Anaconda is a complete distribution of the central software within the PyData ecosystem. It includes Python itself as well as binaries for hundreds of third-party open-source projects. Miniconda, on the other hand, is a minimal installer for the Anaconda distribution.
You may think of Miniconda as a smaller, bootstrap version of Anaconda as it only includes Python, and the Conda package management system. Once you have installed the Miniconda distribution, you have to install all the packages you need using the Conda command.
Both Anaconda and Miniconda offer Conda as the package manager by default. Throughout this guide, you will learn how the Anaconda distribution compares to Miniconda. It will also help you decide on which version is better suited for your application.
What Is Python?
Python is a general-purpose programing language that is considered to be easy to learn, and rather intuitive. Being a user-friendly programming language, Python is one of the best languages for scripting.
Similarly, the language is commonly used for writing ‘glue’ codes that are then used to integrate existing components. It is a rather powerful full-fledged programming language that may be used to solve almost any software development problem.
Some of the popular applications of the Python language include data analysis, web applications, and machine learning.
What Is A Python Distribution?
A Python distribution bundles the core programing language to several other packages, and libraries that are designed to address a particular problem domain. For instance, a distribution may be specifically designed to tackle data development or Data Analytics.
The standard Python distribution is available at the Python official website, and features the Python standard library, and Pip as the package manager. There are two other Python distributions that you need to be aware of, namely Anaconda and Miniconda.
Anaconda VS. Miniconda
Anaconda is an open-source python distribution. It is purpose-built for such applications as machine learning, data science, and large-scale data processing. This distribution includes the core Python language, along with more than 200 packages, and a package management tool.
While this is one of the most comprehensive Python distributions, it is also very large. (The installation file is about 200MB and will require about 2GB of disk space once installed). The Anaconda Python distribution also comes with several other software additions like the Anaconda Navigator—a graphical user interface.
You will also get qtconsole—a terminal-like solution that is capable of making graphs inline—with the Anaconda distribution. These are some of the Extra packages you will get on your Anaconda distribution, depending on the installer you choose:
- 250+ packages will be automatically installed with every Anaconda installation
- More than 7,500 open-source packages, including R, will be available at the Anaconda repository. You may download and install any of these additional packages individually using the Conda install command feature
- You will have access to thousands of packages from the Anaconda Cloud as well.
- Using the conda build command feature, you can customize your packages, and then share them by uploading to such repositories as PyPI or Anaconda Cloud.
- If you have the pip package manager installed with your Anaconda distribution, you can download additional packages through the pip install command. However, you should always give preference to conda packages as opposed to pip packages.
What of Miniconda?
Miniconda is a slimmed-down distribution version of Anaconda. It has all the components of the Anaconda distribution, except the 200+ pre-installed data science applications. With the various Mini condo installers, you will get the core Python language, and a package manager tool (Conda).
Following a successful installation of the Miniconda distribution, you can use the command line to install the packages you need individually. As such, Miniconda offers all the benefits of the Anaconda distribution with minimal space requirements.
Owing to the smaller file size and reduced disk space requirements, Miniconda is relatively faster to install as compared to the Anaconda distribution.
What Is A Package Manager?
One of the good things about the Python language is that it features a large ecosystem, and is backed by an assortment of reusable packages (also referred to as libraries). A package manager is a tool that is used to download, install, manage, and even remove packages from your computer.
The package manager tool also keeps an accurate track of package versions, and dependencies. Just as is the case with Python distributions, you can choose between several package managers. A good number of the package managers available today feature a simple command structure and function pretty much the same.
Any Python distribution you will ever come across is bundled with a package manager. Some of the common package managers you can get are pip and Conda.
What is Conda?
Conda is essentially an environment manager, and a cross platform package that may be used to install, and manage Conda packages, especially from Anaconda repository. Additionally, Conda may also be used to install and manage packages from the Anaconda Cloud.
Since the various Conda packages are binaries, you do not need to have a compiler to install them. Conda packages are not limited to Python. They may contain libraries in C or C++ programming languages. Also, there are special gems that Ruby developers can use.
Differences Between Conda, and Pip
Pip is a package manager that is specifically designed to install Python packages exclusively. In contrast, Conda is an open-source installer and package-management tool that can also handle both Python and non-Python library dependencies.
Conda offers virtual environment capabilities and can run on multiple operating systems like Windows, Linux, and macOS. With Conda, you will be able to create, load, save, and switch between different environments.
