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Python Enhancement Proposals

PEP 722 – Dependency specification for single-file scripts

Paul Moore <p.f.moore at>
Brett Cannon <brett at>
Discourse thread
Standards Track
Discourse thread

Table of Contents


This PEP specifies a format for including 3rd-party dependencies in a single-file Python script.


Not all Python code is structured as a “project”, in the sense of having its own directory complete with a pyproject.toml file, and being built into an installable distribution package. Python is also routinely used as a scripting language, with Python scripts as a (better) alternative to shell scripts, batch files, etc. When used to create scripts, Python code is typically stored as a single file, often in a directory dedicated to such “utility scripts”, which might be in a mix of languages with Python being only one possibility among many. Such scripts may be shared, often by something as simple as email, or a link to a URL such as a Github gist. But they are typically not “distributed” or “installed” as part of a normal workflow.

One problem when using Python as a scripting language in this way is how to run the script in an environment that contains whatever third party dependencies are required by the script. There is currently no standard tool that addresses this issue, and this PEP does not attempt to define one. However, any tool that does address this issue will need to know what 3rd party dependencies a script requires. By defining a standard format for storing such data, existing tools, as well as any future tools, will be able to obtain that information without requiring users to include tool-specific metadata in their scripts.


Because a key requirement is writing single-file scripts, and simple sharing by giving someone a copy of the script, the PEP defines a mechanism for embedding dependency data within the script itself, and not in an external file.

We define the concept of a dependency block that contains information about what 3rd party packages a script depends on.

In order to identify dependency blocks, the script can simply be read as a text file. This is deliberate, as Python syntax changes over time, so attempting to parse the script as Python code would require choosing a specific version of Python syntax. Also, it is likely that at least some tools will not be written in Python, and expecting them to implement a Python parser is too much of a burden.

However, to avoid needing changes to core Python, the format is designed to appear as comments to the Python parser. It is possible to write code where a dependency block is not interpreted as a comment (for example, by embedding it in a Python multi-line string), but such uses are discouraged and can easily be avoided assuming you are not deliberately trying to create a pathological example.

A review of how other languages allow scripts to specify their dependencies shows that a “structured comment” like this is a commonly-used approach.


The content of this section will be published in the Python Packaging user guide, PyPA Specifications section, as a document with the title “Embedding Metadata in Script Files”.

Any Python script may contain a dependency block. The dependency block is identified by reading the script as a text file (i.e., the file is not parsed as Python source code), looking for the first line of the form:

# Script Dependencies:

The hash character must be at the start of the line with no preceding whitespace. The text “Script Dependencies” is recognised regardless of case, and the spaces represent arbitrary whitespace (although at least one space must be present). The following regular expression recognises the dependency block header line:


Tools reading the dependency block MAY respect the standard Python encoding declaration. If they choose not to do so, they MUST process the file as UTF-8.

After the header line, all lines in the file up to the first line that doesn’t start with a # sign are considered dependency lines and are treated as follows:

  1. The initial # sign is stripped.
  2. If the line contains the character sequence “ # “ (SPACE HASH SPACE), then those characters and any subsequent characters are discarded. This allows dependency blocks to contain inline comments.
  3. Whitespace at the start and end of the remaining text is discarded.
  4. If the line is now empty, it is ignored.
  5. The content of the line MUST now be a valid PEP 508 dependency specifier.

The requirement for spaces before and after the # in an inline comment is necessary to distinguish them from part of a PEP 508 URL specifier (which can contain a hash, but without surrounding whitespace).

Consumers MUST validate that at a minimum, all dependencies start with a name as defined in PEP 508, and they MAY validate that all dependencies conform fully to PEP 508. They MUST fail with an error if they find an invalid specifier.


