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The current version of wheel can be used to speed up repeated installations by reducing the number of times you have to compile your software. When you are creating a virtualenv for each revision of your software, the savings can be dramatic. This example packages pyramid and all its dependencies as wheels, and then installs pyramid from the built packages:

# Install a version of pip that supports wheel
pip install -e git+
# Install wheel
pip install wheel

# Build a directory of wheels for pyramid and all its dependencies
pip wheel --wheel-dir=/tmp/wheelhouse pyramid

# Install from cached wheels
pip install --use-wheel --no-index --find-links=/tmp/wheelhouse pyramid

For lxml, an up to 3-minute "search for the newest version and compile" can become a less-than-1 second "unpack from wheel".

To build an individual wheel, run python bdist_wheel. Note that bdist_wheel only works with distribute (import setuptools); plain distutils does not support pluggable commands like bdist_wheel. On the other hand pip always runs with setuptools enabled.

Wheel also includes its own installer that can only install wheels (not sdists) from a local file or folder, but has the advantage of working even when distribute or pip has not been installed.

Wheel's builtin utility can be invoked directly from wheel's own wheel:

$ python wheel-0.14.0-py2.py3-none-any.whl/wheel -h
usage: wheel [-h] {keygen,sign,verify,unpack,install,convert,help} ...

positional arguments:
    keygen              Generate signing key
    sign                Sign wheel
    unsign              Remove signature from wheel
    verify              Verify signed wheel
    unpack              Unpack wheel
    install             Install wheels
    convert             Convert egg or wininst to wheel
    help                Show this help

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit

Automatically sign wheel files

python bdist_wheel will automatically sign wheel files if the environment variable WHEEL_TOOL is set to the path of the wheel command line tool:

# Install the wheel tool and its dependencies
$ pip install wheel[tool]
# Generate a signing key (only once)
$ wheel keygen

$ export WHEEL_TOOL=/path/to/wheel
$ python bdist_wheel

Signing is done in a subprocess because it is not convenient for the build environment to contain bindings to the keyring and cryptography libraries. The keyring library may not be able to find your keys (choosing a different key storage back end based on available dependencies) unless you run it from the same environment used for keygen.

A future version of wheel sign will be able to choose different signing keys depending on the package name, in case a user wishes to reserve a more widely trusted key for packages they intend to distribute.


The wheel format is being documented as PEP 427 "The Wheel Binary Package Format..." (



  • Because ‘newegg’ was taken.
  • Python packaging - reinvented.
  • A container for cheese.