The Config File

All paths in the config file are relative to the directory where the config file is located, unless noted otherwise.

Application section


The user-readable name of your application. This will be used for various display purposes in the installer, and for shortcuts and the folder in ‘Program Files’.


The version number of your application.

publisher (optional)

The publisher name that shows up in the Add or Remove programs control panel.

New in version 1.10.


The function to launch your application, in the format module:function. Dots are allowed in the module part. pynsist will create a script like this, plus some boilerplate:

from module import function
script (optional)

Path to the Python script which launches your application, as an alternative to entry_point.

Ensure that this boilerplate code is at the top of your script:

import sys, os
import site

scriptdir, script = os.path.split(os.path.abspath(__file__))
pkgdir = os.path.join(scriptdir, 'pkgs')
# Ensure .pth files in pkgdir are handled properly
sys.path.insert(0, pkgdir)

The first line tells it which version of Python to run with. If you use binary packages, packages compiled for Python 3.3 won’t work with Python 3.4. The other lines make sure it can find the packages installed along with your application.

target (optional)
parameters (optional)

Lower level definition of a shortcut, to create start menu entries for help pages or other non-Python entry points. You shouldn’t normally use this for Python entry points.


Either entry_point, script or target must be specified, but not more than one. Specifying entry_point is normally easiest and most reliable.

icon (optional)

Path to a .ico file to be used for shortcuts to your application and during the install/uninstall process. Pynsist has a default generic icon, but you probably want to replace it.

console (optional)

If true, shortcuts will be created using python.exe, which opens a console for the process. If false, or not specified, they will use pythonw.exe, which doesn’t create a console. In that case, stdout and stderr from Python code will be redirected to a log file in APPDATA.

extra_preamble (optional)

Path to a file containing extra Python commands to be run before your code is launched, for example to set environment variables needed by pygtk. This is only valid if you use entry_point to specify how to launch your application.

If you use the Python API, this parameter can also be passed as a file-like object, such as io.StringIO.

license_file (optional)

Path to a text file containing the license under which your software is to be distributed. If given, an extra step before installation will check the user’s agreement to abide by the displayed license. If not given, the extra step is omitted.

Shortcut sections

One shortcut will always be generated for the application. You can add extra shortcuts by defining sections titled Shortcut Name. For example:

[Shortcut IPython Notebook]
script (optional)
icon (optional)
console (optional)
target (optional)
parameters (optional)
extra_preamble (optional)

These options all work the same way as in the Application section.

Microsoft offers guidance on what shortcuts to include in the Start screen/menu. Most applications should only need one shortcut, and things like help and settings should be accessed inside the app rather than as separate shortcuts.

Command sections

New in version 1.7.

Your application can install commands to be run from the Windows command prompt. This is not standard practice for desktop applications on Windows, but if your application specifically provides a command line interface, you can define one or more sections titled Command name:

[Command guessnumber]

If you use this, the installer will modify the system PATH environment variable.


As with shortcuts, this specifies the Python function to call, in the format module:function.

console (optional)

If true (default), the .exe wrapper for the command will open a console if it’s not already inside one. If false, it will be a GUI application, which doesn’t use a console.

If the user runs the command directly, they do so in a console anyway. But commands with console=false can be useful if your GUI application needs to run a subprocess without a console window popping up.

extra_preamble (optional)

As for shortcuts, a file containing extra code to run before importing the module from entry_point. This should rarely be needed.

Python section


The Python version to download and bundle with your application, e.g. 3.6.3. Python 3.5 or later are supported. For older versions of Python, use Pynsist 1.x.

bitness (optional)

32 or 64, to use 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) Python. On Windows, this defaults to the version you’re using, so that compiled modules will match. On other platforms, it defaults to 32-bit.

include_msvcrt (optional)

The default is true, which will include an app-local copy of the Microsoft Visual C++ Runtime, required for Python to run. The installer will only install this if it doesn’t detect a system installation of the runtime.

Setting this to false will not include the C++ Runtime. Your application may not run for all users until they install it manually (download from Microsoft). You may prefer to do this for security reasons: the separately installed runtime will get updates through Windows Update, but app-local copies will not.