The following is an example of a script with an embedded dependency block:

# In order to run, this script needs the following 3rd party libraries
# Script Dependencies:
#    requests
#    rich     # Needed for the output
#    # Not needed - just to show that fragments in URLs do not
#    # get treated as comments
#    pip @

import requests
from rich.pretty import pprint

resp = requests.get("")
data = resp.json()
pprint([(k, v["title"]) for k, v in data.items()][:10])

Backwards Compatibility

As dependency blocks take the form of a structured comment, they can be added without altering the meaning of existing code.

It is possible that a comment may already exist which matches the form of a dependency block. While the identifying header text, “Script Dependencies” is chosen to minimise this risk, it is still possible.

In the rare case where an existing comment would be interpreted incorrectly as a dependency block, this can be addressed by adding an actual dependency block (which can be empty if the script has no dependencies) earlier in the code.

Security Implications

If a script containing a dependency block is run using a tool that automatically installs dependencies, this could cause arbitrary code to be downloaded and installed in the user’s environment.

The risk here is part of the functionality of the tool being used to run the script, and as such should already be addressed by the tool itself. The only additional risk introduced by this PEP is if an untrusted script with a dependency block is run, when a potentially malicious dependency might be installed. This risk is addressed by the normal good practice of reviewing code before running it.

How to Teach This

The format is intended to be close to how a developer might already specify script dependencies in an explanatory comment. The required structure is deliberately minimal, so that formatting rules are easy to learn.

Users will need to know how to write Python dependency specifiers. This is covered by PEP 508, but for simple examples (which is expected to be the norm for inexperienced users) the syntax is either just a package name, or a name and a version restriction, which is fairly well-understood syntax.

Users will also know how to run a script using a tool that interprets dependency data. This is not covered by this PEP, as it is the responsibility of such a tool to document how it should be used.

Note that the core Python interpreter does not interpret dependency blocks. This may be a point of confusion for beginners, who try to run python and do not understand why it fails. This is no different than the current status quo, though, where running a script without its dependencies present will give an error.

In general, it is assumed that if a beginner is given a script with dependencies (regardless of whether they are specified in a dependency block), the person supplying the script should explain how to run that script, and if that involves using a script runner tool, that should be noted.


This section is non-normative and simply describes “good practices” when using dependency blocks.

While it is permitted for tools to do minimal validation of requirements, in practice they should do as much “sanity check” validation as possible, even if they cannot do a full check for PEP 508 syntax. This helps to ensure that dependency blocks that are not correctly terminated are reported early. A good compromise between the minimal approach of checking just that the requirement starts with a name, and full PEP 508 validation, is to check for a bare name, or a name followed by optional whitespace, and then one of [ (extra), @ (urlspec), ; (marker) or one of (<!=>~ (version).

Scripts should, in general, place the dependency block at the top of the file, either immediately after any shebang line, or straight after the script docstring. In particular, the dependency block should always be placed before any executable code in the file. This makes it easy for the human reader to locate it.

Reference Implementation

Code to implement this proposal in Python is fairly straightforward, so the reference implementation can be included here.

import re
import tokenize
from packaging.requirements import Requirement

DEPENDENCY_BLOCK_MARKER = r"(?i)^#\s+script\s+dependencies:\s*$"

def read_dependency_block(filename):
    # Use the tokenize module to handle any encoding declaration.
    with as f:
        # Skip lines until we reach a dependency block (OR EOF).
        for line in f:
            if re.match(DEPENDENCY_BLOCK_MARKER, line):
        # Read dependency lines until we hit a line that doesn't
        # start with #, or we are at EOF.
        for line in f:
            if not line.startswith("#"):
            # Remove comments. An inline comment is introduced by
            # a hash, which must be preceded and followed by a
            # space.
            line = line[1:].split(" # ", maxsplit=1)[0]
            line = line.strip()
            # Ignore empty lines
            if not line:
            # Try to convert to a requirement. This will raise
            # an error if the line is not a PEP 508 requirement
            yield Requirement(line)

A format similar to the one proposed here is already supported in pipx and in pip-run.

