Jupyter lets you create interactive notebooks containing code, text, and rich media that you can share with your friends.

We created a Jupyter Notebook package (called a Kernel) for you to run CircuitPython code directly from a Jupyter interactive notebook.

That means your code lives in your web-browser and executes on the CircuitPython hardware through a serial USB link.

We're going to learn how to combine Jupyter with CircuitPython to create interactive notebooks for your hardware.

What's a Jupyter Notebook?

Jupyter Notebooks via https://jupyter.org/

The Jupyter Notebook is an open-source web application that allows you to create and share documents that contain live code, equations, visualizations and narrative text. Uses include: data cleaning and transformation, numerical simulation, statistical modeling, data visualization, machine learning, and much more.

This is great news for people who are already comfortable with Jupyter, but also for educators, developers and workshop-organizers.

In this learn guide, we're going to walk through installing Jupyter Notebook, installing the Jupyter CircuitPython kernel, and uploading Jupyter Notebook examples.

The installation process for Jupyter and the CircuitPython kernel is a bit lengthy, but it's not difficult. If you don't already have Jupyter installed, you'll need to install it before we install the kernel. 

If you have a WIndows machine, please skip to the next page with Windows specific installation instructions.

Installing Jupyter

Install Jupyter with Anaconda

Don't have a Python installation on your computer? If you're new to all this, the Jupyter Project recommends installing Anaconda, which installs Python, the Jupyter Notebook, and other commonly used packages for scientific computing and data science.

First, navigate to the Anaconda downloads page, select your platform (Windows, Mac, Linux), and download the installer including Python 3.6+.

Install the version of Anaconda you downloaded by following the instructions in the installation executable. 

Install Jupyter with PIP

The CircuitPython Jupyter Kernel requires a Python 3.6+ installation.

If you have a Python installation already on your computer, you may want to use the Python Package Manager (pip) instead of Anaconda. 

If you're not sure which Python version is installed, you can check by running:

python3 --version

Next, let's ensure we also have the latest version of the Python Package Manager. We can do this by running:

pip3 install --upgrade pip

Install the Jupyter Notebook:

pip3 install jupyter

Starting the Notebook Server

Now that we have Jupyter installed, let's start the notebook server.

On MacOS or Linux, we can use the Terminal.

Let's launch the Jupyter Notebook server by opening either Command Prompt or Terminal and typing:

jupyter notebook

If your installation went well, you'll see information about the notebook server in your command line:

Your web browser will automatically open to the Jupyter Notebook Dashboard.

The Notebook Dashboard displays a list of notebooks, files, and folders in the location on your computer from where the notebook server was started.

We're going to spend more time with the Dashboard later in this guide.

Installing the CircuitPython Kernel

Jupyter manages its programming language support through the installation of kernels.

By default, the Jupyter Notebook will have the Python programming language installed. We're going to install the CircuitPython Kernel which is a wrapper which allows CircuitPython's REPL to communicate with Jupyter's code cells.

If you have a Git client installed, clone the CircuitPython kernel by running the following in your terminal:

git clone https://github.com/adafruit/circuitpython_kernel.git

Alternatively, you can download the latest release of the circuitpython_kernel from GitHub as a .zip file and unzip it.

In your terminal or command prompt, navigate to the folder directory:

cd circuitpython_kernel/

Install the Kernel by running:

python3 setup.py install

Finally, let's install the CircuitPython Kernel into Jupyter:

python3 -m circuitpython_kernel.install
You may need to run this command prefixed by 'sudo' on MacOS or Linux if you see errors during the installation.

The kernel should be installed, but let's verify that by running:

If circuitpython appears as an available kernel, the installation was successful. 

Don't have a Python installation on your computer? If you're new to all this, the Jupyter Project recommends installing Anaconda, which installs Python, the Jupyter Notebook, and other commonly used packages for scientific computing and data science.

You will need to know if you are running 32-bit WIndows or 64-bit Windows. To find out if your computer is running a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows in Windows 7,  Open System by clicking the Start button , right-clicking Computer, and then clicking Properties. On Windows 10, type about in the search box on your taskbar, and then select About your PC. Look under PC for System type to see if you're running a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows. 

Select the proper download for your system (32-bit or 64-bit). The file will download, probably into your Downloads folder. You can start the installation by clicking the downloaded file icon in the browser or using File Explorer, going to the Downloads folder and double clicking the file with a name like Anaconda3-5.2.0-Windows-x86_64.exe. You'll see the installation run:

Click Next then All Users (if you have administrative privileges, otherwise click Just me).

The installer will ask where to put the installation. Unless you have a specific place, accept the default which is C:\ProgramData\Anaconda3 or similar by clicking Next.

You'll see the screen below.

It is recommended you keep the Advanced Options the way the installer wants them unless you have been told by an instructor otherwise or have other Python software installed and are knowledgeable about multiple installations. Click Install.

Anaconda will now install, it'll take a few minutes depending on your system speed. You may see some windows open and close, that is typical.

