Python on A Hard Wheel

How to build and distribute binary wheels on your Mac for every Mac.

Wheel is a distribution file format for Python, which was introduced a few years ago with PEP427. In case you have no knowledge about wheel, you should read the PEP. If you are a fan of Armin Ronacher, you might like to read Python on Wheels.

The wheel format is designed as a binary package format. I had never tried bdist_rpm, because I don't use Red Hat based systems. I had never tried eggs, which I believe belongs to the old world. Actually, I had never tried to upload any binary package to PyPI. When I publish a libary, I publish it as a source package.

I had a try on wheel recently. It wasn't a pleasant experience. It takes me too much time to create the powerful format for a binary library:


If you take a look at Cython PyPI, you would find the wheels end with this format. But you can't simply build the wheel yourself.

PyPI currently only allows uploading platform-specific wheels for Windows and Mac OS X. Linux is not included. But it is still useful to create wheels for these platforms, better than nothing.

For pure Python, a wheel would be something like:

# python bdist_wheel --universal

Building wheels for pure Python is easy. Building binary wheels for all Mac OSX is not. At the very first, I created wheels for mistune:


It is good. But I've seen the wheel for Cython, Pandas and Numpy. They all end with the complex filename. WTF. Did I miss something? The PEP describes the file name format as:

{distribution}-{version}(-{build tag})?-{python tag}-{abi tag}-{platform tag}.whl

The different ending is platform tag:

  1. mistune is the distribution name
  2. 0.4 is package version
  3. cp27 is python tag
  4. none is ABI tag
  5. macosx_10_4_x86_64 is platform tag

I've read the source code of, it turned out that the platform tag was generated by distutils.util.get_platform(). Why is my platform tag macosx_10_4_x86_64? Why can't I build a macosx_10_6_intel.macosx_10_9_intel.macosx_10_9_x86_64.whl? I've googled a lot. The result was not good enough. After all, I've found what I need, Spinning wheels. In this very wiki, I've learnt the popular Pythons and their platform tags.

Python source Python version OSX version get_platform() 2.7 10.9 macosx-10.6-intel
System Python 2.7 10.9 macosx-10.9-intel
Macports 2.7 10.9 macosx-10.9-x86_64
Homebrew 2.7 10.9 macosx-10.9-x86_64 3.4 10.9 macosx-10.6-intel 2.7 10.7 macosx-10.6-intel
System Python 2.7 10.7 macosx-10.7-intel

My platform tag is not in the table, because I was using the Python created by pyenv. When I tried the System Python, the wheel turned out:


In the wiki of Spinning wheels, I've learnt the very important idea, a macosx_10_6_intel would be compatible with macosx_10_9_intel and macosx_10_9_x86_64. In this case, you can simply rename the filename from macosx_10_6_intel to:


Because having a fat binary includes having x86_64, so is compatible with x86_64-only builds. Stuff compiled with the 10.6 SDK should also be compatible with stuff built against later SDK versions (up to and including 10.9).

In the wiki MacPython OSX wheel building, a Travis CI approach is teached to you. You can build the idea wheel with Travis CI, which is exactly the way pandas and numpy are using.

But what if I want to build the wheels on my own machine? All I need is a Python with platform macosx_10_6_intel. But why did pyenv create the python with platform tag macosx_10_4_x86_64?

The source code of pythonz tells me that macosx_10_4 is defined by environ variable MACOSX_DEPLOYMENT_TARGET, and intel can be created by configure options --enable-universalsdk=/ --with-universal-archs=intel when building Python. Since I've switched to pyenv, it would be done with the shell profile:

# bash and zsh
export PYTHON_CONFIGURE_OPTS="--enable-universalsdk=/ --with-universal-archs=intel"

Installing python with pyenv:

$ pyenv install 2.7.8

The compiled python would be macosx_10_6_intel now. Check the platform tag:

>>> import distutils.util
>>> print(distutils.util.get_platform())

You can install as many pythons as you like, such as 3.3.5 and 3.4.1, so that you can create wheels for Python 3.3 and Python 3.4.

The final patch for would make it easy to create powerful Mac wheels:

from wheel.bdist_wheel import bdist_wheel
class _bdist_wheel(bdist_wheel):
def get_tag(self):
tag = bdist_wheel.get_tag(self)
repl = 'macosx_10_6_intel.macosx_10_9_intel.macosx_10_9_x86_64'
if tag[2] == 'macosx_10_6_intel':
tag = (tag[0], tag[1], repl)
return tag
cmdclass = {'bdist_wheel': _bdist_wheel}
except ImportError:
cmdclass = {}
# ...
# ...

I would suggest that you use this patch for binary wheel. A simple renaming is not as good as this one patch. This patch would change the platform tag, and write the information to the wheel meta:

# file: mistune-0.4.dist-info/WHEEL
Wheel-Version: 1.0
Generator: bdist_wheel (0.24.0)
Root-Is-Purelib: false
Tag: cp27-none-macosx_10_6_intel
Tag: cp27-none-macosx_10_9_intel
Tag: cp27-none-macosx_10_9_x86_64

But a simple renaming would not add those tags to wheel meta. If you dare have a look at pandas wheel meta:

# file: pandas-0.14.1.dist-info/WHEEL
Wheel-Version: 1.0
Generator: bdist_wheel (0.24.0)
Root-Is-Purelib: false
Tag: cp27-none-macosx_10_6_intel

It has no tag for macosx_10_9_intel and macosx_10_9_x86_64.

This is how I created wheels for mistune. I'd try windows later (or never).

$ python bdist_wheel upload

Update: I am using Travis CI to build wheels for mistune now. It will upload the wheels to GitHub releases.