MacTex vs MacPorts

Scott Webster sewebster at
Fri Sep 30 21:11:00 PDT 2011

I don't claim to have all the answers, but recently when I had to
compile a "new" latex document I got from a colleague I found that it
was not compatible with the macports versions.  So I installed
MacTex2011.  It has a great prefpane to let you switch which tex
distribution you want to have active (macports/mactex etc.).  You can
also choose exactly what you want to install when you install it.  So
I chose not to install ghostscript for instance, because I already had
it via macports.

I'm writing off my memory so hopefully I'm not too wrong, but in
general it seems they can coexist reasonably well.  If I only needed a
few latex things I would probably just use macports, but I'm writing a
thesis in latex right now and find the selection in MacTex helpful.
In your case you might want to wipe out your (likely obsolete) MacTex
and then only install the newer one if you need it... and when you do,
customize the install to not interfere with macports.

Anyway, just my 2 cents,


On Fri, Sep 30, 2011 at 9:03 PM, Sam Kuper <sam.kuper at> wrote:
> 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
> TeXShop.)
> 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,
> Sam
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