1. Daniel Holth
  2. wheel


wheel / docs / index.rst


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:

# Make sure you have the latest pip that supports wheel
pip install --upgrade pip

# 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

# Install from cached wheels remotely
pip install --use-wheel --no-index --find-links=https://wheelhouse.example.com/ 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".

As a side effect the wheel directory, "/tmp/wheelhouse" in the example, contains installable copies of the exact versions of your application's dependencies. the dependencies. By installing from those cached wheels you can recreate that environment quickly and with no surprises.

To build an individual wheel, run python setup.py 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 setup.py 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-0.21.0-py2.py3-none-any.whl/wheel -h
usage: wheel [-h]


positional arguments:
    keygen              Generate signing key
    sign                Sign wheel
    unsign              Remove RECORD.jws from a wheel by truncating the zip
                        file. RECORD.jws must be at the end of the archive.
                        The zip file must be an ordinary archive, with the
                        compressed files and the directory in the same order,
                        and without any non-zip content after the truncation
    verify              Verify a wheel. The signature will be verified for
                        internal consistency ONLY and printed. Wheel's own
                        unpack/install commands verify the manifest against
                        the signature and file contents.
    unpack              Unpack wheel
    install             Install wheels
    install-scripts     Install console_scripts
    convert             Convert egg or wininst to wheel
    help                Show this help

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

Setuptools scripts handling

Setuptools' popular console_scripts and gui_scripts entry points can be used to generate platform-specific scripts wrappers. Most usefully these wrappers include .exe launchers if they are generated on a Windows machine.

By default bdist_wheel puts pre-generated versions of these wrappers into the *.data/scripts/ directory of the archive. This means a Windows user may have trouble running scripts from a wheel generated on Unix and vice-versa. As of version 0.21.0 python setup.py bdist_wheel --skip-scripts is available to create wheels that do not contain the setuptools script wrappers. The wheel tool python -m wheel install-scripts packagename calls setuptools to write the appropriate scripts wrappers after an install.

Defining the Python version

The bdist_wheel command automatically determines the correct tags to use for the generated wheel. These are based on the Python interpreter used to generate the wheel and whether the project contains C extension code or not. While this is usually correct for C code, it can be too conservative for pure Python code. The bdist_wheel command therefore supports two flags that can be used to specify the Python version tag to use more precisely:

--universal        Specifies that a pure-python wheel is "universal"
                   (i.e., it works on any version of Python).  This
                   equates to the tag "py2.py3".
--python-tag XXX   Specifies the precide python version tag to use for
                   a pure-python wheel.

Neither of these two flags have any effect when used on a project that includes C extension code.

A reasonable use of the --python-tag argument would be for a project that uses Python syntax only introduced in a particular Python version. There are no current examples of this, but if wheels had been available when Python 2.5 was released (the first version containing the with statement), wheels for a project that used the with statement would typically use --python-tag py25.

Typically, projects would not specify python tags on the command line, but would use setup.cfg to set them as a project default:



python-tag = py32

Automatically sign wheel files

python setup.py 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 setup.py 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 documented as PEP 427 "The Wheel Binary Package Format..." (http://www.python.org/dev/peps/pep-0427/).



  • Because ‘newegg’ was taken.
  • Python packaging - reinvented.
  • A container for cheese.
  • It makes it easier to roll out software.