Bottom Line: In many cases Python’s built-in zipapp module can create executables that rely only on a Python interpreter.

I had heard a few months ago that youtube-dl provided a single binary executable basically by adding a shebang to a zip archive. I looked it up and sure enough, their process looks pretty straightforward and is right in their Makefile. Today I got around to playing with this technique and came across the built-in zipapp module, which has been around for several Python versions, and I’m shocked that I haven’t used it before.

The module’s documentation is good, and there’s even a great article on it. I’ll walk you through a very simple example app that even uses a third-party dependency (the httpx library) and a basic CLI.

  1. Create a folder to hold your code: mkdir -p myappdir
  2. Put the following content into myappdir/
     from argparse import ArgumentParser
     import httpx
     def main():
         parser = ArgumentParser("Gets a few lines from")
         parser.add_argument("--count", type=int, default=5)
         args = parser.parse_args()
         resp = httpx.get("")
         print(resp.text.splitlines()[: args.count])
     if __name__ == "__main__":
  3. Install our dependency (httpx) into myappdir: python3 -m pip install -t myappdir httpx
  4. Sanity check: make sure it runs $ python3 myappdir/
    • You should see some output starting with ['<!DOCTYPE html>', '<html>'
  5. Create your executable: $ python3 -m zipapp -p "/usr/bin/env python3" -m app:main -c -o myapp myappdir
    • -m zippapp: use the zippapp module
    • -p "/usr/bin/env python3": use this as the shebang / interpreter (no #! required)
    • -m app:main use the main function of the module as the entrypoint
    • -c: enable compression (for me 2.1M vs 4.1M in this case)
    • -o myapp: name the resulting executable myapp
    • myappdir: the directory containing your code and dependencies
  6. Test that it works: ./myapp --help
  7. Move myapp to a different directory and test that it still works: ./myapp

I found this to be surprisingly easy and worked better than I had expected, even with third party dependencies. There are a few limitations:

  • Projects with compiled / C dependencies don’t seem to work (I tried with numpy, for example)
  • You still need a Python interpreter available
  • Future python verions might be incompatible with your existing code or dependencies, so if you upgrade your interpreter your executable might break
  • Don’t name your container directory the same thing that you’ll want your executable to be named, since obviously you can’t have a file and folder with the same name in the same place (this is why I renamed the directory to myappdir/ instead of myapp/)

Regardless, for the right project, this is an easy way to make a redistributable and fairly self-contained Python-based tool that doesn’t require your users to pip install anything or mess around with venvs, homebrew, nix, etc. I highly encourage you to read the module documentation and realpython article linked above for more in-depth information.