Installing Python using Macports (beginner guide)
posted on August 1, 2015

Note that I now change from Macports to Homebrew

I think package management system is good for long-term installation. Since lab members use a lot of Apple product, I wrote Macports documentation which is package management system for Mac OSX which hopefully will be useful for members who use Mac. Note that this is not an official document but probably an easy way to get start with Macports. Macports depends mostly by its community and ones who update the port. We may have to migrate our ports when Mac announce new operating system. From my experience, it is normal to have some port problem with macports when new Mac operating system, for example, when Maverick or Yosemite was announced or when new XCode version were updated. It will take some time (a day or a week) for them to update the new port that are compatible with new operating system. But yeah, most ports work very well even though OS changes since the community is very active.


In order to install Macports. Firstly, we need to install Xcode (see also the version of Xcode you have is not too old) and its commandline tools, X11 and some other things first. Then, we will install macports from the macports website (see your OS and download the right one). All available ports are on this site. Note that the port name that are related to python2.7 will be in the form of py27-... or py-... e.g. py27-ipython, py27-pandas, py27-numpy, py27-scipy, py27-scikits-lean, py27-matplotlib. The name is different from pip install. More note is to make sure that we have installed the command line in XCode. In order to check whether we have installed commandline tools in XCode and have Macports up-to-date, you can type as follow:

sudo xcode-select --install
sudo port -v selfupdate

As I have seen from now selfupdate should not take that long time. If it takes too long, probably something was wrong such as XCode version or Macports that we have installed. Also add macports path to ~/.bash_profile to include macports path (i.e. emacs ~/.bash_profile) as follows:

export PATH="/opt/local/bin:/opt/local/sbin:$PATH"

Installing Python 2.7

After we get macports installed, there are almost 18000 ports that we can install from git, emacs, vim to video downloader like youtube-dl or music player like cmus. A lot of ports will have dependencies (we can check on the website above). When we download one port, its dependencies will come together. However, when we want to uninstall each port, we again need to uninstall its dependencies first before uninstall it. For python27 (or python version 2.7), I have some recommendation command line as follow:

sudo port install vim
sudo port install emacs
sudo port install git
sudo port install python27
sudo port install py27-matplotlib py27-numpy py27-scipy py27-ipython +notebook
sudo port install opencv +python27
sudo port install py27-pip

Emacs and Vim are classic text editors and also in this case, we use it to prove that our installation before worked. pip is a package management to help you install python packages. We can use pip to install python library and update library. And to check recent version, install package and upgrade, we can use following commands:

pip list --outdated
sudo pip install 'package name'
sudo pip install --upgrade 'package name'

Additional useful library including pandas(data analysis library) and scikits-learn(machine learning library):

sudo port install py27-pandas py27-scikits-learn

Installing from source code

Sometimes, if you want to install developing version of the package or you want to install package that macports does not provide. We can use git to clone source code directly and install. Here is an example of how to install tornado package (other packages works in similar flow).

git clone
cd tornado
python build
sudo python install

Select Python version and run

We want to set usual python command to replace python27 and also ipython. This is the way to setup,

sudo port select --set python python27 (or python33 in the future)
sudo port select --set ipython ipython27

We can run python by typing given command line in the terminal by either of this command line:

ipython notebook --profile 'profile_name'

Some useful Macports command line

The full documentation link is given if you want to search for more command. However, I have some command that I mostly use including how to install specific port, uninstall ports and search ports.

To uninstall or uninstall with dependent port:

sudo port uninstall 'portname'
sudo port uninstall --follow-dependents 'portname'

This command will print the list of port that we have installed and will note active if the port are currently in used

port installed

This command line is used to update the Macport itself. Options can be added such as -d, -v, -f, to see how it works search for bash options, for example.

sudo port selfupdate

Once in a while, we can run this line to uninstall inactive ports.

sudo port uninstall inactive

I know sometime we mess up the port and may have no way to fix it. This is how to uninstall all ports and lets start installing all again!

sudo port -fp uninstall installed

Another useful port commands include:

Some UNIX command line