Rejected Ideas

Why not include other metadata?

The core use case addressed by this proposal is that of identifying what dependencies a standalone script needs in order to run successfully. This is a common real-world issue that is currently solved by script runner tools, using implementation-specific ways of storing the data. Standardising the storage format improves interoperability by not typing the script to a particular runner.

While it is arguable that other forms of metadata could be useful in a standalone script, the need is largely theoretical at this point. In practical terms, scripts either don’t use other metadata, or they store it in existing, widely used (and therefore de facto standard) formats. For example, scripts needing README style text typically use the standard Python module docstring, and scripts wanting to declare a version use the common convention of having a __version__ variable.

One case which was raised during the discussion on this PEP, was the ability to declare a minimum Python version that a script needed to run, by analogy with the Requires-Python core metadata item for packages. Unlike packages, scripts are normally only run by one user or in one environment, in contexts where multiple versions of Python are uncommon. The need for this metadata is therefore much less critical in the case of scripts. As further evidence of this, the two key script runners currently available, pipx and pip-run do not offer a means of including this data in a script.

Creating a standard “metadata container” format would unify the various approaches, but in practical terms there is no real need for unification, and the disruption would either delay adoption, or more likely simply mean script authors would ignore the standard.

This proposal therefore chooses to focus just on the one use case where there is a clear need for something, and no existing standard or common practice.

Why not use a marker per line?

Rather than using a comment block with a header, another possibility would be to use a marker on each line, something like:

# Script-Dependency: requests
# Script-Dependency: click

While this makes it easier to parse lines individually, it has a number of issues. The first is simply that it’s rather verbose, and less readable. This is clearly affected by the chosen keyword, but all of the suggested options were (in the author’s opinion) less readable than the block comment form.

More importantly, this form by design makes it impossible to require that the dependency specifiers are all together in a single block. As a result, it’s not possible for a human reader, without a careful check of the whole file, to be sure that they have identified all of the dependencies. See the question below, “Why not allow multiple dependency blocks and merge them?”, for further discussion of this problem.

Finally, as the reference implementation demonstrates, parsing the “comment block” form isn’t, in practice, significantly more difficult than parsing this form.

Why not use a distinct form of comment for the dependency block?

A previous version of this proposal used ## to identify dependency blocks. Unfortunately, however, the flake8 linter implements a rule requiring that comments must have a space after the initial # sign. While the PEP author considers that rule misguided, it is on by default and as a result would cause checks to fail when faced with a dependency block.

Furthermore, the black formatter, although it allows the ## form, does add a space after the # for most other forms of comment. This means that if we chose an alternative like #%, automatic reformatting would corrupt the dependency block. Forms including a space, like # # are possible, but less natural for the average user (omitting the space is an obvious mistake to make).

While it is possible that linters and formatters could be changed to recognise the new standard, the benefit of having a dedicated prefix did not seem sufficient to justify the transition cost, or the risk that users might be using older tools.

Why not allow multiple dependency blocks and merge them?

Because it’s too easy for the human reader to miss the fact that there’s a second dependency block. This could simply result in the script runner unexpectedly downloading extra packages, or it could even be a way to smuggle malicious packages onto a user’s machine (by “hiding” a second dependency block in the body of the script).

While the principle of “don’t run untrusted code” applies here, the benefits aren’t sufficient to be worth the risk.

Why not use a more standard data format (e.g., TOML)?

First of all, the only practical choice for an alternative format is TOML. Python packaging has standardised on TOML for structured data, and using a different format, such as YAML or JSON, would add complexity and confusion for no real benefit.

So the question is essentially, “why not use TOML?”

The key idea behind the “dependency block” format is to define something that reads naturally as a comment in the script. Dependency data is useful both for tools and for the human reader, so having a human readable format is beneficial. On the other hand, TOML of necessity has a syntax of its own, which distracts from the underlying data.

