Chapter 36 - Creating Modules and Packages

Creating Python modules is something that most Python programmers do every day without even thinking about it. Any time you save a new Python script, you have created a new module. You can import your module into other modules. A package is a collection of related modules. The things you import into your scripts from the standard library are modules or packages. In this chapter, we will learn how to create modules and packages. We’ll spend more time on packages since they’re more complicated than modules.

How to Create a Python Module

We will begin by creating a super simple module. This module will provide us with basic arithmetic and no error handling. Here’s our first example:

def add(x, y):
    return x + y

def division(x, y):
    return x / y

def multiply(x, y):
    return x * y

def subtract(x, y):
    return x - y

This code has issues, of course. If you pass in two Integers to the division method, then you’ll end up getting an Integer back if you are using Python 2.x. This may not be what you’re expecting. There’s also no error checking for division by zero or mixing of strings and numbers. But that’s not the point. The point is that if you save this code, you have a fully qualified module. Let’s call it Now what can you do with a module anyway? You can import it and use any of the defined functions or classes that are inside it. And we could make it executable with a little spit and polish. Let’s do both!

First we’ll write a little script that imports our module and runs the functions in it. Save the following as

import arithmetic

print(arithmetic.add(5, 8))
print(arithmetic.subtract(10, 5))
print(arithmetic.division(2, 7))
print(arithmetic.multiply(12, 6))

Now let’s modify the original script so that we can run it from the command line. Here’s one of the simplest ways to do it:

def add(x, y):
    return x + y

def division(x, y):
    return x / y

def multiply(x, y):
    return x * y

def subtract(x, y):
    return x - y

if __name__ == "__main__":
    import sys
    v = sys.argv[1].lower()
    valOne = int(sys.argv[2])
    valTwo = int(sys.argv[3])
    if v == "a":
        print(add(valOne, valTwo))
    elif v == "d":
        print(division(valOne, valTwo))
    elif v == "m":
        print(multiply(valOne, valTwo))
    elif v == "s":
        print(subtract(valOne, valTwo))

The proper way to do this script would be to use Python’s optparse (pre-2.7) or argparse (2.7+) module. You should spend some time to figure out one of these modules as a learning exercise. In the meantime, we will move on to packages!

How to Create a Python Package

The main difference between a module and a package is that a package is a collection of modules AND it has an file. Depending on the complexity of the package, it may have more than one Let’s take a look at a simple folder structure to make this more obvious, then we’ll create some simple code to follow the structure we define.


Now we just need to replicate this structure in our own package. Let’s give that a whirl! Create each of these files in a folder tree like the above example. For the add, subtract, multiply and divide files, you can use the functions we created in the earlier example. For the module, we’ll use the following code.

import math

def squareroot(n):
    return math.sqrt(n)

You can leave both files blank, but then you’ll have to write code like mymath.add.add(x,y) which is pretty ugly, so we’ll add the following code to the outer to make using our package easier to understand and use.

# outer
from . add import add
from . divide import division
from . multiply import multiply
from . subtract import subtract
from .adv.sqrt import squareroot

Now we should be able to use our module once we have it on our Python path. You can copy the folder into your Python’s site-packages folder to do this. On Windows it’s in the following general location: C:\Python34\Lib\site-packages. Alternatively, you can edit the path on the fly in your test code. Let’s see how that’s done:

import sys

# modify this path to match your environment

import mymath

print(mymath.division(4, 2))
print(mymath.multiply(10, 5))

Note that my path does NOT include the mymath folder. You want to append the parent folder that holds your new module, NOT the module folder itself. If you do this, then the code above should work.

You can also create a script and install your package in develop mode. Here’s an example script:

#!/usr/bin/env python

from setuptools import setup

# This setup is suitable for "python develop".

      description='A silly math package',
      author='Mike Driscoll',
      packages=['mymath', 'mymath.adv'],

You would save this script one level above the mymath folder. To install the package in develop mode, you would do the following:

python develop

This will install a link file in the site-packages folder that points to where ever your package resides. This is great for testing without actually installing your package.

Congratulations! You’ve just created a Python package!

Wrapping Up

You’ve just learned how to create your very own, custom-made modules and packages. You will find that the more you code, the more often you’ll create programs that have parts that you want to re-use. You can put those reusable pieces of code into modules. Eventually you will have enough related modules that you may want to turn them into a package. Now you have the tools to actually do that!