Mix PEP 420 Python Packages With Old Style Packages#

Python 3.3 (!) introduced PEP 420 Implicit Namespace Packages. Prior to this format one had to put an __init__py file into each directory to make it a package.

But mixing the two styles is not easy, and the documentation is not very clear about it. What problems can arise, and how to solve them?

But first a quick recap of the two styles.

🐎 Old Style Packages#

The old, now outdated package structure was:

  • setup.py with

     from setuptools import find_packages
     from setuptools import setup
         # ...
         package_dir={"": "src"},
         namespace_packages=["firstns", "firstns.secondns"],
         # ...
  • src/firstns/__init__.py with

  • src/firstns/secondns/__init__.py with

  • an empty src/firstns/secondns/thirdactualpackage/__init__.py

  • in src/firstns/secondns/thirdactualpackage/ the actual Python files with code reside.

This is a lot of boilerplate code, and it is not easy to understand. There are variations of this, but this is the most common one.

🚀 New Style Packages#

The new style is much simpler.

  • First we do not have any setup.* files, but a pyproject.toml. It needs to have a build-system declared, I use setuptools here.

    # ...
    requires = ["setuptools>=61"]
    build-backend = "setuptools.build_meta"
    where = ["src"]
  • I create the directories and files needed like so:

    mkdir -p src/firstns/secondns/thirdactualpackage
    touch src/firstns/secondns/thirdactualpackage/__init__.py

That is all. No more boilerplate code than an empty __init__.py file.

🔏 Mixing the two styles#

If it comes to production environment with wheels, there are no problems at all.

If the packages are installed in editable mode, there are some serious problems.

You shall not mix old and new style editable packages of one namespace in one Python (virtual) environment. The new style package wont work.

❌ Failing example:

pip install -e sources/firstns.oldpackage
pip install -e sources/firstns.newpackage

firstns.oldpackage and firstns.newpackage are both editable packages in the same Python environment. firstns.oldpackage will work, but firstns.newpackage will not work. The same is valid for sub-namespaces. mainns.subns.oldpackage and mainns.subns.newpackage will not work together. Even if its done with different sub-namespaces in the same main-namespace it will fail to work.

One can mix old and new style packages of different namespaces in one Python environment.

✅ Working example:

pip install -e sources/firstns.oldpackage
pip install -e sources/secondns.newpackage

firstns.oldpackage and secondns.newpackage are both editable packages in the same Python environment. Both will work.

💡 So what to do?

Do not use editable old style packages together with editable new style packages in one namespace!

Anyway, if you have to touch the source of an old style package, it might be a good idea to convert it to the new style. Thus you avoid the problem.

I hope this helps to understand the problem and how to solve it.