Homebrew’s Python 3.x’s pip (if installed)

Unversioned symlinks for python, python-config, pip etc. are installed here:

Setuptools, Pip, etc.

The Python formulae install pip (as pip3) and Setuptools.

Setuptools can be updated via pip3, without having to re-brew Python:

Similarly, pip3 can be used to upgrade itself via:

site-packages and the PYTHONPATH

The site-packages is a directory that contains Python modules (especially bindings installed by other formulae). Homebrew creates it here:

So, for Python 3.y.z, you’ll find it at /usr/local/lib/python3.y/site-packages.

Python 3.y also searches for modules in:

  • /Library/Python/3.y/site-packages
  • ~/Library/Python/3.y/lib/python/site-packages

Homebrew Install Wii

Homebrew’s site-packages directory is first created if (1) any Homebrew formula with Python bindings are installed, or (2) upon brew install python.

Why here?

The reasoning for this location is to preserve your modules between (minor) upgrades or re-installations of Python. Additionally, Homebrew has a strict policy never to write stuff outside of the brew --prefix, so we don’t spam your system.

Homebrew-provided Python bindings

Some formulae provide Python bindings.

Warning! Python may crash (see Common Issues) if you import <module> from a brewed Python if you ran brew install <formula_with_python_bindings> against the system Python. If you decide to switch to the brewed Python, then reinstall all formulae with Python bindings (e.g. pyside, wxwidgets, pygtk, pygobject, opencv, vtk and boost-python).

Policy for non-brewed Python bindings

Homebrew Install Python 3.8

These should be installed via pip install <package>. To discover, you can use pip search or https://pypi.python.org/pypi.

Note: macOS’s system Python does not provide pip. Follow the pip documentation to install it for your system Python if you would like it.

Brewed Python modules

For brewed Python, modules installed with pip3 or python3 setup.py install will be installed to the $(brew --prefix)/lib/pythonX.Y/site-packages directory (explained above). Executable Python scripts will be in $(brew --prefix)/bin.

Use Homebrew To Install Python

The system Python may not know which compiler flags to set in order to build bindings for software installed in Homebrew so you may need to run:


Homebrew Install Python 3.7

WARNING: When you brew install formulae that provide Python bindings, you should not be in an active virtual environment.

Activate the virtualenv after you’ve brewed, or brew in a fresh terminal window.Homebrew will still install Python modules into Homebrew’s site-packages and not into the virtual environment’s site-package.

Virtualenv has a --system-site-packages switch to allow “global” (i.e. Homebrew’s) site-packages to be accessible from within the virtualenv.

Homebrew Install Python 3.8

Why is Homebrew’s Python being installed as a dependency?

Homebrew Install Python Version

Formulae that declare an unconditional dependency on the 'python' formula are bottled against Homebrew’s Python 3.x and require it to be installed.