When done, the installer will show Completed. Click Next.

The installer will ask if you want to install the free, open source editor Microsoft VSCode. You will need administrator privileges if you want to install this. Or you can skip. If you are more of a power user, Install is good. If you are not the admin of the machine, click Skip.

The installer will then show you this screen:

If you want to learn more, keep the check boxes clicked. Click Finish.

On Windows 10, you'll have new Start Menu items under Anaconda. Click the Start Menu, then scroll down to Anaconda then expand by clicking Anaconda and you'll see several items.

Anaconda Prompt works like a Windows command window (an interactive prompt). It uses Windows (DOS-like) type commands, not Unix/Linux commands.

Clicking Jupyter Notebook will open a command prompt window and a browser window with Jupyter.

Installing the CircuitPython Kernel

Kernels are the main logic groups inside Jupyter. The default Windows installation only installs Python 3. We'll need to get a bit more code for the CircuitPython notebook.

First we need to download the latest kernel file from the Adafruit GitHub website.

Click the button below or in your web browser, go to https://github.com/adafruit/circuitpython_kernel

Save the file in your Windows Documents folder.

Next use your Windows File Explorer to go to the Documents folder.

Double-click the circuitpython_kernel-master.zip file. Copy the directory in the ZIP file named circuitpython_kernel-master into the Documents folder ("unzipping it" so we can use the files).

Now the files for the kernel are in your user's Documents folder in the circuitpython_kernel-master directory.

Run Anaconda Prompt by going to Start Button -> Anaconda -> Anaconda Prompt. You'll get the terminal like window below:

You will probably have another username besides Mike. Note what that username is as you'll need it in the next steps.

Type the following commands in Anaconda Prompt:

cd \Users\yourusername\Documents\circuitpython_kernel-master

Your prompt (the part which is before the typing area) should show that you are in the directory. If you do not see that you are in the circuitpython_kernel-master directory, double check your typing and try again.

If all is ok, then we'll start installing!


python setup.py install

You'll get a lot of output and hopefully it should show success. if there is an error about something not found, ensure you are in the directory with all the code from the ZIP file. If there is an error about epylint (like above), that's ok right now, your install should still work ok.

After the setup.py installs, type:

python -m circuitpython_kernel.install

and you should see the text:

Time to verify everything is ok! Type in the prompt window:

jupyter kernelspec list

which should print:

If you see both circuitpython and python3, you're set.

We included some examples to get you started with using Jupyter Notebooks with the Circuit Playground Express since it has lots of inputs and outputs to play with as is. 

Mac or Linux

You can start a Jupyter notebook by running the following in a terminal

jupyter notebook


First, ensure there are no Jupyter terminal windows open (use the Ctrl-C key in the window to close one if you have one open. We'll start a new copy of Jupyter:

Start Button -> Anaconda -> Anaconda Prompt

The Anaconda command terminal will open. we need to go where the files were unzipped:

You'll have the (base) C:\Users\yourusername> prompt.

Type the following:

cd Downloads\CPK\circuitpython_kernel-master

There type jupyter notebook

Load up the Example Folder

OK no matter what you're running, you should have a screen like the one below on your Anaconda prompt window and the same Jupyter screen below as the mac/linux users.

If you started this from the directory we were using earlier (circuitpython-kernel), you'll see an examples/ folder:

If you don't see this folder, click the upload button on the Notebook Dashboard

Navigate to the folder for circuitpython-kernel (or circuitpython-kernel-master) you cloned or downloaded earlier. Navigate to the examples folder. Then, click upload on the imported notebook on your dashboard. 

Locate the CPX_Blinka.ipynb notebook but don't click it yet!

Plug In The CircuitPython Board

At this point, you'll want to plug in your board and verify it shows up as a mountable drive called CIRCUITPY

If you don't see the CIRCUITPY drive, install CircuitPython on your board.

Ensure your board is not connected to a serial terminal somewhere else on your computer, the kernel needs to make a connection to an open port.

Launch the CPX Blinka Example

OK now we're ready.

Click on CPX_Blinka.ipynb to launch the Jupyter Notebook and the CircuitPython Kernel. 

Make sure your notebook is running the CircuitPython kernel by clicking change kernel -> CircuitPython:

When you launch notebooks using the CircuitPython-Kernel, it'll search the serial ports on your computer and connect to your Adafruit CircuitPython board. 

The CPX_Blinka notebook should open. We're going to use the notebook and learn about Jupyter in the process.

The first cell should be highlighted. Each of these cells hold media (like pictures, equations, or rich text) or code, executable by your CircuitPython board. Click run in the toolbar or press shift+enter to run the cell:

As you go use the run command to move the cells, you should see the Circuit Playground's LED turn on when the cell containing cpx_led.value = True is executed:

Congrats - you just ran your first Jupyter Notebook!

Want to try another example? Navigate to the Notebook Dashboard and navigate to the examples/ folder.

Next, we'll learn how to create our own Jupyter Notebook.


