How to Check Your Python Version Like a Pro [2023 Guide]

Ever tried running Python code that throws weird errors or just straight up fails? Chances are your Python environment has compatibility issues or you‘re using an outdated version.

With over 30 years of releases and updates, verifying which Python version is under the hood can save major headaches!

This step-by-step guide will teach you how to check your Python version on Windows, Linux and macOS using simple terminal commands.

Whether you‘re looking to develop the next viral web app, leverage data analytics, or build AI-powered solutions, understanding your Python version sets you up for success.

Let‘s get started!

A Brief History of Python

It‘s amazing how far Python has come since software engineer Guido van Rossum first created it back in 1991. In fact, the "Python" name itself pays homage to Rossum‘s favorite British comedy group Monty Python. 🐍

Over the decades, Python has exploded in popularity becoming the #1 coding language for many developers, data scientists and IT pros.

Let‘s quickly walk down memory lane and see some of Python‘s major milestones:

  • Python 1.0 – Initial production release in 1994
  • Python 2.0 – Major revamp in 2000 kicking off the Python 2.x era
  • Python 3.0 – Next generation version in 2008 focused on cleaner code
  • Python 2.7.18 – Final Python 2 release reaches end-of-life in 2020
  • Python 3.11 – Current version as of 2023 with new features and updates

Python 2 ruled the software scene for over 20 years allowing tons of high-profile applications and services to thrive during it‘s reign – Google Search, YouTube, Dropbox and Quora just to name a few.

However in 2020, Python 2 was officially deprecated in favor of Python 3 adoption:

Python 2 Usage Declining as Python 3 Becomes Dominant

Nowadays over 97% of new Python projects leverage Python 3 thanks to a host of benefits:

βœ… Simplified syntax and readability
βœ… Built-in Unicode support
βœ… Increased speed and security fixes
βœ… Rich module ecosystem

However Python 2 still powers many legacy systems behind the scenes even though it‘s no longer maintained.

So checking your specific Python version takes on heightened importance given this decade long transition towards Python 3.

Why Should You Check Your Python Version?

Here are the top reasons it pays to verify your Python release:

Avoid Version Conflicts

  • Running Python 2 vs Python 3 on the same system can cause nasty conflicts
  • Checks help prevent confusion if multiple interpreters are installed

Ensure Code Compatibility

  • Python 2 and 3 have syntax and feature differences under the hood
  • Knowing your version prevents error-ridden code across projects

Access New Features and Updates

  • Python 3 development moves FAST – new versions add helpful functionality
  • Checks let you leverage latest capabilities

Identify Security Risks

  • Vulnerabilities found in end-of-life Python 2 are left unpatched
  • Newer Python 3 fixes vital security issues and improvements

Let‘s look at some exciting use cases where Python plays a starring role…then I‘ll teach you how to check your version.

Python‘s Killer Use Cases

From humble beginnings 30+ years ago, Python now dominates across these key areas:

1. Web Development & APIs

Python web frameworks like Django and Flask power many high-traffic sites.

For example, Python runs behind the scenes on YouTube, Instagram, Spotify, Reddit and Dropbox. It‘s used both for traditional server-side applications and modern microservices.

Clean syntax and robust libraries like Requests make Python ideal for building lightning fast APIs.

2. Data Science and AI Applications

Today Python joins Java as the top languages for coding AI solutions.

The powerful Pandas library for data analysis combined with ML frameworks like Tensorflow and PyTorch have solidified Python as the choice for data science engineers.

Whether you need to forecast models, classify images or translate text – there‘s a Python library to help!

3. Cloud-Based Infrastructure

Major cloud providers from AWS to Azure to Google Cloud ramp up their Python support with every new service release.

Python has become a favorite tool for DevOps engineers to automate infrastructure provisioning and system administration tasks.

The wide ecosystem of Python configuration management tools like Ansible and Salt make it a cloud-portable language.

4. Software Test Automation

The simple syntax of Python also makes it an ideal scripting language for QA automation.

Python testing frameworks like PyTest or Robot let developers write readable, maintainable test suites that fully exercise complex applications with ease.

5. Desktop Applications

While not as popular as web or cloud-based apps, Python GUI frameworks like Tkinter facilitate building cross-platform desktop programs.

Open source apps like Blender 3D creative software and GIMP Image Editor are prime examples of production Python apps you can install locally.

I don‘t know about you, but I‘m excited to level up my Python skills after seeing all these amazing use cases! ✨

First things first though…let‘s get our Python version checked off.

