Accessing files installed with distutils

Carl Banks invalidemail at
Wed Mar 9 00:14:12 CET 2005

Frans Englich wrote:
> This is silly. How do I access data files I've installed with
distutils? In a
> portable, generic way, I want to find out what is the following path
on most
> systems:
> /usr/local/lib/python2.4/lib/site-packages/foo/bar.txt
> How do I figure out the rest, if I know foo/bar.txt? sys.prefix
doesn't get me
> far.
> I've googled, and looked in the python reference. I must be blind if
> distutils section[1] covers this.

It doesn't, because distutils doens't do this.  The data_files option
to distutils is pretty limited, is buggy, and if you override the data
dir, distutils has absolutely no way to let the Python code know about
it.  Once or twice I've thought about making a patch, but it's a
difficult problem since different parts of distutils need to
communicate to make it work, in a way distutils engine doesn't support.


Probably the most straightforward way is to just assume the data files
are in the default place, but provide a way to override with an
environment variable.  If the user overrides the data dir when
installing, then it's his or her responsibility to define the
environment variable declaring where the data is.

The second workaround is to inspect the distutils structure (that which
is returned by setup), find out where the data dir is, and create a
Python module that sets the data file location.  I did this for a
certain package I wrote.  I posted this example here in
comp.lang.python a while back:


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