It is important to remember that developers who write scripts in Python are often not experienced in Python, or Python packaging. They are often systems administrators, or data analysts, who may simply be using Python as a “better batch file”. For such users, the TOML format is extremely likely to be unfamiliar, and the syntax will be obscure to them, and not particularly intuitive. Such developers may well be copying dependency specifiers from sources such as Stack Overflow, without really understanding them. Having to embed such a requirement into a TOML structure is an additional complexity – and it is important to remember that the goal here is to make using 3rd party libraries easy for such users.

Furthermore, TOML, by its nature, is a flexible format intended to support very general data structures. There are many ways of writing a simple list of strings in it, and it will not be clear to inexperienced users which form to use.

Another potential issue is that using a generalised TOML parser can in some cases result in a measurable performance overhead. Startup time is often quoted as an issue when running small scripts, so this may be a problem for script runners that are aiming for high performance.

And finally, there will be tools that expect to write dependency data into scripts – for example, an IDE with a feature that automatically adds an import and a dependency specifier when you reference a library function. While libraries exist that allow editing TOML data, they are not always good at preserving the user’s layout. Even if libraries exist which do an effective job at this, expecting all tools to use such a library is a significant imposition on code supporting this PEP.

By choosing a simple, line-based format with no quoting rules, dependency data is easy to read (for humans and tools) and easy to write. The format doesn’t have the flexibility of something like TOML, but the use case simply doesn’t demand that sort of flexibility.

Why not use (possibly restricted) Python syntax?

This would typically involve storing the dependencies as a (runtime) list variable with a conventional name, such as:

__requires__ = [

Other suggestions include a static multi-line string, or including the dependencies in the script’s docstring.

The most significant problem with this proposal is that it requires all consumers of the dependency data to implement a Python parser. Even if the syntax is restricted, the rest of the script will use the full Python syntax, and trying to define a syntax which can be successfully parsed in isolation from the surrounding code is likely to be extremely difficult and error-prone.

Furthermore, Python’s syntax changes in every release. If extracting dependency data needs a Python parser, the parser will need to know which version of Python the script is written for, and the overhead for a generic tool of having a parser that can handle multiple versions of Python is unsustainable.

Even if the above issues could be addressed, the format would give the impression that the data could be altered at runtime. However, this is not the case in general, and code that tries to do so will encounter unexpected and confusing behaviour.

And finally, there is no evidence that having dependency data available at runtime is of any practical use. Should such a use be found, it is simple enough to get the data by parsing the source - read_dependency_block(__file__).

It is worth noting, though, that the pip-run utility does implement (an extended form of) this approach. Further discussion of the pip-run design is available on the project’s issue tracker.

Why not embed a pyproject.toml file in the script?

First of all, pyproject.toml is a TOML based format, so all of the previous concerns around TOML as a format apply. However, pyproject.toml is a standard used by Python packaging, and re-using an existing standard is a reasonable suggestion that deserves to be addressed on its own merits.

The first issue is that the suggestion rarely implies that all of pyproject.toml is to be supported for scripts. A script is not intended to be “built” into any sort of distributable artifact like a wheel (see below for more on this point), so the [build-system] section of pyproject.toml makes little sense, for example. And while the tool-specific sections of pyproject.toml might be useful for scripts, it’s not at all clear that a tool like ruff would want to support per-file configuration in this way, leading to confusion when users expect it to work, but it doesn’t. Furthermore, this sort of tool-specific configuration is just as useful for individual files in a larger project, so we have to consider what it would mean to embed a pyproject.toml into a single file in a larger project that has its own pyproject.toml.

In addition, pyproject.toml is currently focused on projects that are to be built into wheels. There is an ongoing discussion about how to use pyproject.toml for projects that are not intended to be built as wheels, and until that question is resolved (which will likely require some PEPs of its own) it seems premature to be discussing embedding pyproject.toml into scripts, which are definitely not intended to be built and distributed in that manner.

