Data Files Support#

The distutils have traditionally allowed installation of “data files”, which are placed in a platform-specific location. However, the most common use case for data files distributed with a package is for use by the package, usually by including the data files inside the package directory.

Setuptools offers three ways to specify this most common type of data files to be included in your package’s 1. First, you can simply use the include_package_data keyword, e.g.:

from setuptools import setup, find_packages

This tells setuptools to install any data files it finds in your packages. The data files must be specified via the file. (They can also be tracked by a revision control system, using an appropriate plugin such as setuptools-scm or setuptools-svn. See the section below on Adding Support for Revision Control Systems for information on how to write such plugins.)

If you want finer-grained control over what files are included (for example, if you have documentation files in your package directories and want to exclude them from installation), then you can also use the package_data keyword, e.g.:

from setuptools import setup, find_packages
        # If any package contains *.txt or *.rst files, include them:
        "": ["*.txt", "*.rst"],
        # And include any *.msg files found in the "hello" package, too:
        "hello": ["*.msg"],

The package_data argument is a dictionary that maps from package names to lists of glob patterns. The globs may include subdirectory names, if the data files are contained in a subdirectory of the package. For example, if the package tree looks like this:

The setuptools setup file might look like this:

from setuptools import setup, find_packages
    packages=find_packages("src"),  # include all packages under src
    package_dir={"": "src"},   # tell distutils packages are under src

        # If any package contains *.txt files, include them:
        "": ["*.txt"],
        # And include any *.dat files found in the "data" subdirectory
        # of the "mypkg" package, also:
        "mypkg": ["data/*.dat"],

Notice that if you list patterns in package_data under the empty string, these patterns are used to find files in every package, even ones that also have their own patterns listed. Thus, in the above example, the mypkg.txt file gets included even though it’s not listed in the patterns for mypkg.

Also notice that if you use paths, you must use a forward slash (/) as the path separator, even if you are on Windows. Setuptools automatically converts slashes to appropriate platform-specific separators at build time.

If datafiles are contained in a subdirectory of a package that isn’t a package itself (no, then the subdirectory names (or *) are required in the package_data argument (as shown above with "data/*.dat").

When building an sdist, the datafiles are also drawn from the package_name.egg-info/SOURCES.txt file, so make sure that this is removed if the package_data list is updated before calling


If using the include_package_data argument, files specified by package_data will not be automatically added to the manifest unless they are listed in the file or by a plugin like setuptools-scm or setuptools-svn.

Sometimes, the include_package_data or package_data options alone aren’t sufficient to precisely define what files you want included. For example, you may want to include package README files in your revision control system and source distributions, but exclude them from being installed. So, setuptools offers an exclude_package_data option as well, that allows you to do things like this:

from setuptools import setup, find_packages
    packages=find_packages("src"),  # include all packages under src
    package_dir={"": "src"},   # tell distutils packages are under src

    include_package_data=True,    # include everything in source control

    # ...but exclude README.txt from all packages
    exclude_package_data={"": ["README.txt"]},

The exclude_package_data option is a dictionary mapping package names to lists of wildcard patterns, just like the package_data option. And, just as with that option, a key of "" will apply the given pattern(s) to all packages. However, any files that match these patterns will be excluded from installation, even if they were listed in package_data or were included as a result of using include_package_data.

In summary, the three options allow you to:


Accept all data files and directories matched by or added by a plugin.


Specify additional patterns to match files that may or may not be matched by or added by a plugin.


Specify patterns for data files and directories that should not be included when a package is installed, even if they would otherwise have been included due to the use of the preceding options.

NOTE: Due to the way the distutils build process works, a data file that you include in your project and then stop including may be “orphaned” in your project’s build directories, requiring you to run clean --all to fully remove them. This may also be important for your users and contributors if they track intermediate revisions of your project using Subversion; be sure to let them know when you make changes that remove files from inclusion so they can run clean --all.

Accessing Data Files at Runtime#

Typically, existing programs manipulate a package’s __file__ attribute in order to find the location of data files. However, this manipulation isn’t compatible with PEP 302-based import hooks, including importing from zip files and Python Eggs. It is strongly recommended that, if you are using data files, you should use importlib.resources to access them. importlib.resources was added to Python 3.7 and the latest version of the library is also available via the importlib-resources backport. See Using importlib_resources for detailed instructions 3.


Files inside the package directory should be read-only to avoid a series of common problems (e.g. when multiple users share a common Python installation, when the package is loaded from a zip file, or when multiple instances of a Python application run in parallel).

If your Python package needs to write to a file for shared data or configuration, you can use standard platform/OS-specific system directories, such as ~/.local/config/$appname or /usr/share/$appname/$version (Linux specific) 2. A common approach is to add a read-only template file to the package directory that is then copied to the correct system directory if no pre-existing file is found.

Non-Package Data Files#

Historically, setuptools by way of easy_install would encapsulate data files from the distribution into the egg (see the old docs). As eggs are deprecated and pip-based installs fall back to the platform-specific location for installing data files, there is no supported facility to reliably retrieve these resources.

Instead, the PyPA recommends that any data files you wish to be accessible at run time be included inside the package.


setuptools consider a package data file any non-Python file inside the package directory (i.e., that co-exists in the same location as the regular .py files being distributed).


These locations can be discovered with the help of third-party libraries such as platformdirs.


Recent versions of importlib.resources available in Pythons’ standard library should be API compatible with importlib-metadata. However this might vary depending on which version of Python is installed.