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Pixi is a tool to manage virtual environments. This document explains what an environment looks like and how to use it.


A pixi environment is located in the .pixi/envs directory of the project. This location is not configurable as it is a specific design decision to keep the environments in the project directory. This keeps your machine and your project clean and isolated from each other, and makes it easy to clean up after a project is done.

If you look at the .pixi/envs directory, you will see a directory for each environment, the default being the one that is normally used, if you specify a custom environment the name you specified will be used.

└── envs
    ├── cuda
       ├── bin
       ├── conda-meta
       ├── etc
       ├── include
       ├── lib
    └── default
        ├── bin
        ├── conda-meta
        ├── etc
        ├── include
        ├── lib

These directories are conda environments, and you can use them as such, but you cannot manually edit them, this should always go through the pixi.toml. Pixi will always make sure the environment is in sync with the pixi.lock file. If this is not the case then all the commands that use the environment will automatically update the environment, e.g. pixi run, pixi shell.

Cleaning up#

If you want to clean up the environments, you can simply delete the .pixi/envs directory, and pixi will recreate the environments when needed.

# either:
rm -rf .pixi/envs

# or per environment:
rm -rf .pixi/envs/default
rm -rf .pixi/envs/cuda


An environment is nothing more than a set of files that are installed into a certain location, that somewhat mimics a global system install. You need to activate the environment to use it. In the most simple sense that mean adding the bin directory of the environment to the PATH variable. But there is more to it in a conda environment, as it also sets some environment variables.

To do the activation we have multiple options:

  • Use the pixi shell command to open a shell with the environment activated.
  • Use the pixi shell-hook command to print the command to activate the environment in your current shell.
  • Use the pixi run command to run a command in the environment.

Where the run command is special as it runs its own cross-platform shell and has the ability to run tasks. More information about tasks can be found in the tasks documentation.

Using the pixi shell-hook in pixi you would get the following output:

export PATH="/home/user/development/pixi/.pixi/envs/default/bin:/home/user/.local/bin:/home/user/bin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/local/sbin:/usr/bin:/home/user/.pixi/bin"
export CONDA_PREFIX="/home/user/development/pixi/.pixi/envs/default"
export PIXI_PROJECT_NAME="pixi"
export PIXI_PROJECT_ROOT="/home/user/development/pixi"
export PIXI_PROJECT_VERSION="0.12.0"
export PIXI_PROJECT_MANIFEST="/home/user/development/pixi/pixi.toml"
export CONDA_DEFAULT_ENV="pixi"
export PIXI_ENVIRONMENT_PLATFORMS="osx-64,linux-64,win-64,osx-arm64"
export PIXI_ENVIRONMENT_NAME="default"
export PIXI_PROMPT="(pixi) "
. "/home/user/development/pixi/.pixi/envs/default/etc/conda/activate.d/"
. "/home/user/development/pixi/.pixi/envs/default/etc/conda/activate.d/"
. "/home/user/development/pixi/.pixi/envs/default/etc/conda/activate.d/"
. "/home/user/development/pixi/.pixi/envs/default/etc/conda/activate.d/"
. "/home/user/development/pixi/.pixi/envs/default/etc/conda/activate.d/"
. "/home/user/development/pixi/.pixi/envs/default/etc/conda/activate.d/"

It sets the PATH and some more environment variables. But more importantly it also runs activation scripts that are presented by the installed packages. An example of this would be the script. Thus, just adding the bin directory to the PATH is not enough.

Traditional conda activate-like activation#

If you prefer to use the traditional conda activate-like activation, you could use the pixi shell-hook command.

$ which python
python not found
$ eval "$(pixi shell-hook)"
$ (default) which python


It is not encouraged to use the traditional conda activate-like activation, as deactivating the environment is not really possible. Use pixi shell instead.

Using pixi with direnv#

Installing direnv

Of course you can use pixi to install direnv globally. We recommend to run

pixi global install direnv

to install the latest version of direnv on your computer.

This allows you to use pixi in combination with direnv. Enter the following into your .envrc file:

watch_file pixi.lock # (1)!
eval "$(pixi shell-hook)" # (2)!
  1. This ensures that every time your pixi.lock changes, direnv invokes the shell-hook again.
  2. This installs if needed, and activates the environment. direnv ensures that the environment is deactivated when you leave the directory.
$ cd my-project
direnv: error /my-project/.envrc is blocked. Run `direnv allow` to approve its content
$ direnv allow
direnv: loading /my-project/.envrc
 Project in /my-project is ready to use!
$ which python
$ cd ..
direnv: unloading
$ which python
python not found

Environment variables#

The following environment variables are set by pixi, when using the pixi run, pixi shell, or pixi shell-hook command:

  • PIXI_PROJECT_ROOT: The root directory of the project.
  • PIXI_PROJECT_NAME: The name of the project.
  • PIXI_PROJECT_MANIFEST: The path to the manifest file (pixi.toml).
  • PIXI_PROJECT_VERSION: The version of the project.
  • PIXI_PROMPT: The prompt to use in the shell, also used by pixi shell itself.
  • PIXI_ENVIRONMENT_NAME: The name of the environment, defaults to default.
  • PIXI_ENVIRONMENT_PLATFORMS: The path to the environment.
  • CONDA_PREFIX: The path to the environment. (Used by multiple tools that already understand conda environments)
  • CONDA_DEFAULT_ENV: The name of the environment. (Used by multiple tools that already understand conda environments)
  • PATH: We prepend the bin directory of the environment to the PATH variable, so you can use the tools installed in the environment directly.


Even though the variables are environment variables these cannot be overridden. E.g. you can not change the root of the project by setting PIXI_PROJECT_ROOT in the environment.

Solving environments#

When you run a command that uses the environment, pixi will check if the environment is in sync with the pixi.lock file. If it is not, pixi will solve the environment and update it. This means that pixi will retrieve the best set of packages for the dependency requirements that you specified in the pixi.toml and will put the output of the solve step into the pixi.lock file. Solving is a mathematical problem and can take some time, but we take pride in the way we solve environments, and we are confident that we can solve your environment in a reasonable time. If you want to learn more about the solving process, you can read these:

Pixi solves both the conda and PyPI dependencies, where the PyPI dependencies use the conda packages as a base, so you can be sure that the packages are compatible with each other. These solvers are split between the rattler and rip library, these control the heavy lifting of the solving process, which is executed by our custom SAT solver: resolvo. resolve is able to solve multiple ecosystem like conda and PyPI. It implements the lazy solving process for PyPI packages, which means that it only downloads the metadata of the packages that are needed to solve the environment. It also supports the conda way of solving, which means that it downloads the metadata of all the packages at once and then solves in one go.

For the [pypi-dependencies], rip implements sdist building to retrieve the metadata of the packages, and wheel building to install the packages. For this building step, pixi requires to first install python in the (conda)[dependencies] section of the pixi.toml file. This will always be slower than the pure conda solves. So for the best pixi experience you should stay within the [dependencies] section of the pixi.toml file.


Pixi caches the packages used in the environment. So if you have multiple projects that use the same packages, pixi will only download the packages once.

The cache is located in the ~/.cache/rattler/cache directory by default. This location is configurable by setting the PIXI_CACHE_DIR or RATTLER_CACHE_DIR environment variable.

When you want to clean the cache, you can simply delete the cache directory, and pixi will re-create the cache when needed.