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I am using a MacOS and I want to copy the IEEEtran.cls file into the latex directory such that it is read automatically.

I have a file in the directory /opt/local/share/texmf-texlive-dist/tex/latex/IEEEtran/IEEEtran.cls

But when I do \documentclass{IEEEtran} it fails to read the file.

Please help if anyone has seen this.

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Have you run texhash? Is /opt/local/share/texmf-texlive-dist included in the directory list of kpsewhich --expand-braces '$TEXMF'? – Heiko Oberdiek Sep 14 '12 at 3:16
Which TeX system do you use? If you have MacTeX, it should already be available, but that would be inside \usr\local\texlive. – Joseph Wright Sep 14 '12 at 6:44

One possibility is that the directory you have put the class file is not in the input path search list. This can be defined using the TEXINPUTS environmental variable e.g.

export TEXINPUTS=.:/somepath/lib/latex: 

would be used to have it search in /somepath/lib/latex as well as current directory. I have such a directory for odd bits of nonstandard LaTeX configuration and class files.

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