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Calvin Spealman: Announcing Feet, a Python Runner

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Article:

(published: Oct. 6, 2019, 11:52 p.m.)


I've been working on a problem that's bugged me for about as long as I've used Python and I want to announce my stab at a solution, finally!

I've been working on the problem of "How do i get this little thing I made to my friend so they can try it out?" Python is great. Python is especially a great language to get started in, when you
don't know a lot about software development, and probably don't even know a lot about computers in general.

Yes, Python has a lot of options for tackling some of these distribution problems for games and apps. Py2EXE was an early option, PyInstaller is very popular now, and PyOxide is an interesting recent entry. These can be great options, but they didn't fit the kind of use case and experience that made sense to me. I'd never really been about to put my finger on it, until earlier this year:

Python needs LÖVE.

LÖVE, also known as "Love 2D", is a game engine that makes it super easy to build small Lua games and share them. Before being a game engine, a graphics library, or anything else: LÖVE is a portable runtime that's perfect for distribution these games.

The trick is skipping the build process entirely. We've tackled the distribution problems in Python over the years with many tricks to build self-contained executables of our Python projects. These work, but they add extra steps and infrastructure to projects. They add another set of new, unfamiliar things to learn for newcomers getting in between their excitement over having built their first thing
to show off and their actually being able to share it with anyone.

Learning to make your first Pygame game and then immediately having no idea how to get in someone else's hands can be a really demoralizing barrier. So, I set out to replicate the LÖVE model in Python.

However, I didn't want to build a game engine. I didn't want to reinvent wheels and Python already has many of them. I wanted to combine the Python language with the workflow of LÖVE projects and built on top of the huge ecosystem of Python tooling and libraries, like wxWindows and Pyglet and Numpy. I just wanted a way to make Python projects run.

So I built Feet, a Python Runner.

Feet is different than executable generators like PyInstaller. There is no build step. You don't even need to install Python. Feet is a complete Python runtime that sits inside your project and provides an obvious EXE for users to double-click. It runs a main.py file in your project and runs it, but it also lets you manage packages from the Python ecosystem. That's the real magic sauce. If you distribute a requirements.txt with your project, it'll install the dependencies for your user, locally to the project, and run everything out of the box, or you can package the whole thing up (dependencies included) and hand your users a single Zip or EXE file.

There will be a lot of work ahead to make Feet everything it can be for the Python community. I hope to talk more about why I've wanted to solve this problem for nearly twenty years now and also share technical details about what I'm doing with Feet.

For now, please go try it out. Download the EXE release into a Pygame or other Python project and try using Feet to run it on Windows without having to install Python or package anything. Give me feedback, complain in bug tickets, contribute back if you see improvements, or just please let me know what you think!