Prerequisites to Check Python Version

Before verifying which Python release runs on your machine, you‘ll need access to a terminal or command prompt:

Windows Users

  • Launch the PowerShell prompt
    • Use the Win + R keyboard shortcut
    • Type powershell and press Enter

MacOS and Linux Users

  • Access Terminal console
    • Apps > Utilities > Terminal (Mac)
    • Or use Ctrl + Alt + T shortcut (Linux)

This opens the command line interface (CLI) to execute system commands like printing our Python version.

Next I‘ll demonstrate how to check it on each operating system.

Check Your Python Version on Windows

Thanks to recent updates, Windows 10 and 11 now ship with Python support built-in these days. But verifying which release can still be handy.

Follow these quick steps:

  1. From the PowerShell prompt, type python --version
  2. Press Enter and the installed Python version prints

For example, here‘s Python 3.8.2 confirmed on my Windows 11 laptop:

PS C:\Users\Max> python --version 
Python 3.8.2

Boom! You now know the exact Python version running locally including minor/bugfix release.

Check Your Python Version on MacOS

Apple macOS systems also have Python 2.7 activates by default. But most development uses Python 3.x.

Simply repeat this command in your Terminal app:

  1. Type python3 --version and press Enter
  2. The output shows your macOS Python 3 version

Here‘s what Python 3.9.1 looks like on latest macOS:

My-Mac:~ $ python3 --version
Python 3.9.1

Now you‘ve got the Python release for coding all those slick macOS applications! πŸ€–

Check Your Python Version on Linux

Modern Linux distributions ship with both Python 2.x and Python 3.x support. But again confirming which is ideal.

From your Linux terminal or shell, enter:

  1. python3 --version to print the Python 3 release
  2. Or enter python --version to show Python 2

Here‘s an example on Ubuntu Linux:

user@linux:~$ python3 --version
Python 3.8.10

user@linux:~$ python --version 
Python 2.7.18

As you can see here, Python 2.7 and Python 3.8 are both available to power different apps as needed.

Managing Multiple Python Versions

As highlighted in the Linux example above, running different Python releases side-by-side is very common these days.

This facilitates maintaining backward compatibility with Python 2 systems while also leveraging the latest capabilities of Python 3 for new development.

However, conflicting Python environments can cause major headaches:

❌ Importing incorrect modules/libraries
❌ Runtime errors from version mismatches
❌ Scrambling your virtualenv configurations

Luckily there ARE solutions to run separate Python interpreters smoothly:

βœ… Use virtual environments to isolate workflow
βœ… Specify full interpreter path when launching Python
βœ… Designate unique terminals for Python 2 vs Python 3
βœ… Containerize apps with targeted Python release

These approaches help segment multiple Python versions deployed across an integrated architecture.

While checking your Python interpretter with python --version is a quick first step, adding separation cleans up a ton of tricky cross-environment issues down the road.

How to Check Python Version in Python Code

Hard coding your Python version check directly into scripts is another best practice in your toolbelt.

This method returns the ACTIVE Python version powering the current process rather than just what‘s installed on your OS.

Here‘s a simple code snippet that prints your Python version regardless of environment or IDE:

import sys
print(sys.version) 

The output displays the full version string even if different interpreters run behind the scenes:

3.9.1 (default, Dec 11 2021, 00:08:41)
[Clang 12.0.0 ]

Now your scripts transparently integrate Python version awareness to Dynamically adapt behavior differences between 2.x and 3.x.

Migrating Python 2 to Python 3

With Python 2 formally sunset in 2020, many developers have undertaken migrating legacy Python 2 codebases to Python 3 recently.

The transition aims to leverage Python 3 advantages like:

βœ… Additional features and functionality
βœ… Simplified coding syntax
βœ… Access to an maintained libraries
βœ… Ongoing security updates

Luckily, Python itself provides tools to ease porting existing source code:

  • 2to3 auto-converts Python 2 to valid 3 code
  • Frameworks updated to favor Python 3
  • Containerization options too!

The process still requires extensive regression testing and likely refactoring. But with proper planning, most Python 2 systems can make the leap.

As enterprise Python 3 adoption continues accelerating over the next decade, checking your Python version ensures you ride the innovation wave!

Key Takeaways and Next Steps

Congratulations friend! I hope you now feel empowered to verify your exact Python release in use across operating systems.

You also got a whirlwind tour of Python‘s 30 year history along with a peek at the many things it powers today like web and mobile apps to automation to artificial intelligence systems.

Here are some final tips as you venture forth:

πŸ”Ή Use python --version and python3 --version in terminal windows
πŸ”Ή Print the Python version right inside your scripts too
πŸ”Ή Consider isolating Python 2 vs Python 3 workloads
πŸ”Ή Check Python security blogs for version guidance
πŸ”Ή Brush up Python skills with these learning resources!

Thanks for following along on this Python versioning journey! Let me know if you have any other topics you‘d like me to cover.

Happy coding! πŸ‘©β€πŸ’»