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Emmanuel Oyibo
Emmanuel Oyibo

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How to install Python Libraries in Visual Studio Code

Python libraries are essential tools for developers. They contain pre-built code (functions and modules), making coding easier and faster. Libraries help solve common problems and enable developers to build complex applications efficiently.

Visual Studio Code (VS Code) is a popular code editor for Python development. It’s known for its versatility, many extensions, and easy-to-use interface. These features make VS Code ideal for managing and working with Python libraries.

This guide will show you how to install and manage Python libraries effectively using VS Code.


Before installing Python libraries in VS Code, let’s make sure you have the necessary tools ready to go:

Installing Python

  1. Head over to the official Python website and download the latest version.

  2. Run the installer and follow the on-screen instructions. It’s crucial to check the “Add Python to PATH” box during installation. This allows you to use Python from your terminal or command prompt easily.

Installing Visual Studio Code:

  1. Visit the official VS Code website and download the installer for your operating system.

  2. Run the installer and follow the setup wizard to install VS Code.

Setting up the Python Extension:

  1. Launch VS Code.

  2. Click on the Extensions icon in the Activity Bar on the left (it looks like four squares) or press Ctrl+Shift+X (or CMD+Shift+X on macOS).

  3. Search for “Python” in the marketplace and install the official Microsoft Python extension.

  4. If prompted, restart VS Code to make sure the extension is loaded and ready to use.

Setting Up Your Python Environment

You can think of a Python environment as a self-contained space for your project and its libraries. It’s like a dedicated toolbox where you keep everything you need, organized and separated from other projects.

This is crucial because different projects often need different versions of the same libraries.

Virtual environments are a special kind of Python environment that isolates your project’s libraries from other projects on your computer. This prevents conflicts and makes your projects more reliable.

Creating a Virtual Environment in VS Code

VS Code makes it easy to create these virtual environments. Now, let’s find out how to go about creating one:

  1. Open the terminal: In VS Code, go to the menu bar and click on “Terminal” then “New Terminal.” This opens a terminal window right inside VS Code.

  2. Go to your project folder: If you’re not already here, use the cd command to navigate to the folder where your project is located.

  3. Create the environment: Type the following command and press ENTER:

    $ python -m venv env

    The above command creates a new folder called env in your project directory. This folder will hold your virtual environment and all the libraries you install for the project.

Activating the Virtual Environment

Now, you need to “activate” the virtual environment to tell Python to use it. This is pretty simple:

  1. In the terminal: Type the following command depending on your operating system:

    On Windows:

    $ .\\env\\Scripts\\activate

    On macOS and Linux:

    $ source env/bin/activate
  2. Check the prompt: Your terminal prompt should now show the name of your environment in parenthesis (e.g., (env)) to indicate it’s active.

Any Python libraries you install using pip will be placed inside your virtual environment, keeping your project neatly organized and conflict-free.

Installing Python Libraries Using the Integrated Terminal

With our virtual environment activated, it’s time to stock up on those libraries that make Python even more powerful! VS Code’s built-in terminal makes this super easy, so you don’t have to leave your editor.

First, click on “Terminal” in the top menu and choose “New Terminal.” A terminal window will pop up right inside VS Code.

Installing Libraries with pip

Once your terminal is open, we’ll use pip, Python’s package installer. It’s like your personal shopping cart for Python libraries.

Let’s take a look at the basic command:

$ pip install <library_name>
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All you need to do is replace <library_name> with the name of the library you want.

For example, you can install Numpy, which is a library for numerical computation and working with arrays, using the command:

$ pip install numpy
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Also, you can install Pandas, which is used for data manipulation and analysis using the command:

$ pip install pandas
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pip will find the library you requested, download it, and install it directly into your virtual environment.

Verifying the Installation

To verify the libraries you installed using pip, you can use the command as follows:

$ pip list
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This command will show you a list of all the libraries you have installed, along with their versions. Then you need to go through the list to ensure your libraries are present.

