Correcting Install Paths#

Based on our experience of guiding users through the install process so far, we have found that the vast majority of technical issues arise due to incorrect paths to your Python distribution. Basically, your computer does not know where to look for the correct file or program and you need to tell it where to look using your system’s $PATH variable.


  1. Typing conda after an Anaconda install gives command not found.

  2. Typing which python and which ipython point to different locations, the files can’t be found, or one or other of these commands gives an error.

  3. The install procedure appeared to go fine, including the test import in the Python shell described at the end of the instructions, but now you can’t import Landlab from the Python prompt provided inside Anaconda.

  4. As above, but you can’t import Landlab from inside an iPython shell or from an iPython Notebook.

  5. Landlab appears to import OK (though there may be warnings or errors at the time of import), but when you try to use it you see lots of errors and warnings indicating it can’t find Python modules it needs (e.g., NumPy, SciPy).

You may have some subset of the above symptoms occurring together, but one is normally enough to indicate a Python conflict is the problem.

The Solution#

Path problems can be solved by editing your environmental variables. How you do this is system dependent. A rough outline for how to do this on MAC/LINUX or PC follows.


To set your path variables in a MAC/LINUX system, you will need to manually edit the .profile or .rc files for your terminal shell.

The most commonly used shell is bash. Both Anaconda and Canopy assume you’re running the Bash shell and will put the path to your install there.

To find out which shell you’re running, open a terminal window and type echo $SHELL from the prompt. Anything other than /bin/bash being returned will require a little more manual set up as described below.

Now that you know which shell you are using, find out where your computer is looking for your Python files. From the prompt, type echo $PATH.

You will see your PATH, a big long composite string containing lots of addresses that your computer searches—in order—to find the requested file. If you ask for python or conda, for example, it will return the first python or conda it finds in its path.

The key here is to understand that things nearer the front of the PATH get precedence.

Your goal is to simply have your new distribution appear near the beginning of the PATH that results when you type echo $PATH. And…that’s not so hard!

Here is how to edit your files to give you the correct path:

Go to your home directory by typing cd ~ from the prompt.

Now get a list of all the files in this folder, including the hidden ones:

ls -la

Have a thorough look at this list.

If you are using Bash, you’re looking for files called .profile and .bash_profile. Which you have will depend on your system configuration. If you have both, this is probably the root cause of your problem; .bash_profile overrides .profile if both are present. In this case, open .profile and copy everything you find inside across to .bash_profile.

For example, your profile likely contains several (possibly repeated) entries clearly referring to Canopy or “EPD” or Anaconda. You can safely comment out any old installs or repeated text in this file. (Remember, # is the “comment out” symbol in the Bash terminal). Make sure you don’t actually delete anything else, and we recommend you don’t actually remove the .profile file.

Use your favorite Unix editor to make the changes—almost all machines have nano, which is super basic, but works. Once you’re done, save (Ctrl-X, say yes to save in nano), then quit and restart any apps that are using Python—including the terminal app itself. Test if this solved your problem.

If you only have one of .bash_profile or .profile, open it in an editor and have a look. You’re looking for any obvious references to Python or your distribution (Anaconda, Canopy) on any of the uncommented-out lines. You’ll probably see several lines that look something like:

PATH="Users/<your user name>/Library/...:${PATH}"
export PATH

These lines are modifying your environment property PATH, by prepending the new path, Users/<your user name> /Library/..., to the old path, ${PATH}.

Lines closer to the end of the file can prepend folders closer to the beginning of your PATH.

In the rare case that you don’t see any reference to Anaconda at all, you will need to add the lines yourself. Add, for example, the following to the file:

export PATH=~/anaconda/bin:$PATH

As of this writing (11/2016), the default path for an Anaconda installation on OSX was in the User directory, which means the path command should look something like this:

export PATH="/Users/<your user name here>/anaconda/bin:$PATH"

If you are using a shell other than Bash, you can likely find the correct line of instruction in .bash_profile and then simply copy it and place it in your shell’s .profile and .rc files so that they point to your Anaconda binaries. However, your shell’s .profile and .rc files will have different names, so refer to this wikipedia page for some guidance on the names of configuation files for popular shells.

Note the syntax for the shell commands to do this will probably also be different in each shell! But since both Anaconda and Canopy assume you are using Bash, another clue will be to start with a copy of the (correct) path they placed in your .profile or .bash_profile file and copy that line to both the .profile and .rc files of the shell you are using.

The skinny: Find any references to the distribution you want and make sure they are inserted near the beginning of the path for the shell you are using. Alternatively, you can simply put the comment-out symbol # in front of the lines that are referring to the incorrect path you see when you type which python.


> which python
> which ipython

In both cases the path should be the same and reference your distribution.


On a PC, the same principle of modifying your environment variables applies, but you access them differently. Go to the Control Panel, then System. On Windows 8, you then want Advanced System Settings, though this will be similar on older OSes. Go to Advanced, then to the Environment Variables… button. Under User Variables, see if there is an entry called PATH. If there is, we will modify it. If there isn’t, we will create one. It is VERY IMPORTANT that you do not modify any existing text, especially under System Variables below.

As is the situation for Mac, above, the system reads these PATH strings from left to right, and stops once it has found what it is looking for. It also reads User before System variables. Hence, we want to add new strings to the left hand (start) of the existing text, if there is any.

First, scan the existing string(s) (including under System) to see if there is any reference to the Python distribution you are trying to set as default already there. e.g., my User PATH (running Anaconda cleanly) currently reads:


If you find a reference or references like this to the version you’re currently trying to run, copy the text, and add it (repeated) at the start of the User string. Copy this syntax—semicolons separate paths.

If you can’t find any reference to your chosen version (Canopy/Anaconda), you’ll need to add the PATH yourself. For Anaconda, assuming you installed it in the default directory, add the above string. For Canopy, use the “Set Canopy as default” option (“the easy way”), which really should work. See this page for more information on the PATHs used by Canopy if you’re still struggling.

If you are on Windows 10, you need to make sure you see these paths.

If you installed for a single user:


If you installed for all users:


Note, if you aren’t sure how you installed, just search for ‘Anaconda3’ on the main drive to find where it was installed.

Note that modifying the User Variables will only affect the current user account. Add the text—carefully!!—to the System Variables if you want the changes for all users.


> where python
> where ipython

In both cases the path should be the same and reference your distribution.

Other issues#

Other install issues often mean that some component of your Python distribution is out of date. A very common culprit is setuptools, which—extremely frustratingly—isn’t updated by a conda update --all call for Anaconda. Other packages can also cause this kind of problem if out of date. An example of a setuptools related error we’ve seen recently ends with:

error: unknown file type '.pyx' (from 'landlab/components/flexure/cfuncs.pyx')

…combined with warnings referencing a problem with PEP 440.

To our knowledge, this issue only arises for developer installs.

Resolve the issue by updating your distribution. For Anaconda, from a terminal just run:

> conda update --all
> conda update setuptools

Finally, if you are still having problems, you can use the nuclear option and start again from scratch.

For example, your Anaconda distribution is contained in one folder. You can move this folder to the trash and install a fresh version following the directions on the Anaconda site.

Update conda and pip, uninstall Landlab, and then install a fresh copy.