python 3.x - Install virtualenv and virtualenvwrapper on MacOS

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To install virtualenv and virtualenvwrapper for repetitive use you need a correctly configured Python (this example uses Python 3.x but process is identical for Python 2.x).

Although you can get python installer from Python website I strongly advice against it. The most convenient and future-proof method to install Python on MacOS is brew.

Main difference between installer from Python website and brew is that installer puts python packages to:


Brew on the other hand installs Python, Pip & Setuptools and puts everything to:


And though it may not make any difference to you now – it will later on.

Configuration steps

  1. Install brew

Check out brew installation page or simply run this in your terminal:

/usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL" 
  1. Install Python

To install python with brew run:

brew install python3 

Now your system needs to know where to look for freshly installed Python packages. Add this line to youre ~/.zshrc (or ~/.bash_profile if you're using bash):

export PATH=/usr/local/share/python:$PATH 

Restart your terminal. To make sure you've done everything correctly run which python3 and in return you should receive /usr/local/bin/python.

  1. Install virtualenv & virtualenvwrapper

Now it's time to install virtualenv and virtualenvwrapper to be able to use workon command and switch between virtual environments. This is done using pip:

pip3 install virtualenv virtualenvwrapper 
  1. Set up virtualenv variables

Define a default path for your virtual environments. For example you can create a hidden directory inside ~ and called it .virtualenvs with mkdir ~/.virtualenvs. Add virtualenv variables to .zshrc (or .bash_profile).

Final version of your .zshrc (or .bash_profile) should contain this information to work properly with installed packages:

# Setting PATH for Python 3 installed by brew export PATH=/usr/local/share/python:$PATH  # Configuration for virtualenv export WORKON_HOME=$HOME/.virtualenvs export VIRTUALENVWRAPPER_PYTHON=/usr/local/bin/python3 export VIRTUALENVWRAPPER_VIRTUALENV=/usr/local/bin/virtualenv source /usr/local/bin/ 

Restart your terminal. You should be able to use mkvirtualenv and workon commands including autocompletion.

Here's a little tip on how to create virtualenv with specific version of Python.

In case you are using MacOS Mojave and you are installing Python3.6 from brew bottle you might have a problem with pip, here's a solution that might help.

With time some of you may want to install multiple Python versions with multiple virtual environments per version. When this moment comes I strongly recommend swithing to pyenv and pyenv-virtualenv .

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I'm running macOS 10.15.7

I followed official docs until here

and change it to

export WORKON_HOME=$HOME/.virtualenvs  export VIRTUALENVWRAPPER_PYTHON=/usr/local/bin/python3  # export VIRTUALENVWRAPPER_VIRTUALENV=/usr/local/bin/virtualenv export VIRTUALENVWRAPPER_VIRTUALENV=/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/3.8/bin/virtualenv  # source /usr/local/bin/ source /Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/3.8/bin/ 

in your case try to run which virtualenv or which python to get exact paths

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Mac Big Sur Python 3.8


pip3 install virtualenv virtualenvwrapper


pip3 install virtualenv virtualenvwrapper --user

create directoty in your Home

mkdir .virtualenvs

edit profile

vi .bash_profile

export VIRTUALENVWRAPPER_PYTHON=/usr/bin/python3  export WORKON_HOME=$HOME/.virtualenvs  export VIRTUALENVWRAPPER_VIRTUALENV=/Users/{your_user}/Library/Python/3.8/bin/virtualenv  source /Users/{home_directory}/Library/Python/3.8/bin/ 
  • check path with 'which' command or 'find':

Reload .bash_profile

source ~/.bash_profile

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If you are using MacOS


Install virtualenvwrapper

pip3 install virtualenvwrapper 


Create the "virtualenvs" folder

mkdir ~/.virtualenvs 


Before you export this, make sure you are doing it in your project folder, because that's where you will activate the virtualenv


export WORKON_HOME=$HOME/.virtualenvs 

next, write down in terminal which python3, to find the path and add it after the "=" sign


in my case:

export VIRTUALENVWRAPPER_PYTHON=/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/3.9/bin/python3 

to find the virtualenv path write in the terminal which virtualenv

add the path after the "=" sign


in my case:

export VIRTUALENVWRAPPER_VIRTUALENV=/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/3.9/bin/virtualenv 


Last step is to add the source in the terminal

almost the same as the path you got when writing which virtualenv

The difference is the "" in the end.

in my case

source /Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/3.9/bin/ 


Now you can create the virtualenv name by doing the following:

mkvirtualenv nameOfTheVirtualEnviroment 

in my case

mkvirtualenv venv 

On this Mozila page you can learn how to use it

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I had many problems to install the virtualenvwrapper in my mac os (big sur) but after I spent my whole sunday on that I finally got it. What I did I do:

  1. I reinstalled python3 using the homebrew. For some reason homebrew put your files in a non conventional directories (for exemple: /opt/homebrew/bin/python3 or /opt/homebrew/bin/virtualenv)

  2. Than I installed the virtualenv (even its already installed in python3 by default) and I installed virtualenvwrapper in sudo mode: sudo pip3 install virtualenvwrapper (without sudo, I could't find the using whichvirtualenvwrapper).

  3. After that, in my home directory (/˜), I created the .bashrc file using touch .bashrc because this file didn't existed in my home directory.

  4. I used the command "which python3", "which virtualenv" and "which" to get the localization of them (it's important to get these location to fill the .bashrc file later). The result was:

    • /opt/homebrew/bin/python3
    • /opt/homebrew/bin/virtualenv
    • /opt/homebrew/bin/
  5. Than, using vim editor, I wrote in this file like this:

    export WORKON_HOME=$HOME/.virtualenvs export PROJECT_HOME=$HOME/Devel export VIRTUALENVWRAPPER_PYTHON=/opt/homebrew/bin/python3 export VIRTUALENVWRAPPER_VIRTUALENV=/opt/homebrew/bin/virtualenv source /opt/homebrew/bin/

  6. Than, I saved this file using :wq command and run it using this command: source .bashrc

  7. Than I testes using the writing "workon" command. It showed nothing so it worked

  8. Finally I create a virtual environment. It worked.

I made a lot of mistakes and I really hope I did't damage my OS.

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