Mark Needham

Thoughts on Software Development

Python: matplotlib/seaborn/virtualenv – Python is not installed as a framework

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Over the weekend I was following The Marketing Technologist’s content based recommender tutorial but ran into the following exception when trying to import the seaborn library:

$ python 5_content_based_recommender/ 
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "5_content_based_recommender/", line 14, in <module>
    import seaborn as sns
  File "/Users/markneedham/projects/themarketingtechnologist/tmt/lib/python2.7/site-packages/seaborn/", line 6, in <module>
    from .rcmod import *
  File "/Users/markneedham/projects/themarketingtechnologist/tmt/lib/python2.7/site-packages/seaborn/", line 8, in <module>
    from . import palettes, _orig_rc_params
  File "/Users/markneedham/projects/themarketingtechnologist/tmt/lib/python2.7/site-packages/seaborn/", line 12, in <module>
    from .utils import desaturate, set_hls_values, get_color_cycle
  File "/Users/markneedham/projects/themarketingtechnologist/tmt/lib/python2.7/site-packages/seaborn/", line 12, in <module>
    import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
  File "/Users/markneedham/projects/themarketingtechnologist/tmt/lib/python2.7/site-packages/matplotlib/", line 114, in <module>
    _backend_mod, new_figure_manager, draw_if_interactive, _show = pylab_setup()
  File "/Users/markneedham/projects/themarketingtechnologist/tmt/lib/python2.7/site-packages/matplotlib/backends/", line 32, in pylab_setup
  File "/Users/markneedham/projects/themarketingtechnologist/tmt/lib/python2.7/site-packages/matplotlib/backends/", line 24, in <module>
    from matplotlib.backends import _macosx
RuntimeError: Python is not installed as a framework. The Mac OS X backend will not be able to function correctly if Python is not installed as a framework. See the Python documentation for more information on installing Python as a framework on Mac OS X. Please either reinstall Python as a framework, or try one of the other backends. If you are Working with Matplotlib in a virtual enviroment see 'Working with Matplotlib in Virtual environments' in the Matplotlib FAQ

We can see from the stacktrace that seaborn calls matplotlib so that’s where the problem lies. There’s even a page on the matplotlib website suggesting some workarounds.

I’ve come across this error before and been unable to get any of the suggestions to work, but this time I was successful. I needed to create the following function in my bash profile file:


function frameworkpython {
    if [[ ! -z "$VIRTUAL_ENV" ]]; then
        PYTHONHOME=$VIRTUAL_ENV /usr/bin/python "$@"
        /usr/bin/python "$@"

And call that function instead of my virtualenv’s python:

$ frameworkpython 5_content_based_recommender/

This time the matplotlib visualisation works:

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Written by Mark Needham

August 14th, 2016 at 6:56 pm

Posted in Python

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