I get a "The kernel appears to have died" dialog and then it enters a reset-loop

Open your terminal to view the errors from the kernel. If the problem persists, copy the output from the terminal and file an issue on the GitHub Repository for this project.

My terminal is displaying an error: Port must be configured before it can be used.

There's an issue with your serial connection which is preventing the kernel from opening a serial connection with your board. Make sure your drivers are installed correctly and the CircuitPython board is displayed as CIRCUITPY drive in file explorer.

Let's walk through creating a new Jupyter Notebook using the CircuitPython Kernel.

Creating a CircuitPython Jupyter Notebook

Make sure your CircuitPython board is plugged into your computer and displays as a removable drive 'CIRCUITPY' before creating a new notebook

To create a new Jupyter Notebook for use with the circuitpython kernel, navigate to the Notebook Dashboard and click New -> Notebook -> CircuitPython 

Your notebook should connect to your board using the CircuitPython kernel. You can verify this by checking two things on the toolbar: the Trusted and CircuitPython badges should display

Navigating Jupyter Notebooks

All Jupyter Notebooks contain three areas: menu, toolbar, and the code cells

The Menu contains actions on the notebook and the kernel. You can add/remove cells, restart the kernel, and perform file operations, all from the menubar. 

The toolbar has buttons for common actions within the notebook. You can switch cell modes (between code/text), run/restart cells, and save the Notebook state. 

Cells are text-input fields which can be executed (the code gets sent to the kernel) and display output. They're the interactive part of Jupyter, and a bit different from any other software out there. There are three different types of cells, we'll cover into the first two in this guide:

  • Code Cells
  • Markdown Cells
  • Raw Cells

Jupyter Modes

Like the Vim Editor, there are two different keyboard input modes in Jupyter which control whether you're controlling the notebook (command mode) or editing the code (edit mode) within a cell.

Command Mode allows you to perform notebook actions such as switching cell-type (code to markdown), executing code on the kernel, stopping the kernel and inserting cells. You can get into command mode by pressing the enter key, the cell will turn blue (green on newer versions of Jupyter).

To enter edit mode, press the escape key on your keyboard. The cell's border will turn blue and you're able to type into the text-box of the cell (multi-line code is supported). 

Using Cells

Want to write some CircuitPython code? You'll need a code cell. You'll be able to execute the code cell using the run button on the toolbar or by pressing shift+enter

To create new code cell, click Insert -> Insert Cell Below (or Above)

Code Cells are also capable of returning errors from the CircuitPython REPL so you'll know when your code is broken.

Want to document your progress by adding text, images, rich media, or even equations?  You'll want to use a Markdown Cell.  

You can switch to a markdown cell by clicking the cell selection dropdown on the toolbar and clicking Markdown

Not familiar with the features of Markdown? Check out the Working with Markdown Cells example notebook

Managing Notebooks

Finished writing in your notebook? Even if you've closed the tab where you're working in, the notebook is still running.

From your dashboard, navigate to the Running tab. You'll see your active notebooks, click Shutdown to shut the kernel down.

Now that we've learned about creating and editing a Jupyter Notebook, we're going to learn how to share it with others. 

Troubleshooting the Kernel

If your notebook is unresponsive, don't disconnect your board just yet. Code sometimes fails or freezes. Luckily, Jupyter Notebooks have controls for kernels built in so you can stop any errors/infinite loops you encounter.

First, we can interrupt the kernel's code execution by clicking kernel -> interrupt. This'll retain the program execution state and variables which may have been created earlier. 

Still frozen? Try restarting your kernel. There are three options for this:

  • Restart: Restarts the kernel and loses state (variables, etc). The board resets its connection with the kernel. The output from the previous run will be retained along with the cells.
  • Restart & Clear Output: You can also restart (as explained above) and clear the output of your cells. The code/markdown within the cell will be retained.
  • Restart & Run All: Restarts the kernel, loses variable states, reconnects the board, and runs all cells. 

Still no luck? Having a critical issue?

You can reconnect (this will re-establish a connection with the board) or shutdown the kernel (however, all variables will be lost if you choose this).

Ready to share your notebook with the world? We're going to highlight a few different options for sharing it with anyone.

Sharing Locally

You can export to a variety of formats from within the notebook by navigating to File -> Download As. You'll want to export your notebook as a Jupyter Interactive Notebook (.ipynb file format) if you'd like the person you're sharing it with to interact with the notebook.

Sharing Online

Want the other person to preview your notebook before opening it? There are a few options for giving the other person a chance to view it online before downloading the file, we like using GitHub and nbviewer.


Have a GitHub account? If you drop a Jupyter notebook (.ipynb) file in your repository, it'll be automatically rendered directly in the browser. It works for both public and private repositories.


The nbviewer is a Jupyter notebook viewer service hosted by Jupyter. Just give it a URL and it'll render it instantly!

It's the simplest way of having your notebook rendered online.

While neither of these two methods of sharing notebooks will run CircuitPython code, but they can be uploaded to a users' local Jupyter installation.

This guide was first published on Jul 03, 2018. It was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.