Python on Mac OS X README
Jack Jansen (2004-07),
Ronald Oussoren (2010-04),
Ned Deily (2012-06)
This document provides a quick overview of some Mac OS X specific features in
the Python distribution.
If this argument is specified the build will create a Python.framework rather
than a traditional Unix install. See the section
_`Building and using a framework-based Python on Mac OS X` for more
information on frameworks.
If the optional directory argument is specified the framework is installed
into that directory. This can be used to install a python framework into
your home directory::
$ ./configure --enable-framework=/Users/ronald/Library/Frameworks
$ make && make install
This will install the framework itself in ``/Users/ronald/Library/Frameworks``,
the applications in a subdirectory of ``/Users/ronald/Applications`` and the
command-line tools in ``/Users/ronald/bin``.
Specify the name for the python framework, defaults to ``Python``. This option
is only valid when ``--enable-framework`` is specified.
Create a universal binary build of Python. This can be used with both
regular and framework builds.
The optional argument specifies which OS X SDK should be used to perform the
build. If xcodebuild is available and configured, this defaults to
the Xcode default MacOS X SDK, otherwise ``/Developer/SDKs/MacOSX.10.4u.sdk``
if available or ``/`` if not.
See the section _`Building and using a universal binary of Python on Mac OS X`
for more information.
Specify the kind of universal binary that should be created. This option is
only valid when ``--enable-universalsdk`` is specified. The default is
``32-bit`` if a building with a SDK that supports PPC, otherwise defaults
Building and using a universal binary of Python on Mac OS X
1. What is a universal binary
A universal binary build of Python contains object code for more than one
CPU architecture. A universal OS X executable file or library combines the
architecture-specific code into one file and can therefore run at native
speed on all supported architectures. Universal files were introduced in
OS X 10.4 to add support for Intel-based Macs to the existing PowerPC (PPC)
machines. In OS X 10.5 support was extended to 64-bit Intel and 64-bit PPC
architectures. It is possible to build Python with various combinations
of architectures depending on the build tools and OS X version in use.
2. How do I build a universal binary
You can enable universal binaries by specifying the "--enable-universalsdk"
flag to configure::
$ ./configure --enable-universalsdk
$ make install
This flag can be used with a framework build of python, but also with a classic
unix build. Universal builds were first supported with OS X 10.4 with Xcode 2.1
and the 10.4u SDK. Starting with Xcode 3 and OS X 10.5, more configurations are
2.1 Flavors of universal binaries
It is possible to build a number of flavors of the universal binary build,
the default is a 32-bit only binary (i386 and ppc) in build environments that
support ppc (10.4 with Xcode 2, 10.5 and 10.6 with Xcode 3) or an
Intel-32/-64-bit binary (i386 and X86_64) in build environments that do not
support ppc (Xcode 4 on 10.6 and later systems). The flavor can be specified
using the configure option ``--with-universal-archs=VALUE``. The following
values are available:
* ``intel``: ``i386``, ``x86_64``
* ``32-bit``: ``ppc``, ``i386``
* ``3-way``: ``i386``, ``x86_64``, ``ppc``
* ``64-bit``: ``ppc64``, ``x86_64``
* ``all``: ``ppc``, ``ppc64``, ``i386``, ``x86_64``
To build a universal binary that includes a 64-bit architecture, you must build
on a system running OS X 10.5 or later. The ``all`` and ``64-bit`` flavors can
only be built with an 10.5 SDK because ``ppc64`` support was only included with
OS X 10.5. Although legacy ``ppc`` support was included with Xcode 3 on OS X
10.6, it was removed in Xcode 4, versions of which were released on OS X 10.6
and which is the current standard for OS X 10.7 and 10.8. To summarize, the
following combinations of SDKs and universal-archs flavors are available:
* 10.4u SDK with Xcode 2 supports ``32-bit`` only
* 10.5 SDK with Xcode 3.1.x supports all flavors
* 10.6 SDK with Xcode 3.2.x supports ``intel``, ``3-way``, and ``32-bit``
* 10.6 SDK with Xcode 4 supports ``intel`` only
* 10.7 and 10.8 SDKs with Xcode 4 support ``intel`` only
The makefile for a framework build will also install ``python3.3-32``
binaries when the universal architecture includes at least one 32-bit
architecture (that is, for all flavors but ``64-bit``).
