What is a shebang line in Python?

Posted in Python by Dirk - last update: Feb 15, 2024

In Python, a shebang line, also known as a hashbang or hashpling, is a special line at the beginning of a script or executable file that indicates the path to the interpreter that should be used to execute the script.

The shebang line is preceded by the hash character (#) followed by an exclamation mark (!), and then the path to the interpreter.

The general syntax of a shebang line in Python is:

#!/usr/bin/env python3


  • #!: Indicates the beginning of the shebang line.
  • /usr/bin/env: Invokes the env command to locate the specified interpreter.
  • python3: The name of the Python interpreter.

How to use the shebang line

Example script::

#!/usr/bin/env python3

print("Hello, World!")

If you save this script with a .py extension, such as myscript.py and make it executable (if on a Unix-like system) using the following command:

chmod +x myscript.py

What happens here: the chmod +x myscript.py command is used in Unix-like operating systems (such as Linux or macOS) to make a file executable.

  • chmod: Stands for “change mode,” a command used to change the permissions of a file or directory.
  • +x: Adds the execute permission to the file.
  • myscript.py: The name of the file for which you want to change the permissions.

So, chmod +x myscript.py specifically means “add execute permission to the file named myscript.py.”

After running this command, you can execute the Python script directly from the command line without explicitly invoking the Python interpreter:


Why the ./ before the script? By using ./myscript.py, you explicitly specify that you want to execute the myscript.py script located in the current directory. This is necessary because, by default, the system looks for executable files in directories listed in the PATH environment variable, but the current directory might not be included for security reasons.

The shebang line is particularly useful when creating executable Python scripts or when running Python scripts as standalone programs. It ensures that the correct Python interpreter is used to execute the script, even if the user’s default interpreter is different.

Note: On Windows, the shebang line is ignored, so Python scripts typically rely on the file extension (e.g., .py) to associate the script with the Python interpreter.

Should you use a shebang line?

Using a shebang line and chmod +x is a matter of preference and depends on how you intend to use and distribute your Python scripts. It can be a convenient option for certain scenarios, but it’s important to consider the potential security implications and whether it aligns with your development and deployment practices.

More in detail:

  • Convenience: Using chmod +x makes it more convenient to run your Python scripts directly from the command line without having to explicitly invoke the Python interpreter each time. This can be particularly useful for scripts that you run frequently.

  • Portability: If you plan to share your script or deploy it on different systems, using a shebang line and making the script executable with chmod +x can enhance portability. This way, users on Unix-like systems can execute the script without having to modify permissions manually.

  • Security: Be cautious when making scripts executable, especially if they perform actions that could have security implications. Executable scripts may pose a security risk if they are inadvertently run without the user’s knowledge or permission. Always ensure that your scripts follow best security practices.

  • Development Environment: In a development environment, you might not need to make scripts executable if you are running them from an integrated development environment (IDE) or explicitly using the Python interpreter. In such cases, using the shebang line alone is often sufficient.

  • Cross-Platform Considerations: Keep in mind that the chmod +x command is specific to Unix-like systems. On Windows, the concept of making a file executable in this way doesn’t apply. Windows users typically run Python scripts by using the file extension (e.g., python script.py) or setting up file associations.

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