Installing the IOOS conda environment

For IOOS python users we recommend the free Miniconda Python distribution, a lightweight version of the Anaconda Scientific Python Distribution. While the full Anaconda distribution will also work, it’s faster to install Miniconda, and you install only the packages you need. If for some reason you decide later that you want the full Anaconda distribution, you can install it by typing conda install anaconda using miniconda.


Download and install the appropriate Miniconda installer from With conda you can create environments that use any Python version (e.g. Python 2.7 or Python 3.x), so install the latest Python 3.x and if find out later you need a Python 2.7 environment, you can create one. Windows users also need to choose between 32-bit (old Windows XP) or 64-bit (modern Windows) versions.


Run the installer Choose Just Me (not All Users), and choose a Install Location owned by you. The default %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Continuum\Miniconda3 is fine, but kind of long, so if you have created some shorter directory like c:\programs that you own, you might choose c:\programs\Miniconda3.

On the “Advanced Installation Options” screen, leave the boxes checked if you want Miniconda 3 to be your default python. If you are going to be switching from Python 2 to Python 3 or perhaps some other Python distribution, it is best uncheck the boxes and use the Anaconda Command Prompt or Anaconda Navigator (see below for instructions) to start Anaconda.


Copy-and-paste this in the terminal:

if [[ $(uname) == "Darwin" ]]; then
elif [[ $(uname) == "Linux" ]]; then
curl $url -o
export PATH=$HOME/miniconda3/bin:$PATH

and use all the default options, except for the license agreement where you must actively change it to yes.

Create the IOOS conda environment

Download the environment.yml, or the environment-python_and_r.yml for a bigger environment with the R packages, by right clicking with the mouse and choosing save as..., or, on macOS and Linux, use these commands to download:

curl $url -o environment.yml

Then from the directory where you saved the file above, type the following commands in the terminal or Windows command prompt:

conda config --add channels conda-forge --force
conda config --set channel_priority strict
conda update --yes --all
conda env create --quiet --file environment.yml

The last line creates the IOOS environment, and since lots of packages are downloaded, you should probably go get a coffee.

Once the environment is done building, you can activate it by typing:

conda activate IOOS

Exiting the IOOS environment

If you want to leave the IOOS environment and return to the root environment, you can type

conda deactivate

Updating the IOOS environment

To update an existing environment you can do,

conda update --all --yes

Sometimes that operation can be slow if you have a really old version of the environment, or even impossible to update. In that case we recommend removing and re-creating the environment. To remove an existing environment you have to run:

conda env remove -name IOOS

and follow the instructions from above to re-create. Note that you don’t need to re-install miniconda. Just download a fresh version of the environment file and re-create it.

Why we use and recommend conda

Conda users can just conda install, which installs not only binary packages for their platform, but the binary libraries they depend on. So it’s easier than pip install and, thanks to binary relocation, more powerful than python wheels. System-level installation of libraries and admin privileges are not required. Check out Travis Oliphant’s blog piece for more info.

How to get help

Appendix: conda-lock

Locking environments can be useful for reproducibility, Continuous Integration (CI), or when one requires faster installation. The reason is because a locked environment saves the “solved” list of packages and only downloads them. Making it much faster than creating from the environment file and ensuring that the same packages from the time you locked will be used.

To lock an environment you will need to install conda-lock,

conda install conda-lock

then execute the locking command targeting the environment file you want to lock and the platforms, like:

conda-lock -f environment.yml -p osx-64 -p linux-64 -p win-64

In the example above we are locking for macOS, Linux and Windows.