Running a specific architecture
You can run code using a specific architecture using the ``arch`` command::
$ arch -i386 python
Or to explicitly run in 32-bit mode, regardless of the machine hardware::
$ arch -i386 -ppc python
NOTE: When you're using a framework install of Python this requires at least
Python 2.7 or 3.2, in earlier versions the python (and pythonw) commands are
wrapper tools that execute the real interpreter without ensuring that the
real interpreter runs with the same architecture.
Using ``arch`` is not a perfect solution as the selected architecture will
not automatically carry through to subprocesses launched by programs and tests
under that Python. If you want to ensure that Python interpreters launched in
subprocesses also run in 32-bit-mode if the main interpreter does, use
a ``python3.3-32`` binary and use the value of ``sys.executable`` as the
``subprocess`` ``Popen`` executable value.
Building and using a framework-based Python on Mac OS X.
1. Why would I want a framework Python instead of a normal static Python?
The main reason is because you want to create GUI programs in Python. With the
exception of X11/XDarwin-based GUI toolkits all GUI programs need to be run
from a Mac OSX application bundle (".app").
While it is technically possible to create a .app without using frameworks you
will have to do the work yourself if you really want this.
A second reason for using frameworks is that they put Python-related items in
only two places: "/Library/Framework/Python.framework" and
"/Applications/Python <VERSION>" where ``<VERSION>`` can be e.g. "3.3",
"2.7", etc. This simplifies matters for users installing
Python from a binary distribution if they want to get rid of it again. Moreover,
due to the way frameworks work, a user without admin privileges can install a
binary distribution in his or her home directory without recompilation.
2. How does a framework Python differ from a normal static Python?
In everyday use there is no difference, except that things are stored in
a different place. If you look in /Library/Frameworks/Python.framework
you will see lots of relative symlinks, see the Apple documentation for
details. If you are used to a normal unix Python file layout go down to
Versions/Current and you will see the familiar bin and lib directories.
3. Do I need extra packages?
Yes, probably. If you want Tkinter support you need to get the OSX AquaTk
distribution, this is installed by default on Mac OS X 10.4 or later. Be
aware, though, that the Cocoa-based AquaTk's supplied starting with OS X
10.6 have proven to be unstable. If possible, you should consider
installing a newer version before building on OS X 10.6 or later, such as
the ActiveTcl 8.5. See http://www.python.org/download/mac/tcltk/. If you
are building with an SDK, ensure that the newer Tcl and Tk frameworks are
seen in the SDK's ``Library/Frameworks`` directory; you may need to
manually create symlinks to their installed location, ``/Library/Frameworks``.
If you want wxPython you need to get that.
If you want Cocoa you need to get PyObjC.
4. How do I build a framework Python?
This directory contains a Makefile that will create a couple of python-related
applications (full-blown OSX .app applications, that is) in
"/Applications/Python <VERSION>", and a hidden helper application Python.app
inside the Python.framework, and unix tools "python" and "pythonw" into
/usr/local/bin. In addition it has a target "installmacsubtree" that installs
the relevant portions of the Mac subtree into the Python.framework.
It is normally invoked indirectly through the main Makefile, as the last step
in the sequence
1. ./configure --enable-framework
3. make install
This sequence will put the framework in ``/Library/Framework/Python.framework``,
the applications in ``/Applications/Python <VERSION>`` and the unix tools in
Installing in another place, for instance ``$HOME/Library/Frameworks`` if you
have no admin privileges on your machine, is possible. This can be accomplished
by configuring with ``--enable-framework=$HOME/Library/Frameworks``.
The other two directories will then also be installed in your home directory,
at ``$HOME/Applications/Python-<VERSION>`` and ``$HOME/bin``.