Managing Libraries With requirements.txt

A requirements.txt file lists all the dependencies for your project, making it easy to share and install the required libraries.

This file ensures that everyone working on the project uses the same library versions, which helps maintain consistency and avoid compatibility issues.

How to Create and Use requirements.txt

Let’s take a look at how you can create and use requirements.txt for your projects:

  1. Making the list: In VS Code, open the terminal (inside your activated virtual environment) and run the command:

    $ pip freeze > requirements.txt

    This creates a requirements.txt file in your project folder and fills it up with all the installed libraries and their versions.

  2. Installing from the list: To install those same libraries in a new environment (or on a different computer), open the terminal in that environment and run:

    $ pip install -r requirements.txt

    pip will read the file and install everything for you.

For example, let’s say you installed Numpy and Pandas for your project. Your requirements.txt file will look similar:

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The == part tells pip to install those exact versions.

Now, anyone with your requirements.txt file can set up the same environment you’re using just in a few seconds.

Using the Visual Studio Code Interface for Library Management

Visual Studio Code offers various extensions that help manage Python libraries directly from the interface. One such extension is the Python Environment Manager, which simplifies the process of managing virtual environments and libraries without the need to use the terminal extensively.

How to Install and Use an Extension

Let’s take a look at the step-by-step process of installing and using a VS Code extension:

  1. Find your extension: Open the Extension Marketplace in VS Code (click the square icon on the left sidebar or hit Ctrl+Shift+X or CMD+Shift+X on a Mac).

  2. Install: Search for “Python Environment Manager” (or another library management extension that catches the eye) and click “Install.”

  3. Get started: Once it’s installed, you need to restart VS Code. Then, activate the extension by selecting your project’s interpreter using the command “Python: Select Interpreter” in the Command Palette (Ctrl+Shift+P or CMD+Shift+P).

  4. Library management made easy: Now you can explore the extension’s interface. It usually shows you a list of your installed libraries. You can click on a library to see details, update it, or remove it. Installing new libraries is as easy as searching for them by name and clicking “Install.”

Using the Extension to Manage Python Libraries

After installing the Python Environment Manager extension, managing your Python libraries becomes much easier. You can create and activate virtual environments directly from the interface, providing a seamless workflow.

The extension allows you to search for and install libraries without leaving Visual Studio Code. For instance, you can search for “Numpy” in the extension and click “Install.” This simplifies the process of adding libraries to your project.

Additionally, the extension offers features to update or remove libraries. This ensures you have full control over your project’s dependencies. This eliminates the need to remember various pip commands, making library management more accessible and user-friendly.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Installing Python libraries isn’t always a smooth ride. Sometimes you might run into some hiccups along the way. But don’t worry, most issues are easy to fix.

Here are some common problems and how to solve them:

Installation Errors:

  • Check the basics: First, make sure you’ve installed Python and pip correctly. Also, confirm that Python is added to your system’s PATH.

  • Permission problems: If you’re getting errors about not having permissions to install, try using the --user flag:

    $ pip install --user <library_name>

    This installs the library only for your user account.

  • Consult the Docs: If you see an error message you don’t understand, check the library’s official documentation.

Compatibility Issues:

  • Version conflicts: Sometimes, libraries don’t play nicely together because they need different versions of the same dependency. Your best bet is to use virtual environments to keep each project’s library separate.

  • Read the fine print: Library documentation usually specifies which versions of other libraries they work well with.

  • Requirements file to the rescue: Pinning specific library versions in your requirements.txt file ensures everyone uses the same versions and avoids conflicts. You can add version numbers like this: numpy==1.20.3.


This guide gives you the knowledge and skills to confidently install, manage, and troubleshoot Python Libraries within Visual Studio Code.

You’ve learned the importance of virtual environments for keeping your projects organized. Also, you’ve mastered using the integrated terminal for direct library installation and discovered how extensions can streamline workflow.

With these tools, you’re well-prepared to tackle any Python project.

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