The conclusion, therefore (which has been stated explicitly in some, but not all, cases) is that this proposal is intended to mean that we would embed part of pyproject.toml. Typically this is the [project] section from PEP 621, or even just the dependencies item from that section.

At this point, the first issue is that by framing the proposal as “embedding pyproject.toml”, we would be encouraging the sort of confusion discussed in the previous paragraphs - developers will expect the full capabilities of pyproject.toml, and be confused when there are differences and limitations. It would be better, therefore, to consider this suggestion as simply being a proposal to use an embedded TOML format, but specifically re-using the structure of a particular part of pyproject.toml. The problem then becomes how we describe that structure, without causing confusion for people familiar with pyproject.toml. If we describe it with reference to pyproject.toml, the link is still there. But if we describe it in isolation, people will be confused by the “similar but different” nature of the structure.

It is also important to remember that a key part of the target audience for this proposal is developers who are simply using Python as a “better batch file” solution. These developers will generally not be familiar with Python packaging and its conventions, and are often the people most critical of the “complexity” and “difficulty” of packaging solutions. As a result, proposals based on those existing solutions are likely to be unwelcome to that audience, and could easily result in people simply continuing to use existing adhoc solutions, and ignoring the standard that was intended to make their lives easier.

Why not infer the requirements from import statements?

The idea would be to automatically recognize import statements in the source file and turn them into a list of requirements.

However, this is infeasible for several reasons. First, the points above about the necessity to keep the syntax easily parsable, for all Python versions, also by tools written in other languages, apply equally here.

Second, PyPI and other package repositories conforming to the Simple Repository API do not provide a mechanism to resolve package names from the module names that are imported (see also this related discussion).

Third, even if repositories did offer this information, the same import name may correspond to several packages on PyPI. One might object that disambiguating which package is wanted would only be needed if there are several projects providing the same import name. However, this would make it easy for anyone to unintentionally or malevolently break working scripts, by uploading a package to PyPI providing an import name that is the same as an existing project. The alternative where, among the candidates, the first package to have been registered on the index is chosen, would be confusing in case a popular package is developed with the same import name as an existing obscure package, and even harmful if the existing package is malware intentionally uploaded with a sufficiently generic import name that has a high probability of being reused.

A related idea would be to attach the requirements as comments to the import statements instead of gathering them in a block, with a syntax such as:

import numpy as np # requires: numpy
import rich # requires: rich

This still suffers from parsing difficulties. Also, where to place the comment in the case of multiline imports is ambiguous and may look ugly:

from PyQt5.QtWidgets import (
    QCheckBox, QComboBox, QDialog, QDialogButtonBox,
    QGridLayout, QLabel, QSpinBox, QTextEdit
) # requires: PyQt5

Furthermore, this syntax cannot behave as might be intuitively expected in all situations. Consider:

import platform
if platform.system() == "Windows":
    import pywin32 # requires: pywin32

Here, the user’s intent is that the package is only required on Windows, but this cannot be understood by the script runner (the correct way to write it would be requires: pywin32 ; sys_platform == 'win32').

(Thanks to Jean Abou-Samra for the clear discussion of this point)

Why not simply manage the environment at runtime?

Another approach to running scripts with dependencies is simply to manage those dependencies at runtime. This can be done by using a library that makes packages available. There are many options for implementing such a library, for example by installing them directly into the user’s environment or by manipulating sys.path to make them available from a local cache.

These approaches are not incompatible with this PEP. An API such as


import rich
import click


is certainly feasible. However, such a library could be written without the need for any new standards, and as far as the PEP author is aware, this has not happened. This suggests that an approach like this is not as attractive as it first seems. There is also the bootstrapping issue of making the env_mgr library available in the first place. And finally, this approach doesn’t actually offer any interoperability benefits, as it does not use a standard form for the dependency list, and so other tools cannot access the data.

