MacTex vs MacPorts

Sam Kuper sam.kuper at
Fri Sep 30 21:03:32 PDT 2011

Dear all,

This thread was prompted by another thread I started recently, which
has since been resolved:

I installed MacTex a couple of years ago, and although I'm not
currently using LaTeX for anything, I may want or need to use it again
in the future.

MacTex has the advantage that it bundles everything needed for using
LaTeX on the Mac, including several handy GUI applications (BibDesk,
LaTeXiT, TeXShop, TeXworks, TeX Live Utility, and Excalibur), and
provides versions of each of these components that should be
compatible with each other. (Only two of those six GUI applications,
incidentally, seem to be available from MacPorts: LaTeXiT and

However, MacTex has the disadvantage that it sits outside of any more
general package management system (e.g. MacPorts), which has the
following ramifications, IIUC:

(1) it bundles utilities that may already be present on the user's Mac;
(2) if any of the utilities it bundles *are* present elsewhere on the
user's Mac, then the user is forced to decide which version to give
precedence to in the $PATH variable or other settings, and problems
may arise if other software installed on the Mac expects whichever
versions of those utilities that have *not* been given precedence in
the $PATH;
(3) its components can't be upgraded with a simple package manager
update/upgrade combo command.

There may be additional disadvantageous ramifications that aren't
coming to mind right now.

I'm trying to work out what the best compromise is. Should I keep
MacTex and just manage any conflicts with MacPorts as they arise (as
happened with ImageMagick as described in the thread I linked to
above)? Or should I ditch MacTex and instead rely upon MacPorts +
standalone installations of any LaTeX-related applications I might
like to use (e.g. BibDesk) that would have been included in MacTex,
but which aren't available from MacPorts?

This make me wonder more generally whether it mightn't be possible for
the MacTex and MacPorts teams to combine forces with the aim of making
MacPorts the distribution system of choice for all the components of
MacTex (instead of MacTex's one or more giant ZIP files), thereby
removing the user's dilemma. Has this been discussed? If so, what
conclusions were reached?

All advice appreciated. Thanks in advance,


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