Packaging Python Web Applications: A Professional Guide

Deploying a Python web application requires more than just writing the code. To ensure that your application can be easily installed, distributed, and managed, proper packaging is essential.

This article aims to guide you through the step-by-step process of packaging a Python web application, touching on best practices to ensure your application is both efficient and secure.


Establishing Dependencies: The ‘requirements.txt’ File
Start by identifying all dependencies your application needs to function correctly. These dependencies are recorded in a ‘requirements.txt’  file.

Command to Generate ‘requirements.txt’:

$ pip freeze > requirements.txt

Selecting a Packaging Tool
Choose a packaging tool that best fits your needs. The most commonly used tools are ‘setuptools,’  ‘distutils,’  and  ‘wheel.’  The ‘setuptools’ is not a command by itself, but it’s a Python library used for packaging, distributing, and installing Python packages. It provides a collection of tools for building, installing, and distributing Python software.

Crafting the ‘’  File
The ‘’  file serves as the configuration hub for your application’s package. It provides metadata and instructs the chosen packaging tool on how to package your application. When you call ‘setuptools.setup’ in your ‘’ script, you typically pass several keyword arguments that provide metadata and other information about the package you’re creating.

Building the Application Package
After configuring the ‘’  file, proceed to build your application package. This process typically creates a source distribution and a ‘wheel’  file for your application.

Command to Build the Package:

$ python sdist bdist_wheel

Output Directories:

dist: Contains .tar.gz (source archive) and .whl (Wheel archive)
your_app.egg-info: Contains metadata

Isolating the Application: Virtual Environments
Using a virtual environment like ‘venv’ ensures that your application is isolated, making dependency management easier and more secure.

Managing Sensitive Data: Environment Variables
Avoid hard-coding sensitive data such as API keys. Instead, make use of environment variables.

Setting Environment Variables:

$ export MY_API_KEY=your_actual_key_here

Handling Static Files and Assets
Web applications often require static files like CSS, JS, and images. To manage these effectively, you can use extensions like ‘Flask’s Flask-Collect.’

Preparing for Production: WSGI Servers
Before deploying, make sure your application is compatible with WSGI servers like ‘gunicorn’  or ‘uWSGI.’  These servers are designed to handle Python web applications in a production environment.