Tips and Tricks

This is a list of user-contributed tips for making virtualenv and virtualenvwrapper even more useful. If you have tip to share, drop me an email or post a comment on this blog post and I’ll add it here.

zsh Prompt

From Nat (was

Using zsh, I added some bits to $WORKON_HOME/post(de)activate to show the active virtualenv on the right side of my screen instead.

in postactivate:

RPROMPT="%{${fg_bold[white]}%}(env: %{${fg[green]}%}`basename \"$VIRTUAL_ENV\"`%{${fg_bold[white]}%})%{${reset_color}%} $RPROMPT"

and in postdeactivate:


Adjust colors according to your own personal tastes or environment.

Updating cached $PATH entries

From Nat (was

I also added the command ‘rehash’ to $WORKON_HOME/postactivate and $WORKON_HOME/postdeactivate as I was having some problems with zsh not picking up the new paths immediately.

Creating Project Work Directories

Via James:

In the postmkvirtualenv script I have the following to create a directory based on the project name, add that directory to the python path and then cd into it:

proj_name=$(basename $VIRTUAL_ENV)
mkdir $HOME/projects/$proj_name
add2virtualenv $HOME/projects/$proj_name
cd $HOME/projects/$proj_name

In the postactivate script I have it set to automatically change to the project directory when I use the workon command:

proj_name=$(basename $VIRTUAL_ENV)
cd ~/projects/$proj_name

Automatically Run workon When Entering a Directory

Justin Abrahms posted about some code he added to his shell environment to look at the directory each time he runs cd. If it finds a .venv file, it activates the environment named within. On leaving that directory, the current virtualenv is automatically deactivated.

Harry Marr wrote a similar function that works with git repositories.

Installing Common Tools Automatically in New Environments

Via rizumu (was

I have this postmkvirtualenv to install the get a basic setup.

$ cat postmkvirtualenv
#!/usr/bin/env bash
curl -O />python
easy_install pip==dev
pip install Mercurial

Then I have a pip requirement file with my dev tools.

$ cat developer_requirements.txt

Then each project has it’s own pip requirement file for things like PIL, psycopg2, django-apps, numpy, etc.

Changing the Default Behavior of cd

Via mae:

This is supposed to be executed after workon, that is as a postactivate hook. It basically overrides cd to know about the VENV so instead of doing cd to go to ~ you will go to the venv root, IMO very handy and I can’t live without it anymore. If you pass it a proper path then it will do the right thing.

cd () {
    if (( $# == 0 ))
        builtin cd $VIRTUAL_ENV
        builtin cd "$@"


And to finally restore the default behaviour of cd once you bailout of a VENV via a deactivate command, you need to add this as a postdeactivate hook:

unset -f cd

Clean up environments on exit

Via Michael:

When you use a temporary virtualenv via mktmpenv or if you have a post_deactivate hook, you have to actually run deactivate to clean up the temporary environment or run the hook, respectively. It’s easy to forget and just exit the shell. Put the following in ~/.bash_logout (or your shell’s equivalent file) to always deactivate environments before exiting the shell:

[ "$VIRTUAL_ENV" ] && deactivate