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Running a Python script from the command line is a fundamental skill for modern software developers. This process involves using a text-based interface, such as Command Prompt on Windows or Terminal on macOS and Linux, to input commands. By running scripts directly from the command line, developers bypass the graphical user interface of a code editor or an Integrated Development Environment (IDE), offering a quick and resource-efficient way to execute code.

Running Python Scripts from the Command Line


  1. Python Installation: Make sure you have Python installed on your system. If not, download it from the official Python website (https://www.python.org/).
  2. Script Location: Know the path to the Python script you intend to run.


  1. Open Command Line:
    • Windows: Search for “cmd” in the start menu and open the Command Prompt.
    • macOS/Linux: Search for “Terminal” and open it.
  2. Navigate to the Script Directory:
    • Use the cd command followed by the path to your script’s directory.
    • Example: cd C:\Users\YourName\Documents\PythonProjects
  3. Execute the Script:
    • Type python script_name.py and press Enter. Replace script_name.py with the actual filename of your Python script.
    • Example: python hello_world.py

Example (Windows):

Let’s assume you have a script named “hello_world.py” in C:\Users\YourName\Desktop:

  1. Open Command Prompt.
  2. Type: cd C:\Users\YourName\Desktop and press Enter.
  3. Type: python hello_world.py and press Enter.

Additional Notes:

  • Direct Execution: If Python is in your system’s PATH environment variable, you might be able to run the script from anywhere by just typing python script_name.py.
  • Redirecting Output: You can redirect the script’s output to a file using >. Example: python script_name.py > output.txt
  • Shebang Line: For more convenient execution, consider adding a shebang line (#!/usr/bin/env python) at the beginning of your script. This requires some operating system-specific setup.

Configuring the Python development environment correctly is crucial, ensuring that the Python interpreter is accessible from the command line. Once this environment is set up, developers can execute a wide range of Python scripts without the need for more complex tools. Using simple commands, one can run small scripts to test functionalities, or larger ones for full-fledged applications.

Key Takeaways

  • Running Python scripts via the command line is efficient and bypasses the need for a graphical interface.
  • Proper setup of the Python environment is essential for command line execution of scripts.
  • Command line use provides a direct way to test and run programs of any size.

Setting Up the Python Environment

Before diving into the wonderful world of Python programming, it’s crucial to have the right setup. Think of it as creating a comfy workspace for your projects. This includes making sure Python is installed correctly, selecting tools to write your code, and understanding how to navigate and organize your files.

Installing Python and Setting the Path

To get started, Python needs to be installed on your computer. It’s a simple process: just download the installer from the official Python website and run it. During the installation, there’s a checkbox option to add Python to the PATH environment variable – don’t miss it! This small step makes running Python from any directory a breeze.

  • Windows: Python.com offers an executable installer. Remember to click ‘Add Python to PATH’ before the final install.
  • Mac/Linux: Python is often pre-installed. Open the terminal and type python or python3 to check. If it’s not there, visit Python.org or use a package manager like brew on Mac.

Choosing an IDE or Text Editor

A good development environment is your best friend for coding. An IDE (Integrated Development Environment) like PyCharm, Spyder, or IDLE comes with handy tools all in one place. They’re perfect for beginners. If you prefer something lighter, text editors such as Visual Studio Code, Sublime Text, or Atom are great options. They’re fast and customizable.

  • IDEs: They offer complete packages, including debuggers and file managers.
  • Text Editors: More lightweight, often enhanced via plugins for Python development.

Understanding Python Files and Directories

In Python, everything is organized into files and directories. Your scripts are saved with a .py extension — for example, hello.py.

  • Working Directory: This is the folder where your Python file lives. You can change it using the cd command in the terminal, so Python knows where to look.
  • Running Scripts: Navigate to your script’s directory and type python filename.py to execute it. Simple as that.

With this setup, writing and executing Python code becomes a structured and efficient process.

Executing Python Scripts from the Command Line

Knowing how to execute Python scripts using the command line interface can be a game-changer for anyone working with Python. The command line allows you to run scripts quickly and pass in arguments to tailor the script’s execution.

Running Scripts Interactively

To run Python code interactively, you can use the command line to start a Python shell by entering python or python3, depending on your system. This interactive shell, called REPL (Read-Eval-Print Loop), lets you write and execute code line by line. The output appears immediately, which makes it perfect for testing and debugging your code.

Commands and Arguments for Script Execution

When executing scripts directly, use the command python3 scriptname.py, replacing scriptname with your file’s name. To pass arguments to your script, add them after the file name, separated by spaces. These arguments are accessible in the script using Python’s sys.argv list, with sys.argv[0] holding the name of the script and subsequent indexes containing each argument.

Executing Modular Python Code

Python enables modular execution by treating scripts as modules. If your script is part of a larger project, you can run it using the -m option followed by the module name, like so: python3 -m module_name. First, ensure your file is in a directory that Python can find. Then, use the import statement to access functions and classes from different parts of your code.

Handling Permissions and Execution Details

Before you run a script on Unix-like systems, you may need to change its permissions. Use the chmod +x scriptname.py command to make your Python script executable. Also, adding a shebang line (#!/usr/bin/env python3) at the top of your Python script makes it portable across different environments. It instructs the system to run the script with your default Python interpreter.

Frequently Asked Questions

Running a Python script from the command line is straightforward, but the exact steps can vary depending on your operating system. Here are the answers to some common questions to help you get started with confidence.

How do I execute a Python script in the terminal on a Linux system?

On a Linux system, open the terminal and navigate to the directory containing your Python script. Then type python3 script_name.py, replacing script_name.py with your file’s name, and press Enter.

What is the process for running a Python script in the Command Prompt on Windows 10?

For Windows 10, open the Command Prompt and change the directory to where your Python script is located using the cd command. Then enter python script_name.py or python3 script_name.py if you are using Python 3, followed by Enter.

What steps should I follow to run a Python script from the command line on a Mac?

To run a Python script on a Mac, open the Terminal, and use the cd command to move to the script’s directory. Next, type python3 script_name.py and hit Enter to execute the script.

How can I run a Python script in Windows using CMD?

Running a script in Windows using CMD is similar to the process on Windows 10. Open CMD, navigate to your script’s folder, and type python script_name.py or python3 script_name.py for Python 3, then press Enter.

What is the command to run a Python file from the Python shell?

From the Python shell, you can run a script by typing exec(open('script_name.py').read()). Make sure to replace ‘script_name.py’ with the path and name of your Python file.

How can arguments be passed to a Python script via the command line?

To pass arguments to a script, add them after the script name in the command line. For example: python script_name.py arg1 arg2. Access these arguments in your script using the sys.argv list from the sys module.

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