Justin Rentie
Justin Rentie
3 min read


  • Django
  • Python
  • PyCharm

How to set up a Django development environment.

I recently delved into designing sites with Django. Django is described as “a high-level Python Web framework that encourages rapid development and clean, pragmatic design”. I have recently been doing some research into the benefits of Django to see if it might be a good solution for a new web service in development at my current company.

One thing I struggled with was getting the basic development environment set up correctly on my machine. Multiple versions of Python are able to be installed on a single machine and sometimes this can create issues with knowing exactly where one executable is being called from within the whole web of Python installments you might have on your computer. I fought and struggled with this for a bit before realizing the answer all along was a virtual environment.

I wanted to take some time to document what I learned and hopefully someone can learn from my mistakes. Maybe you are already familiar with virtual environments and don’t need the help at all, but below is an explanation of exactly the steps I took to create a stable Django development environment.


Ensure Python is installed:

Django is a Python framework and therefore you need to ensure you have Python installed on your machine. I decided to go ahead and make sure I had the most up to date version of Python which at the time of writing this is 3.7.2.

Install latest version of python. (Python3.7.2):


Using Windowsx86-64 executable installer from python.org


On a Linux machine you can run the following command

sudo apt install python3.7

I do not have a mac so this is always a bit of a mystery for me but here is a page to download python.org

Check Python version:

Below are two ways to check what version of Python you have installed

$ python --version
Python 3.7.2


$ py --version
Python 3.7.2

Creating a Django Project:

The following walks you through setting up your Django development environment using a virtual environment to ensure you are running a Python environment within that virtual environment. This encapsulates any work and programs installed within the virtual environment. This is best for not confusing different versions of installed programs.

I’ve found this to be the best way to run Django and ensure that it is found by the environment.

Create a directory for you project and cd into it:

$ mkdir django_project
$ cd django_project

Create and start a virtual environment (install virtualenv if necessary):

$ python -m pip install virtualenv
$ virtualenv env
$ source env/Scripts/activate

This should show (env) above command line

Install Django in virtual environment:

$ pip install django

Check to see if installed

$ py -m django --version

Check to see that the current running installation of django is running within the virtual environment. It should look similar to below:

$ where django-admin

Start a new project

$ django-admin startproject new_django_project
$ ls
env/ new_django_project/

cd into project and run the server for the first time.

$ cd new_django_project
$ ls
manage.py new_django_project/
$ py manage.py runserver

Open page at localhost:8000 in your browser. You should be able to see the following page:

server running

Press Ctrl + C to quit the server.
Run command deactivate to exit virtual environment.

Open project in Pycharm:

If you would like to open this Django project in PyCharm you can follow the steps below:

Open PyCharm and select File > :open_file_folder: Open… Select and open the Django project you have created above:
Open django project in PyCharm

You should now see the project imported into PyCharm as such:
Imported PyCharm project

Check that the virtual environment is set up appropriately within Pycharm. Go to File > :wrench: Settings…. Select Project:new_django_project > Project Interpreter. Navigate to the Scripts directory under your virtual environment that was set up above and select python.exe. It should look similar to the following:
Django Pycharm project virtualenv