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How to Run Your Python Scripts? [Step-by-Step Guide]

27th Jun, 2024
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    How to Run Your Python Scripts? [Step-by-Step Guide]

    If you are planning to enter the world of Python programming, the first and the most essential skill you should learn is knowing how to run Python script and code. Once you grab a seat in the show, it will be easier for you to understand whether the code will actually work or not. To learn more about sys.argv command line argument, click here.   

    Python, being one of the leading programming languages, has a relatively easy syntax which makes it even easier for the ones who are in their initial stage of learning the language. Also, it is the language of choice for working with large datasets and data science projects. Get certified learn more about Python Programming and apply those skills and knowledge in the real world.

    What is a Python Script?

    A Python script is your way to automation and problem-solving in the Python. In Python script you will see the file ending in .py  extension. Inside the script, you can write clear instructions using Python code. These instructions can automate tasks, perform calculations, or even define functions reusable throughout your programs.  The top benefit of  Python is easy readability, making script creation and understanding much easier than some other languages. 

    Is Python a Programming Language or a Scripting Language?

    Basically, all scripting languages are considered to be programming languages. The main difference between the two is that programming languages are compiled, whereas scripting languages are interpreted

    Scripting languages are slower than programming languages and usually sit behind them. Since they only run on a programming language subset, they have less access to a computer’s local abilities. 

    Python can be called a scripting language as well as a programming language since it works both as a compiler and an interpreter. Standard Python can compile Python code into bytecodes and then interpret it just like Java and C.

    However, considering the historical relationship between the general-purpose programming language and the scripting language, it would be more appropriate to say that Python is a general-purpose programming language that works nicely as a scripting language too.

    The Python Interpreter

    The interpreter is a layer of software that works as a bridge between the program and the system hardware to keep the code running. A Python interpreter is an application that is responsible for running Python scripts.

    The Python Interpreter works on the Read-Eval-Print-Loop (REPL) environment.

    • Reads the command
    • Evaluates the command
    • Prints the result
    • Loops back and the process gets repeated

    The interpreter terminates when we use the exit() or quit() command otherwise the execution keeps on going.

    A Python Interpreter runs code in two ways:  

    • In the form of a script or module.
    • In the form of a piece of code written in an interactive session.

    Starting the Python Interpreter

    The simplest way to start the interpreter is to open the terminal and then use the interpreter from the command line.

    To open the command-line interpreter:

    • On Windows, the command line is called the command prompt or MS-DOS console. A quicker way to access it is to go to the Start menu  Run and type cmd.
    • On GNU/Linux, the command line can be accessed by several applications like xterm, Gnome Terminal or Konsole.
    • On MAC OS X, the system terminal is accessed through Applications → Utilities → Terminal

    Methods to Run a Script in Python

    The four methods to run a python script are:

    • Interactive Mode
    • Command Line
    • Text Editor (VS Code)
    • IDE (PyCharm)

    How to Run Python Code Interactively?

    Running Python code through an interactive session is an extensively used way. An interactive session is an excellent development tool to venture with the language and allows you to test every piece of Python code on the go.

    To initiate a Python interactive session, type python in the command line or terminal and hit the ENTER key from the keyboard.

    An example of how to do this on Windows:

    Python 3.7.2 (tags/v3.7.2:9a3ffc0492, Dec 23 2018, 23:09:28) [MSC v.1916 64 bit (AMD64)] on win32
    Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license()" for more information.

    The >>> on the terminal represents the standard prompt for the interactive mode. You need to re-install Python on your system if you do not see these characters.

    The statements you write when working with an interactive session are evaluated and executed immediately:

    print('HELLO WORLD!')
    2 + 3
    print('Welcome to the world of PYTHON')
    Welcome to the world of PYTHON 

    The only disadvantage is when you close the interactive session, the code no longer exists.

    How to Run Python Script by the Interpreter?

    The term Python Execution Model is given to the entire multi-step process of running Python script.

    1. At first, the statements or expressions of your script are processed in a sequential manner by the interpreter. 
    2. Then the code is compiled into a form of instruction set called the bytecode.
      Basically, the code is converted into a low-level language known as bytecode. It is an intermediate, machine-independent code that optimizes the process of code execution. So, the interpreter ignores the compilation step when executing the code for the next time.
    3. Finally, the interpreter transfers the code for execution.
      The Python Virtual Machine (PVM) is the ultimate step of the Python interpreter process. It is a part of the Python environment installed in your system. The PVM loads the bytecode in the Python runtime, reads each operation, and executes them as indicated. It is the component that actually runs your scripts.

    How to Run Python Script Using Command-Line?

    The most sought-after way to write a Python program is using a plain text editor. The code written in the Python interactive session is lost once it is closed, though it allows the user to write many lines of code. On Windows, the files use the .py extension.  

