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I need some old deprecated options from an old package (biblatex: local maxbibnames, version 1.5 (current 2.4)). So I do not want to mess up my texlive installation. How can I use an old package locally just for one document? I guess putting the .sty files is insufficent, as e.g. biblatex is supposed to be installed in a texmf folder and its archive contains a lot of other files.

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I don't know specifically for this package, but usually, features aren't disabled if there is no other way of achieving the result. I assume you already investigated that thoroughly? – T. Verron Dec 4 '12 at 10:51
Yes, and the better solution is answered here: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/85457/…, but anyway I asked myself from time to time what do I do if I must use an old package without tainting my texlive install. – math Dec 4 '12 at 12:36
up vote 4 down vote accepted

You can place the old style/class files in the same directory/folder as your document. (You should probably create a single directory for this project.) If there is e.g. a biblatex.sty in your texlive tree and one in the current directory, then LaTeX will use the one in the current directory.

With biblatex you must remember that the code is spread over several files, so you will need to include those too. Have a look at the .log file from a latex run to see which files get loaded.

If you need to have a whole directory tree, then you can place the files in a subdirectory subdir and modify the search path when calling latex

TEXMFHOME="~/pathtosubdir/subdir:$TEXMFHOME" latex file

(bash syntax)

or modify your configuration via Joseph's Wrights answer to how add extra searchable directories.

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