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When I started using a unix based system it was very natural to install MacTeX, since the installation of it is more "windows-like", though the installation package is huge. Later I was introduced to MacPorts, and recently Homebrew, which also provide easy ways of installing LaTeX on my system. However, I find myself unable to distinguish the practical differences between these alternatives and argument for using one or the other.

  1. Does MacTeX, MacPorts and Homebrew provide different versions of LaTeX?
  2. Downloading and maintaining tex-libraries with MacTeX is quite easy and automatized through the TexLive utility. Are there similar solutions if one choose to install LaTeX with MacPorts or Homebrew?
  3. Are there advantages/disadvantages with using one or the other solution?
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In my case, always I installed TeXLive from macports I've got errors (something works from terminal, but not from TeXWorks, TeXShop, TextMate, …). Moreover, it will take longer to install from macports than the MacTeX installation. About homebrew, never used it. –  Manuel Feb 7 '13 at 13:05
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I haven't used homebrew but most linux-like package managers are not ideal for installing and updating a TeX distribution because of a fundamental misunderstanding about what a TeX "package" is. See Adding a CTAN package to a MacPorts-maintained TeX install for some discussion. –  Alan Munn Feb 7 '13 at 13:12

2 Answers 2

up vote 17 down vote accepted
  1. Homebrew does not provide any version of LaTeX:

    $ brew search latex
    latex-mk     latex2html   latex2rtf    pplatex      rtf2latex2e
    
    If you meant `latex' precisely:
    
    Installing TeX from source is weird and gross, requires a lot of patches,
    and only builds 32-bit (and thus can't use Homebrew deps on Snow Leopard.)
    
    We recommend using a MacTeX distribution: http://www.tug.org/mactex/
    

    Macports' texlive port and MacTeX are both based on the latest TeXlive distribution, MacTeX is very complete (https://www.tug.org/mactex/whatsinthepackage.html) whereas you have much more granularity with all the texlive-* ports of macports (https://www.macports.org/ports.php?by=name&substr=texlive).

  2. With macports, all the above mentioned packages can be installed/updated through the usual port install and port update commands. However, if you need a package that is not pre-packaged by macports then you get absolutely no help (but I doubt that there are many).

  3. I used to use the macport-based texlive distribution, since it allowed me to avoid downloading stuff I didn't need (BibDesk or Excalibur for instance). Now I'm using homebrew and MacTeX, which is better integrated with MacOS X in general (fonts for instance). Disk-space (bandwidth) vs. integration.

Basically both are good solutions so it mostly depends on what else you do… I switched from macports to homebrew for reasons not at all related to TeX, hence my switch in TeX providers.

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With respect to the reasoning behind Homebrew dropping its tex-live formula, read github.com/mxcl/homebrew/issues/1087 –  Charles Stewart May 15 '13 at 19:16

It is possible to install MacTeX with homebrew using Homebrew Cask via

$ brew install caskroom/cask/brew-cask
$ brew cask install mactex

Since that basically downloads the MacTeX.pkg from ctan it should not be different from the usual manual installation.

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