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Alternate Installation Procedures

MacTeX installs TeX Live in /usr/local/texlive, a location requiring root access. Some users do not have access to this location. They can still obtain TeX Live by using the TeX Live Install Script because this script can install in any location.

In addition, Mojca Miklavec has compiled the TeX Live 2021 sources for older systems by using a cross compiler. These binaries are not in MacTeX, but they are provided by the TeX Live Install Script for legacy systems older than 10.14.

Thus users with older hardware and users without root access can still get TeX Live 2021 by using the Unix TeX Live Install Script. The disadvantage of this approach is that these users will not get the TeX Dist structure for easy configuration of GUI programs. Therefore they will need to reconfigure the PATH variable for their shells, and configure any GUI program they use to point to the TeX binaries.

Special Considerations on macOS 11, Big Sur

The Unix install script has two modes: graphical and textual. Running the textual mode on Big Sur has a minor problem. Two mysterious dialogs appear when the script runs, claiming that wget.x86_64-darwin and xz.x86_64-darwin are not signed by a known developer. Each of these dialogs has an "OK" button. Push both buttons and then the install script will run without problems.

Running the Script

First obtain the install script by using the link install-tl-unx.tar.gz. Your Mac should automatically unzip it and you will find a file named "install-tl-unx.tar" in your downloads folder. Move this file to your home folder and click to untar it, producing a folder whose name contains a date, like "install-tl-20210109".

Open Terminal and change to the directory containing the untarred folder. Run the script by issuing the first command and either the second or third command below:
     cd install-tl-20210109
     sudo ./install-tl
Use the form without "sudo" if you want to install in a location that belongs to you, and the form with "sudo" if you want to install in /usr/local or some other system location.

Terminal will print a series of questions. In most cases the default values are correct. Follow the suggestions below if you want your installation to behave like MacTeX's install of TeX Live.
  1. Refuse an offer to import settings from a prior installation.
  2. Leave most settings alone; the defaults work well.
  3. In the "directory" section install in your home directory by setting the install directory to ~/texlive/2021. Or choose another spot if you prefer. Locations with spaces in their names will cause endless problems later on.
  4. Adopt the MacTeX convention of setting TEXMFVAR to ~/Library/texlive/2021/texmf-var
  5. Adopt the MacTeX convention of setting TEXMFCONFIG to ~/Library/texlive/2021/texmf-config
  6. Adopt the MacTeX convention of setting TEXMFHOME to ~/Library/texmf
  7. In the options section, select letter size instead of A4 size if appropriate.
  8. Notice that the installation "scheme" section allows installations which use less hard disk space. MacTeX installs everything, scheme-full. Basic TeX installs scheme-small. We recommend scheme-full.
If you install with this script, you must obtain a GUI front end on your own. All of the GUI applications we install work fine with TeX Live installed in the home directory. For links to obtain them, go to Smaller Downloads.

You may need Ghostscript, which can be obtained on the Smaller Downloads page.

Almost all GUI programs for the Mac are configured to find the TeX binaries in /Library/TeX/texbin. This link will not exist after installing with the TeX Live script, so GUI programs need to be reconfigured with the location of these binaries. If you install TeX Live in /usr/local/texlive/2021, then the 64 bit binaries are in /usr/local/texlive/2021/bin/universal-darwin. On systems earlier than Mojave, the last phrase will instead be x86_64-darwinlegacy.

MacTeX has been constructed to "just work" without explaining Unix over and over again to users. The MacTeX group provides no support for the TeX Live install script. This script is straightforward, but if you use it, then you are on your own.