F2PY and Build Systems

In this section we will cover the various popular build systems and their usage with f2py.


As of November 2021

The default build system for F2PY has traditionally been the through the enhanced numpy.distutils module. This module is based on distutils which will be removed in Python 3.12.0 in October 2023; setuptools does not have support for Fortran or F2PY and it is unclear if it will be supported in the future. Alternative methods are thus increasingly more important.

Basic Concepts

Building an extension module which includes Python and Fortran consists of:

  • Fortran source(s)

  • One or more generated files from f2py

    • A C wrapper file is always created

    • Code with modules require an additional .f90 wrapper

  • fortranobject.{c,h}

    • Distributed with numpy

    • Can be queried via python -c "import numpy.f2py; print(numpy.f2py.get_include())"

  • NumPy headers

    • Can be queried via python -c "import numpy; print(numpy.get_include())"

  • Python libraries and development headers

Broadly speaking there are three cases which arise when considering the outputs of f2py:

Fortran 77 programs
  • Input file blah.f

  • Generates

    • blahmodule.c

    • f2pywrappers.f

When no COMMON blocks are present only a C wrapper file is generated. Wrappers are also generated to rewrite assumed shape arrays as automatic arrays.

Fortran 90 programs
  • Input file blah.f90

  • Generates:

    • blahmodule.c

    • blah-f2pywrappers2.f90

The secondary wrapper is used to handle code which is subdivided into modules. It rewrites assumed shape arrays as automatic arrays.

Signature files
  • Input file blah.pyf

  • Generates:

    • blahmodule.c

    • blah-f2pywrappers2.f90 (occasionally)

    • f2pywrappers.f (occasionally)

Signature files .pyf do not signal their language standard via the file extension, they may generate the F90 and F77 specific wrappers depending on their contents; which shifts the burden of checking for generated files onto the build system.


The signature file output situation is being reconsidered in issue 20385 .

In theory keeping the above requirements in hand, any build system can be adapted to generate f2py extension modules. Here we will cover a subset of the more popular systems.


make has no place in a modern multi-language setup, and so is not discussed further.