    If you are at the beginning of working with Python, you can use editors like Sublime or Notepad++ which are easy to use, or any other text editors.

    Once you've written your script, you may wonder how to run a Python script. This is generally done through the command line by navigating to the directory containing your script and typing python filename.py.

    Now you need to create a test script. In order to do that, open your most-suited text editor and write the following code:

    print('Hello World!')

    Then save the file on your desktop with the name first_script.py or anything you like. Remember you need to give the .py extension only.

    1. Using the python command

    The most basic and easy way to run a Python script is by using the python command. You need to open a command line and type the word python followed by the path to your script file like this:

    python first_script.py
    Hello World!

    Then you hit the ENTER button from the keyboard, and that's it. You can see the phrase Hello World! on the screen. Congrats! You just ran your first Python script. 

    However, if you do not get the output, you might want to check your system PATH and the place where you saved your file. If it still doesn’t work, re-install Python in your system and try again.

    2. Redirecting output

    Windows and Unix-like systems have a process called stream redirection. You can redirect the output of your stream to some other file format instead of the standard system output. It is useful to save the output in a different file for later analysis.

    An example of how you can do this:

    python first_script.py > output.txt

    What happens is your Python script is redirected to the output.txt file. If the file doesn’t exist, it is systematically created. However, if it already exists, the contents are replaced.

    3. Running modules with the -m option

    A module is a file that contains the Python code. It allows you to arrange your Python code in a logical manner. It defines functions, classes, and variables and can also include runnable code.

    If you want to run a Python module, there are a lot of command-line options that Python offers according to the needs of the user. One of which is the command 

     python -m <module-name>. 

    It searches the module name in the sys.path and runs the content as

    python -m first_script
    Hello World!

    Note that the module-name is a module object and not any string.

    How to Use Script Filename?

    Windows makes use of the system registers and file association to run Python scripts. It determines the program needed to run that particular file. You need to simply enter the file name containing the code.

    An example of how to do this using the command prompt:

    C:\Users\Local\Python\Python37> first_script.py
    Hello World!

    On GNU/Linux systems, you need to add a line before the text— #!/usr/bin/env python. Python considers this line nothing but the operating system considers it everything. It helps the system decide what program should it use to run the file.

    The character combination #!, known as hashbang or shebang is what the line starts with, which is then followed by the interpreter path.

    Finally, to run scripts, assign execution permissions and configure the hashbang line and then simply type the filename in the command line:

    #Assign the execution permissions
    chmod +x first_script.py
    #Run script using its filename
    Hello World!

    However, if it doesn’t work, you might want to check whether the script is located in your current working directory. Otherwise, you can use the path of the file for this method. 

    How to Run Python Scripts Using an IDE or Text Editor?

    An Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is an application that allows a developer to build software within an integrated environment in addition to the required tools.

    You can use the Python IDLE, a default IDE of the standard Python Distribution to write, debug, modify, and run your modules and scripts. You can use other IDEs like Spyder, PyCharm, Eclipse, and Jupyter Notebook, allowing you to run your scripts inside its environment.

    You can also use popular text editors like Sublime and Atom to run Python scripts.

    To run a Python script from your IDE or text editor, you must create a project first. Once it is created, add your .py file to it, or you can just simply create one using the IDE. Finally, run it, and you can see the output on your screen.

    How to Run Python Script Interactively?

    As we have discussed earlier, running Python scripts in an interactive session is the most common way of writing scripts and offers a wide range of possibilities.

    A. Using Import

    Importing a module means loading its contents so that they can be later accessed and used. It is the most usual way of invoking the import machinery. It is analogous to #include in C or C++. Using import, the Python code in one module gets access to the code in another module. 

    An implementation of the import:

    import first_script
    Hello World!

    You can see its execution only when the module contains calls to functions, methods, or other statements which generate visible output.

    One important thing to note is that the import option works only once per session. This is because these operations are expensive.

    For this method to work efficiently, you should keep the file containing the Python code in your current working directory, and also the file should be in the Python Module Search Path (PMSP). The PMSP is the place where the modules and packages are imported.

    You can run the code below to know what’s in your current PSMP:

    import sys
    for path in sys.path:

    You’ll get the list of directories and .zip files where your modules and packages are imported.

    B. Using importlib

    importlib is a module that is an implementation of the import statement in Python code. It contains the import_module whose work is to execute any module or script by imitating the import operation.

    An example of performing this:

    import importlib
    Hello World!
    <module 'first_script' from '\Users\Local\Python37\first_script.py'>

    importlib.reload() is used to re-import the module since you cannot use import to run it for the second time. Even if you use import after the first time, it will do nothing. importlib.reload() is useful when you want to modify and test your changes without exiting the current session.

