Pip is not a workflow management tool

The core purpose of pip is to manage the packages installed in your environment. Whilst package management is an important part of most Python development workflows, it is only one part. Tasks like creating and managing environments, configuring and running development tasks, managing the Python interpreter itself, and managing the overall “project”, are not part of pip’s scope. Managing a development workflow as a whole is a complex task and one where there are many views on the “correct approach”.

Pip has a number of features which make it useful in development workflows - for example, the ability to install the current project via pip install ., editable installs, and requirements files. However, there is no intention that pip will manage the workflow as a whole.

As an example, pip provides the pip wheel command, which can be used to build a wheel for your project. However, there is no corresponding command to build a source distribution. This is because building a wheel is a fundamental step in installing a package (if that package is only available as source code), whereas building a source distribution is never needed when installing. Users who need a tool to build their project should use a dedicated tool like build, which provides commands to build wheels and source distributions.

The role of ensurepip

Pip is available in a standard Python installation, via the ensurepip stdlib module. This provides users with an “out of the box” installer, which can be used to gain access to all of the various tools and libraries available on PyPI. In particular, this enables the installation of a number of workflow tools.

This “bootstrapping” mechanism was proposed (and accepted) in PEP 453.

Further information

The Packaging User Guide discusses Python project development, and includes tool recommendations for people looking for further information on how to manage their development workflow.