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How to run Python apps on any platform

This post explains how to run Python apps on PC, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, or the web.

Published onMay 12, 2021

How to run Python

Want to know how to run Python? It sounds simple, but it can actually be tricky to figure this out. In this post, we’ll discuss how to test your Python code, as well as how to run Python in other contexts: online for example, or as a packaged app.

Sometimes, the thing holding you back from learning to code can be extremely simple. I remember wanting to learn to program when I was younger – or learning to take what I’d learned from BASIC on the ZX Spectrum and apply that to a modern environment. My problem? I didn’t know “where” to program. Once I understood C# or Java, where would I enter the code and how would I run it?

And whenever I asked someone, they would look at me blankly. What kind of a question is that?

Thing is, I had never needed an IDE or an interpreter before. Machines like the ZX Spectrum and Tatung Einstein (any other Einstein users out there?) simply booted up with a prompt to code into!

Many people have a similar issue with Python. They understand the code, but they don’t know how to run Python. Or how to turn their creation into an app that someone can download and buy. In fact, with Python it can occasionally be confusing even just to run a bunch of code.

Read on then, and learn how to run Python in any situation!

How to run Python apps

Before we dive into how to run Python, you first need to install the Python interpreter on your machine. You can find that from the below links:

We’ve also previously written guides on how to install Python and start coding on Windows, Mac, or Linux.

But this is only going to show you how to install the interpreter. This teaches your computer to understand Python, but it doesn’t give you anywhere to type and run apps.

Except that isn’t strictly true. Once you’ve installed this package, look for the program called Python Shell. This gives you a shell where you can type Python commands directly and have them run instantly. As soon as you press return, whatever statement you used will run.

But go to File > New File and you will be able to create a new .py file! Enter some code here, then go to: Run > Run Module. You’ll be prompted to save your file as a module (a compact piece of Python code that can be run from other scripts) and from there, your app will run!

That is how to run Python files.

Conversely, you can also run Python files using a number of different IDEs or editors. An IDE is an integrated development environment, which gives you an interface you can use to enter your code, test your apps, and see any errors you may have made while typing it out.

How to create executable Python files

Now you know how to run Python files, but what if you want to help other people to run your programs? Most people who don’t program won’t have Python installed on their machine, let alone access to an IDE or editor! If you ever plan on sharing or selling your creations, then this is a hurdle you will need to overcome.

Unfortunately, there is no built-in way to make Python files runnable on any machine. That’s because Python is a dynamic language unlike, say, like C#. Some creators get around this by including Python as part of the download, but that is hardly an elegant solution.

Fortunately, third-party solutions do exist. Two popular options are PyInstaller and Py2exe. Both of these will allow you to build new apps as .exe files. To download and use them, you will need to use PiP.

To install PyInstaller from PyPI on Linux or Mac, just type:

pip install pyinstaller

To do the same via Windows, run the command prompt (making sure to run as administrator) and then use:

py -m pip install pyinstaller

If you don’t have pip installed, you can usually do this by modifying your Python installation (search uninstall in your search bar, then choose your Python version and choose “modify”).

You’ll need to follow some additional steps to use either of these tools and actually build your .exe but you will find all the relevant instructions on the respective websites.

How to run Python web apps

One thing you’ll notice when trying to build a .exe from your Python code, is that it is not an intuitive or smooth process. That’s because this isn’t really what Python is for.

Python is typically more often used to create useful tools for IT professionals, such as information security specialists. However, it is also extremely useful for building web apps. In other words, Python is great if you want to build the next Google, Twitter, or Spotify. In this scenario, Python will run on a server and then display information to the visitor through the browser. Because the code is executed on the server, that means there is no requirement for the user to have Python installed. It also means there will be no slow down for the user.

However, what this also means is that you need to take the time to install Python on your browser. You’ll also probably need to install a web framework. A web framework provides packages and modules that let you easily build web apps with Python code. These frameworks do the heavy lifting for you by simplifying a wide range of common functions necessary for web design. This may include things like database lookups, handling cookies, displaying images, and more.

There are plenty of options out there if you’re interested in Python web frameworks. A great choice for beginners is Flask. This is a very light “microframework,” but it is also relatively simple compared with many other options.

Here’s a great tutorial I found online that can help you to get started:

Here is where you can get Flask and some documentation on how to use it.

Other good options include Django and Web2py. As always, these each have their own strengths and weaknesses, so you’ll need to find the right option for your intended purposes.

How to run Python on mobile

If you want to run Python on mobile, one of the easiest options is simply to download an IDE on your chosen platform. There is no need to download a separate interpreter, you can simply download the app and start typing and running your Python code. Two great options are:

If you want to make apps that you can distribute on mobile using Python though, you’ll probably want to use Kivy. Kivy is an open-source library for rapid cross-platform development. It supports multi-touch, an OpenGL ES 2 graphics engine, and other useful features for mobile development and is completely free to use.

So there you go! That’s how to run Python on a variety of platforms. Of course, you’ll need to do some tinkering to get some of these options to work (like web or mobile apps), but this post should have given you a good idea of where to start.

And now you know how to use your Python code, perhaps you’re ready to start building some apps? In that case, you should check out our guide to the best online Python courses.