If you want to install some part, but not all, read the main Makefile. The
frameworkinstall is composed of a couple of sub-targets that install the
framework itself, the Mac subtree, the applications and the unix tools.
There is an extra target frameworkinstallextras that is not part of the
normal frameworkinstall which installs the Tools directory into
"/Applications/Python <VERSION>", this is useful for binary
What do all these programs do?
"IDLE.app" is an integrated development environment for Python: editor,
"PythonLauncher.app" is a helper application that will handle things when you
double-click a .py, .pyc or .pyw file. For the first two it creates a Terminal
window and runs the scripts with the normal command-line Python. For the
latter it runs the script in the Python.app interpreter so the script can do
GUI-things. Keep the ``Option`` key depressed while dragging or double-clicking
a script to set runtime options. These options can be set persistently
through PythonLauncher's preferences dialog.
The program ``pythonx.x`` runs python scripts from the command line. Various
compatibility aliases are also installed, including ``pythonwx.x`` which
in early releases of Python on OS X was required to run GUI programs. In
current releases, the ``pythonx.x`` and ``pythonwx.x`` commands are identical.
How do I create a binary distribution?
Download and unpack the source release from http://www.python.org/download/.
Go to the directory ``Mac/BuildScript``. There you will find a script
``build-installer.py`` that does all the work. This will download and build
a number of 3rd-party libaries, configures and builds a framework Python,
installs it, creates the installer package files and then packs this in a
DMG image. The script also builds an HTML copy of the current Python
documentation set for this release for inclusion in the framework. The
installer package will create links to the documentation for use by IDLE,
pydoc, shell users, and Finder user.
The script will build a universal binary so you'll therefore have to run this
script on Mac OS X 10.4 or later and with Xcode 2.1 or later installed.
However, the Python build process itself has several build dependencies not
available out of the box with OS X 10.4 so you may have to install
additional software beyond what is provided with Xcode 2. OS X 10.5
provides a recent enough system Python (in ``/usr/bin``) to build
the Python documentation set. It should be possible to use SDKs and/or older
versions of Xcode to build installers that are compatible with older systems
on a newer system but this may not be completely foolproof so the resulting
executables, shared libraries, and ``.so`` bundles should be carefully
examined and tested on all supported systems for proper dynamic linking
dependencies. It is safest to build the distribution on a system running the
minimum OS X version supported.
All of this is normally done completely isolated in /tmp/_py, so it does not
use your normal build directory nor does it install into /.
Because of the way the script locates the files it needs you have to run it
from within the BuildScript directory. The script accepts a number of
command-line arguments, run it with --help for more information.
The configure script sometimes emits warnings like the one below::
configure: WARNING: libintl.h: present but cannot be compiled
configure: WARNING: libintl.h: check for missing prerequisite headers?
configure: WARNING: libintl.h: see the Autoconf documentation
configure: WARNING: libintl.h: section "Present But Cannot Be Compiled"
configure: WARNING: libintl.h: proceeding with the preprocessor's result
configure: WARNING: libintl.h: in the future, the compiler will take precedence
configure: WARNING: ## -------------------------------------- ##
configure: WARNING: ## Report this to http://bugs.python.org/ ##
configure: WARNING: ## -------------------------------------- ##
This almost always means you are trying to build a universal binary for
Python and have libraries in ``/usr/local`` that don't contain the required
architectures. Temporarily move ``/usr/local`` aside to finish the build.
Uninstalling a framework install, including the binary installer
Uninstalling a framework can be done by manually removing all bits that got installed.
That's true for both installations from source and installations using the binary installer.
OS X does not provide a central uninstaller.
The main bit of a framework install is the framework itself, installed in
``/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework``. This can contain multiple versions
of Python, if you want to remove just one version you have to remove the
version-specific subdirectory: ``/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/X.Y``.
If you do that, ensure that ``/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/Current``
is a symlink that points to an installed version of Python.
A framework install also installs some applications in ``/Applications/Python X.Y``,
And lastly a framework installation installs files in ``/usr/local/bin``, all of
them symbolic links to files in ``/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/X.Y/bin``.