Which Python Distribution Should I Install?
Now that you know how the Anaconda distribution differs from the Miniconda distribution, you must be wondering which of them is the best option. Well, each of the distributions is designed to meet different needs. As such, the right Python distribution to install will actually depend on your personal needs.
If you look forward to learning Python in general, you should go for the standard Python distribution. The Miniconda distribution, on the other hand, is a great choice for those interested in machine learning or data science.
Regardless of your needs, you only need to install a single Python distribution, as multiple installations may result in software conflicts. Listed below are some of the scenarios under which you may need to install either of the Python distributions:
The Miniconda Python distribution will come in handy if you:
- Only need to install just a few specific packages
- Require fast access to Python and the Conda commands, and would rather sort the other packages later on.
- Do not have the extra time and disk space required to install the more than 720 packages on the Anaconda distribution (Note that you will not need most of the packages)
You should opt for the Anaconda distribution if you:
- Are rather new to the Python language or Conda commands
- Happen to have the extra disk space and time required to install all the 720+ on this distribution.
- Do not wish to install the packages you require individually, as is the case with the Miniconda distribution.
- Need a distribution for classes, as Anaconda contains most of the packages you will ever need.
If you happen to have some programming experience, you should consider installing the standard Python distribution instead. However, this distribution required you to manually configure additional library dependencies.
Installing the Miniconda Distribution
The right procedure for installing the Miniconda distribution will depend on the Operating system you are running. This is how you should go about it:
Miniconda installation in Windows
To install Miniconda on your Windows PC, navigate to the official Miniconda Download page. Choose, and download the appropriate installer version for your Windows version from this page. Once the download is complete, use tile Explorer to locate the file.
Double-click on the executable (.exe) installer file to run it. This operation will bring up the Windows installation wizard. Click through all the setup steps while leaving the pre-selected installation defaults of the distribution.
Once the installation is completed, you can run a command prompt (either CMD or PowerShell). Type conda list into the command prompt and press Enter. If correctly installed, running this command should display a list of the packages installed by Miniconda.
Miniconda Installation in Mac
Installing the Miniconda distribution on macOS is a bit different. To do this, navigate to the official Miniconda Download page. Download the Python 3.7 Mac OS X 64-bit .pkg installer from this page. Once the download is complete, locate the installer file using Finder and run it.
You may get an XCode notification prompt requiring an additional component. If you do, click on Install, and then enter your Password to continue. Now open your Terminal and navigate to the installer file you just downloaded in the download folder.
Next, you need to type the bash miniconda-filename.sh command into the Terminal and then press the Return key on the keyboard. The above command is just an example, the real file name will look something like Miniconda2-latest-MacOSX-x86_64.sh. Follow the on-screen Terminal prompts to complete the installation.
Conda Vs Anaconda Navigator
Following the successful installation of either the Miniconda or Anaconda distribution, you will need to decide whether to use Anaconda Navigator or Conda. If you prefer having a desktop graphical user interface (GUI) on either of the distributions, you should go for Navigator.
Conda will come in handy for users who would rather use an Anaconda prompt other Terminal in macOS or Linux. You may also install both and use them interchangeably for different applications. The Navigator allows you to install, update, or remove any anaconda package in a few clicks.
With conda, you need to run a single command in Anaconda prompt/Terminal to install, update or remove a package.
How to Use Anaconda Navigator
Anaconda Navigator is a desktop GUI that is available on the Anaconda Individual Edition. The interfacing option makes it easy for you to launch applications as well as manage environments and packages.
With this solution, you will not need to run the tedious command-line commands. Once you have installed the Anaconda or Miniconda distribution, open the program menu on your OS.
Now click the Navigator icon to launch the navigator. Alternatively, you can launch it by running the command anaconda-navigator on your Anaconda prompt or Terminal in macOS.
Anaconda and Miniconda are both distribution options for the Python programming language, each of which is suited for a different application. The Anaconda distribution offers a vast array of packages, including compilers and tools for almost every developer.
However, it requires more disk space to install the more than 200 packages it comes with, and takes longer to install. Miniconda, on the other hand, is a simpler version of the Anaconda distribution. Miniconda requires a smaller disk space and allows you to install just the packages you require.
As you can see, each has a unique set of pros and cons to offer. The right distribution mainly depends on your preferences and the intended application.