Users on Windows 10 should already have the runtime installed systemwide, so this does won’t affect them. Users on Windows Vista, 7, 8 or 8.1 may already have it, depending on what else is installed.

New in version 1.9.


Pynsist 1.x also included a format= option to select between two ways to use Python: bundled or installer. Pynsist 2 only supports bundled Python. For the installer option, use Pynsist 1.x.

Include section

To write these lists, put each value on a new line, with more indentation than the line with the key:

pypi_wheels (optional)

A list of packages in the format name==version to download from PyPI or extract from the directories in extra_wheel_sources. These must be available as wheels; Pynsist will not try to use sdists or eggs (see Bundling packages which don’t have wheels on PyPI).

You need to list all the packages needed to run your application, including dependencies of the packages you use directly.

New in version 1.7.

extra_wheel_sources (optional)

One or more directory paths in which to find wheels, in addition to fetching from PyPI. Each package listed in pypi_wheels will be retrieved from the first source containing a compatible wheel, and all extra sources have priority over PyPI.

Relative paths are from the directory containing the config file.

New in version 2.0.

local_wheels (optional)

One or more paths to .whl wheel files on the local filesystem. All matching wheel files will be included in the installer. These paths can also use glob patterns to match multiple wheels, e.g. wheels/*.whl will include all wheels from the folder wheels.

Pynsist checks that each pattern matches at least one file, that only one wheel is being used for each distribution name, and that all wheels are compatible with the target Python version.

Relative paths are from the directory containing the config file.

New in version 2.2.


The local_wheels option is useful if you’re using Pynsist as a step in a larger build process: you can use another tool to prepare all your application’s dependencies as wheels, and then pass them to Pynsist.

For simpler build processes, pypi_wheels will search PyPI for compatible wheels, and handle downloading and caching them. Use extra_wheel_sources if you need to add some wheels which aren’t available on PyPI.

packages (optional)

A list of importable package and module names to include in the installer. Specify only top-level packages, i.e. without a . in the name.


The packages option finds and copies installed packages from your development environment. Specifying packages in pypi_wheels instead is more reliable, and works with namespace packages.

files (optional)

Extra files or directories to be installed with your application.

You can optionally add > destination after each file to install it somewhere other than the installation directory. The destination can be:

  • An absolute path on the target system, e.g. C:\\ (but this is not usually desirable).
  • A path starting with $INSTDIR, the specified installation directory.
  • A path starting with any of the constants NSIS provides, e.g. $SYSDIR.

The destination can also include ${PRODUCT_NAME}, which will be expanded to the name of your application.

For instance, to put a data file in the (32 bit) common files directory:

files=mydata.dat > $COMMONFILES
exclude (optional)

Files to be excluded from your installer. This can be used to include a Python library or extra directory only partially, for example to include large monolithic python packages without their samples and test suites to achieve a smaller installer file.

  • The parameter is expected to contain a list of files relative to the build directory. Therefore, to include files from a package, you have to start your pattern with pkgs/<packagename>/.
  • You can use wildcard characters like * or ?, similar to a Unix shell.
  • If you want to exclude whole subfolders, do not put a path separator (e.g. /) at their end.
  • The exclude patterns are applied to packages, pypi wheels, and directories specified using the files option. If your exclude option directly contradicts your files or packages option, the files in question will be included (you can not exclude a full package/extra directory or a single file listed in files).
  • Exclude patterns are applied uniformly across platforms and can use either Unix-style forward-slash (/), or Windows-style back-slash (\) path separators. Exclude patterns are normalized so that patterns written on Unix will work on Windows, and vice-versa.



Build section

directory (optional)

The build directory. Defaults to build/nsis/.

installer_name (optional)

The filename of the installer, relative to the build directory. The default is made from your application name and version.

nsi_template (optional)

The path of a template .nsi file to specify further details of the installer. The default template is part of pynsist.

This is an advanced option, and if you specify a custom template, you may well have to update it to work with future releases of Pynsist.

See the NSIS Scripting Reference for details of the NSIS language, and the Jinja2 Template Designer Docs for details of the template format. Pynsist uses templates with square brackets ([]) instead of Jinja’s default curly braces ({}).