Python PyInstaller on Linux

Table of contents:

Thanks to PyInstaller it is now easy to create the installation for a Python based project you distribute to: Linux, Windows or MacOS. In here I will examine the PyInstaller on Linux.

When on Linux, you cannot create the final executable for Windows or MacOS, that would be the PyInstaller limitation.

This is why for each OS (Operating System) you should build separate distributable executable.

In other words, PyInstaller doesn’t have the platform switch, like Python Kivy or C# Unity tools that are cross platform.

Install the PyInstaller

First step would be to download PyInstaller from PyPi, but it is even easier to install it using pip:

pip install pyinstaller

If you are not sure you have the latest PyInstaller version already you can try to install and upgrade:

pip install --upgrade pyinstaller

From now on, you can call pyinstaller from the command line.

Experiment: creating the installation

Let’s make our fingers dirty with some code. Let’s create a program you can distribute to any Linux platform even if Python is not installed. In other words we will create the Linux standalone executable as the output of this experiment.

First we create a folder called /content to hold our experiment. In there we create a file called

# save as
import datetime
now =
print ("Current date and time : ")
print (now.strftime("%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S"))

Check here how to work with Python date and time in detail.

Assuming we installed the PyInstaller already, we are now ready to create the one-file standalone executable.

pyinstaller --onefile

If we list the /content folder, we will get the following output. Wow!

list of files

If we now execute the file command to check the file type for the getdatetime:

file /content/dist/getdatetime

We get the output this is ELF Linux executable:

/content/dist/getdatetime: ELF 64-bit LSB executable, x86-64, version 1 (SYSV), dynamically linked, interpreter /lib64/l, for GNU/Linux 2.6.32, BuildID[sha1]=294d1f19a085a730da19a6c55788ec08c2187039, stripped

To run the executable we simple type from the command line:



Date and time is: 
2020-02-22 11:35:15

This is how simple it is; to create independent executable you may run on any Linux, with or without Python installed.

What will PyInstaller do?

We had originally just a single file, and after the PyInstaller command we have several files and folders more:


build/ folder is where PyInstaller prepares the distribution executable and stores that to dist/ folder. The getdatetime.spec is a specification file that PyInstaller creates the first time you run it.

You can edit the getdatetime.spec file and name your output executable other way.

When PyInstaller output is not a single file

There is another way. You can run PyInstaller with this command:

pyinstaller --onedir

This time we use --onedir switch. Inside the dist folder we now have different output. Recall that with the --onefile option we had just a single file output.

list of files

There are many .so files inside our dist folder. Files with .so extension are Shared Objects files. In Windows these would be .dlls. Under Linux you can get some feedback on .so files using ldd command.

To run the final executable and to get the output we should call from the command line:



Date and time is: 
2020-02-22 12:02:15

Command line arguments

Basic switches:

-h, –help show this help message and exit  
-v, –version Show program version info and exit.  
–distpath DIR Where to put the bundled app (default: ./dist)  
–workpath WORKPATH Where to put all the temporary work files, .log, .pyz and etc. (default: ./build)  
-y, –noconfirm Replace output directory –upx-dir UPX_DIR Path to UPX utility (default: search the execution path)
-a, –ascii Do not include unicode encoding support (default: included if available)  
–clean Clean PyInstaller cache and remove temporary files before building.  
–log-level LEVEL Amount of detail in build-time console messages. LEVEL may be one of TRACE, DEBUG, INFO, WARN, ERROR, CRITICAL (default: INFO).  

Output to generate:

-D, –onedir Create a one-folder bundle containing an executable (default)
-F, –onefile Create a one-file bundled executable.
–specpath DIR Folder to store the generated spec file (default: current directory)
-n NAME, –name NAME Name to assign to the bundled app and spec file (default: first script’s basename)

tags: install - installer - linux & category: python