Python -m (and other command line switches)

by | Dec 29, 2018

In the process of learning Django, I encountered the following instruction pretty much on the first page of the Django tutorial:

python -m django --version

I became interested in what the “-m” meant and then in what all the available python command line switches were.

To find out all the command line switches use the following:

python --help

The output is:

usage: python [option] ... [-c cmd | -m mod | file | -] [arg] ...
Options and arguments (and corresponding environment variables):
-b : issue warnings about str(bytes_instance), str(bytearray_instance)
and comparing bytes/bytearray with str. (-bb: issue errors)
-B : don't write .pyc files on import; also PYTHONDONTWRITEBYTECODE=x
-c cmd : program passed in as string (terminates option list)
-d : debug output from parser; also PYTHONDEBUG=x
-E : ignore PYTHON* environment variables (such as PYTHONPATH)
-h : print this help message and exit (also --help)
-i : inspect interactively after running script; forces a prompt even
if stdin does not appear to be a terminal; also PYTHONINSPECT=x
-I : isolate Python from the user's environment (implies -E and -s)
-m mod : run library module as a script (terminates option list)
-O : remove assert and __debug__-dependent statements; add .opt-1 before
.pyc extension; also PYTHONOPTIMIZE=x
-OO : do -O changes and also discard docstrings; add .opt-2 before
.pyc extension
-q : don't print version and copyright messages on interactive startup
-s : don't add user site directory to sys.path; also PYTHONNOUSERSITE
-S : don't imply 'import site' on initialization
-u : force the binary I/O layers of stdout and stderr to be unbuffered;
stdin is always buffered; text I/O layer will be line-buffered;
-v : verbose (trace import statements); also PYTHONVERBOSE=x
can be supplied multiple times to increase verbosity
-V : print the Python version number and exit (also --version)
when given twice, print more information about the build
-W arg : warning control; arg is action:message:category:module:lineno
-x : skip first line of source, allowing use of non-Unix forms of #!cmd
-X opt : set implementation-specific option
file : program read from script file
- : program read from stdin (default; interactive mode if a tty)
arg ...: arguments passed to program in sys.argv[1:]

Other environment variables:
PYTHONSTARTUP: file executed on interactive startup (no default)
PYTHONPATH : ';'-separated list of directories prefixed to the
default module search path. The result is sys.path.
PYTHONHOME : alternate directory (or ;).
The default module search path uses \python{major}{minor}.
PYTHONCASEOK : ignore case in 'import' statements (Windows).
PYTHONIOENCODING: Encoding[:errors] used for stdin/stdout/stderr.
PYTHONFAULTHANDLER: dump the Python traceback on fatal errors.
PYTHONHASHSEED: if this variable is set to 'random', a random value is used
to seed the hashes of str, bytes and datetime objects. It can also be
set to an integer in the range [0,4294967295] to get hash values with a
predictable seed.
PYTHONMALLOC: set the Python memory allocators and/or install debug hooks
on Python memory allocators. Use PYTHONMALLOC=debug to install debug