    The following code shows that:

    import first_script #First import
    Hello World!
    import first_script
    import importlib #Second import does nothing
    Hello World!
    <module 'first_script' from '\Users\Local\Python37\\first_script.py'>

    However, you can only use a module object and not any string as the argument of reload(). If you use a string as an argument, it will show a TypeError as follows:

    Traceback (most recent call last):
      raise TypeError("reload() argument must be a module")
    TypeError: reload() argument must be a module

    C. Using runpy.run_module() and runpy.run_path()

    The Python Standard Library has a module named runpy. run_module() is a function in runpy whose work is to execute modules without importing them in the first place. 

    The module is located using import and then executed. The first argument of the run_module() must contain a string:

    import runpy
    Hello World!
    {'__name__': 'first_script',
    '_': None}}

    Similarly, runpy contains another function run_path() which allows you to run a module by providing a location.

    An example of such is as follows:

    import runpy
    Hello World!
    {'__name__': '<run_path>',
    '_': None}}

    Both the functions return the globals dictionary of the executed module.

    D. Run Python script Using exec()

    Other than the most commonly used ways to run Python script, there are other alternative ways. One such way is by using the built-in function exec(). It is used for the dynamic execution of Python code, be it a string or an object code.

    An example of exec() is:

    Hello World!

    E. Run Python Script Using py_compile

    py_compile is a module that behaves like the import statement. It generates two functions— one to generate the bytecode from the source file and another when the source file is invoked as a script.

    You can compile your Python script using this module:

    import py_compile

    The py_compile generates a new subdirectory named "__pycache__" if it doesn’t already exist. Inside the subdirectory, a Compiled Python File (.pyc) version of the script file is created. When you open the .pyc file, you can see the output of your Python script.

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    How to Run Python Scripts from a File Manager?

    If you want to run your Python script in a file manager, all you need to do is just double-click on the file icon. This option is mainly used in the production stage after you have released the source code.

    However, to achieve this, some conditions must be met:

    • On Windows, to run your script by double-clicking on them, you need to save your script file with the extension .py for python.exe and .pyw for pythonw.exe.

    If you are using the command line for running your script, you might likely come through a situation where you’ll see a flash of a black window on the screen. To avert this, include a statement at the tail of the script — input(‘Enter’). This will exit the program only when you hit the ENTER key. Note that the input() function will work only if your code is free of errors.

    • On GNU/Linux and other Unix-like systems, your Python script must contain the hashbang line and execution permissions. Otherwise, the double-click trick won’t work in a file manager.

    Though it is easy to execute a script by just double-clicking on the file, it isn’t considered a feasible option because of the limitations and dependency factors it comes with, like the operating system, the file manager, execution permissions, and also file associations.


    Working with scripts has its own advantages. They are easy to learn and use, faster editing and running, interactivity, functionality, and so on. They are also used to automate complex tasks in a simplified manner.

    In this article, you have learned to run advanced Python scripts using:  

    • The terminal or the command line of the operating system.
    • The Python Interactive session.
    • Your favorite IDE or text editor.
    • The system file manager.

    Here, you have gathered the knowledge and skills of how to run Python scripts using various techniques. You will feel more comfortable working with larger and more complex Python environments, which will enhance the development process and increase efficiency. You can learn more about such techniques with KnowledgeHut Python Programming courses. 

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1How do I compile and run .py files?

    To compile and run .py files, save your code with a .py extension. Open your command prompt and go to the directory where you have saved your file, and type 'python your_file.py'. f you're using an editor like PyCharm, just hit the "Run" button. 

    2What are the 2 ways to execute Python program?

    In order to execute a Python Program, you can either execute a code line by line and see immediate results or create and save a file with .py extension and execute it using a Python interpreter for larger programs or automation tasks. 

    3How do I run Python in terminal?

    In order to run Python in the terminal, simply type python and hit Enter. This will launch the Python interpreter, allowing you to execute Python code directly in the terminal. You can exit the interpreter by typing exit() or pressing Ctrl + D. 


    Ramulu Enugurthi

    Blog Author

    Ramulu Enugurthi, a distinguished computer science expert with an M.Tech from IIT Madras, brings over 15 years of software development excellence. Their versatile career spans gaming, fintech, e-commerce, fashion commerce, mobility, and edtech, showcasing adaptability in multifaceted domains. Proficient in building distributed and microservices architectures, Ramulu is renowned for tackling modern tech challenges innovatively. Beyond technical prowess, he is a mentor, sharing invaluable insights with the next generation of developers. Ramulu's journey of growth, innovation, and unwavering commitment to excellence continues to inspire aspiring technologists.

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