Install Python Packages

This page decribes how to install a Python package in a CoCalc project.

CoCalc already includes hundreds of packages for several Python development environments.

Install requests

If a package may have general use but is not already installed in CoCalc, you can open a support request to install it. Uncomplicated install requests are typically handled within 1 business day for paying customers. Install will happen faster if you include as much as possible of the following information:

  • Which Python environment?
  • Which language version: 2 or 3?
  • A link to the package website
  • Special requirements and dependencies to build & install
  • A short but complete example, such that we can verify that we properly installed the software. This example might be included in internal tests, to make sure future updates do not break that library.

User installs

You can install additional packages yourself, but only at user-permission level. CoCalc accounts do not have superuser (root) privileges. Software must be installed into user-writeable parts of the filesystem, which are in /home/user (check the value of $HOME).


In a nutshell: a CoCalc project is a Linux user account under the username user. Therefore, installing software and libraries should usually be done in ~/.local (i.e. /home/user/.local), which is the canonical location for user installs. Furthermore, in case the documentation mentions to specify a custom “prefix” path, set this to ~/.local. Executables will install into ~/.local/bin and will work right away, because projects already include that path in their $PATH variable.

Install Python packages as a user


In the case of Python 2, $HOME/.local/lib/python2.7/site-packages/ will contain the package you’ve installed. Similarly, this path will contain python3.5 for a Python 3.5 executable.

In case your Python environment can’t find the package, you might have to add your ~/.local/... directory dynamically during runtime like that:

import sys, os
sys.path.insert(0, os.path.expanduser('~/.local/lib/python2.7/site-packages'))

Make sure, the path is correct. I.e. for Python 3 this could be one of python3.4, python3.5, python3.6


Pip is the “Python package manager”. It installs packages hosted at

If your package can be installed via pip, then run in a CoCalc Terminal file:

  • Python2: pip2 install --user [package-name]
  • Python3: pip3 install --user [package-name]


Regarding Python 2 vs. Python 3:

  • Python 2: use pip2 and python2/ipython2pip and python should default to these variants.
  • Python 3: use pip3 and python3/ipython3.


Your project must have the “Internet access” upgrade in order to download software from the pip repository to your project. The Python pip command will not work unless you upgrade your project to have internet access.

If your package is in a folder inside your project (e.g., you uploaded it) with a folder, you can do either python install --user or pip install --user --upgrade ./

(Some setup instructions alternatively mention python install --home)

If pip requires that any external dependencies be downloaded, then your project must have internet access.


You can avoid the need for --user flags if you work inside a Python virtual environment. See Virtualenv for more information.


A special case is [SageMath], which is a fully integrated environment built on top of Python. To install a Python package in Sage, it needs to also install into your local home directory. To accomplish that, first start the Sage-environment in a Terminal, and then issue the pip-install command with --user. For example:

  1. sage -sh for the sage environemnt
  2. pip install --user git+

If it happens that Sage doesn’t recognize packages in your local path, prepend them to your path via running

import site, sys
sys.path.insert(0, site.USER_SITE)


Inside that sage -sh environment, you can also run R to install additional R packages in Sage. This also works for other programming libraries.

You can also combine step (1) and (2) via sage --pip install --user ...

Sage Worksheets


In case you run a Sage Worksheet, you need to restart the worksheet server (in the project settings) and then the worksheet itself via the Restart button.


There are also other managers, which might fit your needs:


Install some software into my own Anaconda environment

The task below is to create a custom Anaconda overlay environment called myconda and, just for the sake of explanation,

  1. install “Microsoft’s Open R” (which is an enhanced version of R by Microsoft).
  2. Install the plotly library from PyPI

To get it installed in Anaconda as a user, do this:

  1. Open a terminal.

  2. Type anaconda5

  3. Type conda create -n myconda -c mro r This creates a new local environment called “myconda” (name it as you wish) with the package “r” as its source coming from the channel “mro” (Microsoft’s Open R). Instead of that, you can add any other anaconda package in that spot. The example from the documentation is biopython, see

  4. When installing, it briefly shows you that it ends up in ~/.conda/envs/myconda/.... in your local files. Now that we have it installed, we can get out of this “root” environment via source deactivate or restart the session. In any case, you are back in the the normal Linux terminal environment.

  5. Now run this: source ~/.conda/envs/myconda/bin/activate myconda Note that myconda is the name specified above, and the prompt switches to (myconda) $. Typing which R shows: /projects/xxx-xxx-xxx/.conda/envs/myconda/bin/R and of course, just running R gives:

    R version 3.2.3 (2015-12-10) -- "Wooden Christmas-Tree"
    Copyright (C) 2015 The R Foundation for Statistical Computing
    Platform: x86_64-pc-linux-gnu (64-bit)
    Microsoft R Open 3.2.3
    Default CRAN mirror snapshot taken on 2016-01-01
    The enhanced R distribution from Microsoft
  6. In the very same spirit, you can also run pip installations:

    (myconda)~$ pip install plotly
    Downloading/unpacking plotly
    Successfully installed plotly requests six pytz
    (myconda)~$ python -c 'import plotly; print(plotly)'
    <module 'plotly' from '/projects/20e4a191-73ea-4921-80e9-0a5d792fc511/.local/lib/python2.7/site-packages/plotly/__init__.pyc'>

Note that since I’m still in my own “myconda” overlay environment, the --user switch in pip install wasn’t necessary. (Otherwise, it would be necessary.)

Configure a Jupyter kernel for my custom Anaconda environment

With Anaconda’s conda environment and software manager, you can create custom environments with specific versions of Python, R, and their packages. This is similar to capabilities provided by Python’s environment manager, Virtualenv.

Suppose you want to create a custom Anaconda environment with the mdtraj package and be able to use this environment in a Jupyter notebook. Here’s how:

  1. Follow these steps in a .term file in CoCalc. In the last step, the display name of the new kernel is changed so that it does not duplicate the name of kernel installed by CoCalc:

    ~$ mkdir -p ~/.local/share/jupyter/kernels
    ~$ anaconda5
    (root) ~$ conda create --name mymdtraj mdtraj
    (root) ~$ source activate mymdtraj
    (mymdtraj) ~$ conda install ipykernel
    (mymdtraj) ~$ source deactivate
    ~$ mv ~/.conda/envs/mymdtraj/share/jupyter/kernels/python3 ~/.local/share/jupyter/kernels/mymdtraj
    ~$ open ~/.local/share/jupyter/kernels/mymdtraj/kernel.json
    ## change display_name from "Python 3" to "My mdtraj" and save the file
  2. Open a new Jupyter notebook in CoCalc.

  3. Click on the Kernel button and look for your new kernel, “My mdtraj”, or whatever you used for display_name in kernel.json. If you don’t see your new kernel, scroll to the bottom of the Kernel menu and click Refresh Kernel List, and your new kernel should appear.

  4. Select the new kernel. You will now be running the environment you created with the conda create command.