Unix Install of TeXLive 2023
MacTeX requires macOS Mojave or later, but TeX Live 2023 can be installed on macOS Snow Leopard or later using the Unix install script. This page is for users with these older systems, and others who prefer finer control over the installation of TeX Live.
TeX Live 2023 contains two sets of binaries for the Mac. One set, called universal-darwin, contains both Arm and Intel code bundled together and requires Mojave (macOS 10.14) or higher. The other set, called x86_64-darwinlegacy, contains only Intel code and runs on 10.6 (Snow Leopard) and higher. MacTeX can only install universal-darwin, but the Unix install script selects either set as appropriate and can install on 10.6 and above.
MacTeX supplies Ghostscript and four GUI programs to interact with TeX. Most Mac users with older systems already have Ghostscript and these GUI programs. They only need to update TeX Live, which is easy to do with the Unix install script.
Important Problem On El Capitan (macOS 10.11) And Earlier
If you are running El Capitan or earlier, you must first fix an expired certificate problem which will make
it impossible for the Unix install script to download files. This problem is explained on the separate page linked here.
Installing with the Unix Script
TeX Live is created and maintained by TeX User Groups across the world. It can be installed on most computer systems: Unix, Linux, Windows, Macintosh. It installs the same programs, style files, fonts, and documentation on all of these systems. Most of these operating systems run a form of Unix, so the distribution has a command line script named install-tl to install TeX on such systems. Since the Macintosh runs Unix, this script works perfectly well on the Macintosh.
The script install-tl is maintained by TUG, not by the MacTeX group. For detailed documentation of its features, consult the TUG web site. This page deliberately gives just enough information to install exactly the same distribution as the one installed by MacTeX, but with binaries that run on Snow Leopard and above.
In this section, we'll describe a default installation and assume that nothing goes wrong. If something unexpected happens, skip down to the next section.
To begin the installation, click the link install-tl-unx.tar.gz.
Uncompress this file and move the resulting folder to your home directory. The folder will have a name like "install-tl-20230527", but the exact name varies by date.
Open Terminal in /Applications/Utilities. In Terminal, change to the directory created by unpacking install-tl-unx. The easy way to do this is to type the word "cd" without quotes in the Terminal window, type an extra space there, and then drag the install-tl folder created previously into the Terminal window and drop it there. This will add some text after the "cd". Activate the Terminal window and press RETURN. Terminal will "change directory" to the install-tl folder.
Enter each line below into Terminal, following each with RETURN. It is best to copy and paste these lines rather than typing them because Unix is very picky; for instance the tl is TL, but in small letters.
You will be asked for your password. If you have admin status (and most users on single owner machines do), type your ordinary password.
sudo perl install-tl -gui text
The Unix install script usually operates in text mode by outputting text to Terminal. It also has a graphic mode which is slightly easier to use, but this mode fails on Monterey and some other versions of macOS. If you want to try it, omit the final "text" from the last line. We will only describe installing using text mode.
The installer asks several questions (providing default answers for these questions). Luckily, all default answers are correct for the Macintosh except one. When you are asked for a default paper size, the answer is "A4" in most of the world and "letter" in the United States and a few other places.
You may first see the question "Import settings from previous TeX Live installation: (y/n):"
Type "n" without the quotation marks. Then the screen will fill with questions and their default answers. The default paper size is A4. If you want to change this to "letter", type a capital "O", without quotation marks. The screen will erase and show just that set of questions. Type "P" without the quotation marks to select "letter" size, and then type "R" without the quotation marks to get back to the full set of questions. Finally type "I" without the quotation marks to begin installation.
The install window will display a long list of packages as each is downloaded, uncompressed, and installed. This process may take one to two hours. In the end, some additional messages will be printed, but these can be ignored because the final step will do them automatically. You now have TeX Live 2023.
Installation is not quite done; a small data structure must be added so the GUI applications can easily find the TeX Distribution. Click the link TeXDist-2023 to download a small install package. Find this package in your Downloads Folder and drag it to the desktop. Double click to install. Installation takes only a minute and your TeX Live 2023 installation is complete.
We give a little more information on the last step for those curious about it. Unix users typeset from the command line and need to adjust PATH in their terminal to point to the new TeX binaries. A convenient alternate approach is to create a symbolic link to the new binaries and add that link to PATH; in future years it is only necessary to redefine the link.
On the Macintosh we use a more elaborate system created many years ago by Jerome Laurens and
Gerben Wierda. TeXDist-2023 installs that more elaborate system. It involves a link /Library/TeX/texdist which indirectly points to the binaries. For details, read multiple tex distributions.
Possible Problems and How to Avoid Them
We have reports that High Sierra refuses to open TeXDist-2023 because it claims that the package is not signed. Actually TeXDist-2023 is both signed and notarized. High Sierra does not recognize the more secure signature adopted by Apple in later systems. TeXDist-2023 may work on earlier systems which do not require signatures.
The main job of TeXDist-2023 is to define a symbolic link pointing to the binary folder of TeX Live. Applications can then use that link to find the binaries. Most macOS TeX applications are configured to look for binaries at /Library/TeX/texbin.
If TeXDist-2023 fails, there is another way to create the required links.
Download postinstall2023.sh. Place this file in a directory, open Terminal, and change to that directory. Then type
sudo sh postinstall2023.sh
On older systems the Unix installer may refuse to download packages because of an "expired certificate."
This more complicated problem is explained on the separate page linked here.
Changing the Install Location
The installer has a button allowing users to select the location where TeX is installed. If you pick a location in your home directory, the "sudo" item in the command "sudo ./install-tl" listed earlier can be omitted, and then admin permission is not required to install TeX. Users who make this change should NOT install "TeXDist Installer" because this package is configured for the default location of TeX. These users will need to obtain and configure GUI programs on their own. Configuring these programs should not be difficult for knowledgable users, but we do not provide support for this option.
Other Controls Provided by the Unix Install Script
The steps on this page install the full TeX Live. The Unix install script gives finer control over what is installed. It defines a series of installation "schemes", providing installations which use less hard disk space. MacTeX installs everything, scheme-full. BasicTeX installs scheme-small. Many other schemes are defined by the script
Almost all GUI programs for the Mac are configured to find the TeX binaries in /Library/TeX/texbin.
This link will not exist if you install in a different location, so GUI programs need to be reconfigured
to find the location of these binaries. If you install TeX Live in /usr/local/texlive/2023,
then the universal binaries are in
On systems earlier than Mojave, the path will be /usr/local/texlive/2023/bin/x86_64-darwinlegacy. If you install somewhere else, these paths will change accordingly.
MacTeX has been constructed to "just work" without explaining Unix over and over again to users. The MacTeX group provides no such support for the TeX Live install script. This script is straightforward, but if you use it, you are on your own.