PIG 3 - Plan for dropping Python 2.7 support

  • Author: Christoph Deil & Matthew Wood
  • Created: Feb 1, 2018
  • Accepted: Nov 30, 2018
  • Status: accepted
  • Discussion: GH 1278


We propose to drop Python 2.7 support in Gammapy v0.11 in March 2019.

All earlier Gammapy versions, up to Gammapy v0.10, support Python 2.7 and of course will remain available indefinitely.

User surveys in 2018 have shown that most Gammapy users are already on Python 3. Gammapy v0.8 shipped with a recommended conda environment based on Python 3.6 that works on Linux, Mac and Windows and can be installed by anyone, also on older machines.

To support Fermipy, which uses gammapy.maps and still requires Python 2.7, as well as other users on Python 2.7 (if any), we will backport bug-fixes and make patch releases in the Gammapy v0.10.x branch as needed, throughout 2019.

This change will reduce the effort spent on Gammapy testing and packaging in 2019, and also will simplify life for Gammapy developers a bit and make a few new features of the Python 3 language available for Gammapy.

Support for Python 3 will remain as-is (Python 3.5 or later) for now, whether to require Python 3.6 or later for Gammapy v1.0 in fall 2019 or later will be discussed separately.

User perspective

Most Gammapy users are already using Python 3.

We did a “Gammapy installation questionnaire” on the Gammapy mailing list and Gammapy Slack in Feb 2018 which resulted in only 12 responses. Only 2 people were still using Python 2.7, only one person suggested to keep Python 2.7 support for a while longer, until January 2019.

In CTA, a “CTA first data challenge user survey” was done in August 2018, which yielded 50 responses. There 40% said they were still using Python 2.7. The question why, or if / when they would be happy to switch to Python 3 wasn’t asked.

Based on these two questionnaires, and talking to Gammapy users in 2018, it became clear that the only good reason to keep using Gammapy with Python 2.7 is when using Fermipy, which uses gammapy.maps and the Fermi science tools, which at this time don’t support Python 3 yet, and the timeline for Python 3 support there isn’t clear.

Based on discussions with the Fermipy maintainers, as mentioned in the abstract already, the suggested solution here would be that Fermipy puts gammapy<0.11 in their setup.py which will mean that users will get the latest Python 2 compatible version. Probably even that isn’t needed, because the setup.py in Gammapy v0.11 and later will declare that it only supports Python 3 or later, so pip or conda would always pick the latest Python 2.7 compatible version automatically.

If other Gammapy users need support, please contact us. We can either help you update your scripts to run on Python 3 (preferred, usually trivial changes) or backport fixes to older Gammapy versions that still support Python 2.7 (if really needed).

Maintainer and developer perspective

This change will have a big positive impact on Gammapy maintenance and development. It is an important step to allow for developments in 2019 towards the Gammapy 1.0 release that is planned for fall 2019 (see PIG 5 - Gammapy 1.0 Roadmap).

Python 3 was introduced 10 years ago. The transition from Python 2 to Python 3 has been long and painful, and is still ongoing, but it is coming to an end. Most scientific Python projects have already dropped Python 2.7 support or are doing it now (see Python 3 statement).

Astropy and the astropy-helpers that we use have already dropped Python 2 support (see Astropy statement). Jupyter that we extensively use for the documentation has dropped Python 2 support as well. While these projects are still maintaining long-term-support (LST) branches for the last Python 2 compatible versions, it is getting harder and harder to keep the Python 2 builds (especially the Sphinx documentation build) and tests in continuous integration (CI) working. Dropping Python 2 support in Gammapy means less maintainer time spent on this moving forward.

There are also new developments that are slowed down by keeping Python 2 support. E.g. we want to continue and finish the development of astropy-healpix and astropy-regions to the point where it can be moved into the Astropy core package. This should happen before Gammapy v1.0 and then we should use astropy-healpix instead of healpy in Gammapy (see GH 1167 for Gammapy). Given that Astropy core doesn’t support Python 2 any more, it makes sense to directly develop those packages with this target, i.e. Python 3 only. Keeping support for Python 2 there does cause some extra work in development (see GH 111 for astropy-healpix) and also for packaging. Finally, we want to collaborate with ctapipe in Gammapy, and they only supported Python 3 from the start and are using Python 3 only features.

So to summarise: the extra maintenance effort to keep supporting Python 2.7 in Gammapy in 2019 would be significant and also slow down the work on astropy-healpix and astropy-regions. Moving to Python 3 only make life better for all Gammapy maintainers and developers.

Detailed plan

There are two ways to execute this. When dropping Python 2 support from the git master branch, one can either remove the Python 2 shims directly, or keep them in place and do as few code changes as possible for the time period where one has to backport bug-fixes to the Python 2 compatible branch to avoid the amount of git and manual edits needed. Many big and stable projects like e.g. Numpy that have several stable branches that are supported sometimes for years, and thus do a lot of backporting, don’t do the cleanup directly.

However, for Gammapy, we propose to do the cleanup directly in the master branch following the v0.10 release.

The motivation for this is that in 2019 we will have to re-organise the Gammapy sub-packages and move and edit most files as we work towards Gammapy v1.0 in fall 2019 (see PIG 5 - Gammapy 1.0 Roadmap). So it seems unlikely that git cherry-pick would work at all to backport bugfixes. Instead, the strategy would be to manually re-apply important bug fixes (mostly to gammapy.maps, hopefully not many) in the v0.10.x branch.


This suggestion was extensively discussed in 2017 and 2018 with Gammapy users and developers. This proposal and PIG was widely announced (mailing list, Slack) and we didn’t get a single request to extend Python 2 support longer than mentioned here. Approved on Nov 30, 2018 by Gammapy coordination committee.