The conda command is the primary interface for managing installations of various packages. It can query and search the package index and current installation, create new environments, and install and update packages into existing conda environments.

Conda Overview

conda is an application for finding and installing software packages. A conda package is a binary tarball containing system-level libraries, Python modules, executable programs, or other components. conda keeps track of dependencies between packages and platform specifics, making it simple to create working environments from different sets of packages.

A conda environment is a filesystem directory that contains a specific collection of conda packages. As a concrete example, you might want to have one environment that provides NumPy 1.7, and another environment that provides NumPy 1.6 for legacy testing. conda makes this kind of mixing and matching easy. To begin using an environment, simply set your PATH variable to point to its bin directory.

Conda packages are downloaded from remote channels, which are simply URLs to directories containing conda packages. The conda command starts with a default set of channels to search, but users may exert control over this list; for example, if they wish to maintain a private or internal channel (see Configuration for details).

Continuum provides the following standard channels:
  • - Experimental or developmental versions of packages
  • - GPL licensed packages
  • - non GPL open source packages

To view all available packages, you can use conda search. See the search command examples for more information.

Once a conda package has been downloaded, it is said to be locally available. A locally available package that has been linked into an conda environment is said to be linked. Conversely, unlinking a package from an environment causes it to be unlinked.

Since conda environments are simply directories, they may be created anywhere. However, conda has a notion of locations which are also simply directories that are known to conda, and contain environments within. Conda environments created in such locations are said to be known, and can be displayed for easy reference. Conda has a default system location, but additional locations may be specified (see Directory Structure and Configuration, respectively, for more details).

Package Naming Conventions

Names and versions of software packages do not follow any prescribed rules. However, in order to facilitate communication and documentation, conda employs the following naming conventions with respect to packages:

package name
The name of a package, without any reference to a particular version. Conda package names are normalized, and may contain only lowercase alpha characters, numeric digits, underscores, or hyphens. In usage documentation, these will be referred to by package_name.
package version
A version number or string, often similar to X.Y or X.Y.Z, but may take other forms as well.
build string
An arbitrary string that identifies a particular build of a package for conda. It may contain suggestive mnemonics but these are subject to change and should not be relied upon or attempted to be parsed for any specific information.
canonical name
The canonical name consists of the package name, version, and build string joined together by hyphens: name-version-buildstring. In usage documentation, these will be referred to by canonical_name.
file name
conda package filenames are canonical names, plus the suffix .tar.bz2.

These components are illustrated in the following figure:


Different parts of conda package names.

Additionally, a package specification is a package name, together with a package version (which may be partial or absent), joined by “=”. Here are some examples:

  • python=2.7.3
  • python=2.7
  • python

In usage documentation, these will be referred to by package_spec.


conda also provides the notion of meta-packages. A meta-package is a conda package that contains a list of explicit packages to install without any further dependency checking. When installing a meta-package, its listed packages override and will replace any existing package versions that may already be installed in an conda environment. When creating, updating, or installing into environments, only one meta-package may be specified, and no additional packages may be specified.

Directory Structure

The conda system has the following directory structure:


The directory that Anaconda (or Miniconda) was installed into; for example, /opt/Anaconda or C:\Anaconda

Also referred to as PKGS_DIR. This directory contains exploded packages, ready to be linked in conda environments. Each package resides in a subdirectory corresponding to its canonical name.
The system location for additional conda environments to be created.
These subdirectories comprise the default Anaconda environment.

Other conda environments usually contain the same subdirectories as the default environment.

Creating Python 3.3 or Python 2.6 environments

Anaconda supports Python 2.6, 2.7 & 3.3. The default is Python 2.7.

To get started, you need to create an environment using the conda create command.

$ conda create -n py33 python=3.3 anaconda

Here, ‘py33’ is the name of the environment to create, and ‘anaconda’ is the meta-package that includes all of the actual Python packages comprising the Anaconda distribution. When creating a new environment and installing the Anaconda meta-package, the NumPy and Python versions can be specified, e.g. numpy=1.7 or python=3.3.

$ conda create -n py26 python=2.6 anaconda

After the environment creation process completes, adjust your PATH variable to point to this directory. On Linux/MacOSX systems, this can be easily done using:

$ source activate <env name>

# This command assumes ~/anaconda/bin/activate is the first 'activate' on your current PATH

This will modify your Bash PS1 to include the name of the environment.

$ source activate myenv

On Windows systems, you should change or set the PATH manually.

Now you’re ready to begin using the Python located in your created environment.

If you would like to deactivate this environment and revert your PATH to its previous state, use:

$ source deactivate

Update Anaconda to latest version

To update to the latest version of Anaconda, it is best to first ensure you have the latest version of conda:

$ conda update conda

# Now you are ready to update Anaconda

$ conda update anaconda

Look here for additional update examples.