Python virtual environment


Making a new Python virtual environment creates a new subfolder, inside which all the binaries, scripts and libraries are copied. After that those are available to be called, which initializes the environemnt. The initialization of the environment needs to be done before every use and (even more important) before the installation of packages. Failing to do so, will result in failed commands and (in case of package installation) full home directory, which prevents normal usage of the cluster.


Using Python venv module creates lightweight virtual environment, with own independent set of Python packages installed in the specified directory. A virtual environment is created on top of an existing Python installation, known as the virtual environment's base Python. Packages are isolated from the packages in the base environment, so only those explicitly installed in the virtual environment are available.

More information about Python virtual environment

Python has several different options on how to install and manage Python packages - here is described the recommended way for our clusters. The steps are

Creating new Python virtual environment

To create a new Python virtual environment on the user interface machine (which can be later also used on compute nodes) use

  • Load latest version of Python module load Python
  • Check the Python's version python3 --version
  • Build a Python Virtual Environment python3 -m venv /groups/umcg-GROUP/TMPXX/MY_PYTHON_SUBDIR and replace the GROUP, TMPXX and MY_PYTHON_SUBDIR with appropriate values. Remember tmpXX folders are also available on compute nodes and therefore the compute jobs can access this Python environment.

To use the existing environment

  • Source the environments source /groups/umcg-GROUP/TMPXX/MY_PYTHON_SUBDIR/bin/activate

To install packages inside the Python environment

  • (Recommended) Upgrade pip and wheel packages, so that that you can install all the latest package versions pip install --upgrade pip wheel
  • Install package pip install pypackage where mypackage is one or more packages from the

Deactivation of the virtual environment

  • to deactivate the virtual environment, simply run command deactivate

Using Python virtual environment inside slurm job

Create a slurm script with appropriate fields. For more information check also the documentation page about batch jobs.

    #SBATCH --job-name=pyvenv
    #SBATCH --output=pyvenv-%N-%u-%j.out
    #SBATCH --error=pyvenv-%N-%u-%j.err
    #SBATCH --time=00:15:00
    #SBATCH --cpus-per-task=1
    #SBATCH --mem-per-cpu=1gb
    #SBATCH --nodes=1
    #SBATCH --open-mode=truncate
    #SBATCH --export=NONE
    #SBATCH --get-user-env=60L

    # clear all loaded modules
    module purge
    # to load the latest version of Python
    module load Python
    # initialize the Python virtual environment
    source /groups/umcg-GROUP/TMPXX/MY_PYTHON_SUBDIR/bin/activate
    # check the Python version (useful for debugging)
    python3 --version
    # print the location of Python3 executable binary (also useful for debugging)
    which python3

    # run the Python command or in this case some custom Python script
    python3 ./

Then submit this slurm SLURM job

  • sbatch