The easiest way to install Blocks is using the Python package manager pip. Blocks isn’t listed yet on the Python Package Index (PyPI), so you will have to grab it directly from GitHub.

$ pip install git+git:// \

This will give you the cutting-edge development version. The latest stable release is in the stable branch and can be installed as follows.

$ pip install git+git:// \


Blocks relies on several packages, such as Theano and picklable_itertools, to be installed directly from GitHub. The only way of doing so reliably is through a requirements.txt file, which is why this installation command might look slightly different from what you’re used to.

Installing requirements from GitHub requires pip 1.5 or higher; you can update with pip update pip.

If you don’t have administrative rights, add the --user switch to the install commands to install the packages in your home folder. If you want to update Blocks, simply repeat the first command with the --upgrade switch added to pull the latest version from GitHub.


Pip may try to install or update NumPy and SciPy if they are not present or outdated. However, pip’s versions might not be linked to an optimized BLAS implementation. To prevent this from happening make sure you update NumPy and SciPy using your system’s package manager (e.g. apt-get or yum), or use a Python distribution like Anaconda, before installing Blocks. You can also pass the --no-deps switch and install all the requirements manually.

If the installation crashes with ImportError: No module named numpy.distutils.core, install NumPy and try again again.


Blocks’ requirements are

  • Theano, for pretty much everything
  • PyYAML, to parse the configuration file
  • six, to support both Python 2 and 3 with a single codebase
  • Toolz, to add a bit of functional programming where it is needed

Bokeh is an optional requirement for if you want to use live plotting of your training progress (part of blocks-extras_).

nose2 is an optional requirement, used to run the tests.

We develop using the bleeding-edge version of Theano, so be sure to follow the relevant installation instructions to make sure that your Theano version is up to date if you didn’t install it through Blocks.


If you want to work on Blocks’ development, your first step is to fork Blocks on GitHub. You will now want to install your fork of Blocks in editable mode. To install in your home directory, use the following command, replacing USER with your own GitHub user name:

$ pip install -e[test,docs] --src=$HOME \

As with the usual installation, you can use --user or --no-deps if you need to. You can now make changes in the blocks directory created by pip, push to your repository and make a pull request.

If you had already cloned the GitHub repository, you can use the following command from the folder you cloned Blocks to:

$ pip install -e file:.#egg=blocks[test,docs] -r requirements.txt


If you want to build a local copy of the documentation, follow the instructions at the documentation development guidelines.