In any case, such a library could still benefit from this proposal, as it could include an API to read the packages to install from the script dependency block. This would give the same functionality while allowing interoperability with other tools that support this specification.

# Script Dependencies:
#     rich
#     click

import rich
import click


Why not just set up a Python project with a pyproject.toml?

Again, a key issue here is that the target audience for this proposal is people writing scripts which aren’t intended for distribution. Sometimes scripts will be “shared”, but this is far more informal than “distribution” - it typically involves sending a script via an email with some written instructions on how to run it, or passing someone a link to a gist.

Expecting such users to learn the complexities of Python packaging is a significant step up in complexity, and would almost certainly give the impression that “Python is too hard for scripts”.

In addition, if the expectation here is that the pyproject.toml will somehow be designed for running scripts in place, that’s a new feature of the standard that doesn’t currently exist. At a minimum, this isn’t a reasonable suggestion until the current discussion on Discourse about using pyproject.toml for projects that won’t be distributed as wheels is resolved. And even then, it doesn’t address the “sending someone a script in a gist or email” use case.

Why not use a requirements file for dependencies?

Putting your requirements in a requirements file, doesn’t require a PEP. You can do that right now, and in fact it’s quite likely that many adhoc solutions do this. However, without a standard, there’s no way of knowing how to locate a script’s dependency data. And furthermore, the requirements file format is pip-specific, so tools relying on it are depending on a pip implementation detail.

So in order to make a standard, two things would be required:

  1. A standardised replacement for the requirements file format.
  2. A standard for how to locate the requirements file for a given script.

The first item is a significant undertaking. It has been discussed on a number of occasions, but so far no-one has attempted to actually do it. The most likely approach would be for standards to be developed for individual use cases currently addressed with requirements files. One option here would be for this PEP to simply define a new file format which is simply a text file containing PEP 508 requirements, one per line. That would just leave the question of how to locate that file.

The “obvious” solution here would be to do something like name the file the same as the script, but with a .reqs extension (or something similar). However, this still requires two files, where currently only a single file is needed, and as such, does not match the “better batch file” model (shell scripts and batch files are typically self-contained). It requires the developer to remember to keep the two files together, and this may not always be possible. For example, system administration policies may require that all files in a certain directory are executable (the Linux filesystem standards require this of /usr/bin, for example). And some methods of sharing a script (for example, publishing it on a text file sharing service like Github’s gist, or a corporate intranet) may not allow for deriving the location of an associated requirements file from the script’s location (tools like pipx support running a script directly from a URL, so “download and unpack a zip of the script and its dependencies” may not be an appropriate requirement).

Essentially, though, the issue here is that there is an explicitly stated requirement that the format supports storing dependency data in the script file itself. Solutions that don’t do that are simply ignoring that requirement.

Should scripts be able to specify a package index?

Dependency metadata is about what package the code depends on, and not where that package comes from. There is no difference here between metadata for scripts, and metadata for distribution packages (as defined in pyproject.toml). In both cases, dependencies are given in “abstract” form, without specifying how they are obtained.

Some tools that use the dependency information may, of course, need to locate concrete dependency artifacts - for example if they expect to create an environment containing those dependencies. But the way they choose to do that will be closely linked to the tool’s UI in general, and this PEP does not try to dictate the UI for tools.

There is more discussion of this point, and in particular of the UI choices made by the pip-run tool, in the previously mentioned pip-run issue.

What about local dependencies?

These can be handled without needing special metadata and tooling, simply by adding the location of the dependencies to sys.path. This PEP simply isn’t needed for this case. If, on the other hand, the “local dependencies” are actual distributions which are published locally, they can be specified as usual with a PEP 508 requirement, and the local package index specified when running a tool by using the tool’s UI for that.

Open Issues

None at this point.


Last modified: 2023-10-21 10:30:17 GMT