Distributing python applications as a zip file

Steven D'Aprano steve at pearwood.info
Wed Jul 23 06:23:30 CEST 2014

A little known feature of Python: you can wrap your Python application in 
a zip file and distribute it as a single file. The trick to make it 
runnable is to put your main function inside a file called __main__.py 
inside the zip file. Here's a basic example:

steve at runes:~$ cat __main__.py 
print("NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!!!")

steve at runes:~$ zip appl __main__.py 
  adding: __main__.py (stored 0%)
steve at runes:~$ rm __main__.py 
steve at runes:~$ python appl.zip 
NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!!!

On Linux, you can even hack the zip file to include a shebang line!

steve at runes:~$ cat appl
#!/usr/bin/env python
# This is a Python application stored in a ZIP archive.
steve at runes:~$ cat appl.zip >> appl
steve at runes:~$ chmod u+x appl
steve at runes:~$ ./appl
NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!!!

It's not quite self-contained, as you still need to have Python 
installed, but otherwise it's a good way to distribute a Python 
application as a single file that users can just copy and run.


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