The Debian/Ubuntu packages for TeXlive are usually outdated, sometimes up to several years behind CTAN. Now, I understand that

packaging TeX Live takes a lot of work

and, if you want to follow the latest developments, you essentially have to install from scratch (also here and here) using tlmgr and then create a "dummy" package (from tug.org).

Is anyone aware of efforts to automate this for Debian/Ubuntu? Once automated, this could be wrapped into an "installer package" (as seen for zotero, libflashplayer-plugin, nautilus-dropbox, ...). This installer package has a version and dependencies, but does not contain the files -- they are downloaded and installed in the "configure" step of dpkg. Wouldn't this be sweet:

apt-get install texlive-installer

gets you an up-to-date TeXlive with no need for manual updates (since the installer package will update the TeXlive installation on apt-get upgrade).

Advertisement: I have even pushed my own dummy package to a PPA, so that the next time I need to install a new machine I don't have to redo this. (Hope I got the dependencies right...)

  • There is an auto installer on the www.tug.org website. texenthusiast has referred to it and linked to it before in posts.
    – dustin
    May 16, 2013 at 16:12
  • @dustin: Do you have a link? I can't seem to find it. I'm aware of tug.org/texlive/quickinstall.html, this question is about automating the process described there.
    – krlmlr
    May 16, 2013 at 20:47
  • I was speaking of the quick install which you said you are aware of.
    – dustin
    May 16, 2013 at 20:49

4 Answers 4


I have to disagree and advise with a few points:

  • Debian/wheezy contains TeX Live 2012, the latest released version of TeX Live
  • TeX Live 2013 prerelease will soon be uploaded the Debian/sid (maybe today if I manage it)
  • linking apt-get with tlmgr update as you suggested is a very bad idea, since by now tlmgr does not return proper error codes, which means that apt-get cannot know if it worked out properly or not
  • using the above outlined method you will loose integration of other Debian TeX related packages (though, I have to admit, TeX Live contains almost everything anyway)
  • you are not guaranteed to get running binaries for all systems

All this combined I (as Debian maintainer of the TeX packages and TeX Live tlmgr programmer) strongly advise against such a package. Of course everyone is free to publish whatever package there might be, but I am quite sure that it will not end up in Debian, at least.

  • Thanks for taking your time to comment on this. I do believe that it is a lot of work to create, maintain, and upgrade Debian packages for TeXlive. To me it sounds like a full-time job, especially if one wanted to ensure up-to-dateness -- unless the process of including a new package is highly automated, and even then... In this case, I'll try an automated solution of tug.org/texlive/quickinstall.html and a cron job that pulls upgrades on a regular basis. -- Would it be possible for you to add error code support to tlmgr?
    – krlmlr
    May 17, 2013 at 7:59
  • Something else: Are you aware of cran2deb? The R folks do have a similar problem, and this project aims at providing a 1:1 translation from R packages to Debian packages. Would this be a feasible route for TeXlive?
    – krlmlr
    May 17, 2013 at 8:01
  • @krlmlr: The TeXLive packages for OpenSUSE (rpms) have been split into 5k+ packages, so automation is possible. May 17, 2013 at 17:13
  • 1
    @landroni yes I know, but tlmgr in Debian is permanently in "user mode", that means that it can manage your TEXMFHOME (or some other tree), but not the system tree. It is for the convenience of those who really need to update a few packages. Since it is in user mode, it has one big restriction: it can only install packages that only contain files in the texmf tree, thus no scripts or binaries.
    – norbert
    Jan 9, 2015 at 0:04
  • 1
    @landroni yes, the files in TEXMFHOME override the files in the other trees, that means if you have frletter installed with tlmgr in user mode, then it will be used. But be aware, that once the system's copy is updated, even to a newer version than the one in your TEXMFHOME, still the version in your TEXMFHOME is used (and this is supposed to be like this).
    – norbert
    Jan 10, 2015 at 12:38

The latest version of TeX Live can be installed in Ubuntu with install-tl-ubuntu. The main advantage of this is that you get tlmgr and can update accordingly and apt is notified of the install so it will not try to install TeX Live packages that are already installed. Download install-tl-ubuntu and run it as

sudo ./install-tl-ubuntu

No options need to be specified if what you want is a full TeX Live install. To download that script, run

wget https://github.com/scottkosty/install-tl-ubuntu/raw/master/install-tl-ubuntu && chmod +x ./install-tl-ubuntu

Below I give the list of features from the GitHub repository

  • installs TeX Live (latest version)
    • automatically finds the fastest repository
    • gives updated progress of the install
    • restarts automatically if install fails
  • tlmgr can then be used to keep your install up-to-date
  • notifies apt so that apt does not try to install the Ubuntu texlive-* packages as dependencies (e.g. if you do sudo apt-get install lyx)
  • links to the folder where Ubuntu installs TeX files so that when you install Ubuntu packages (e.g. FoilTeX and noweb) with LaTeX files, they will be available
  • adds TeX Live fonts to be used system-wide
  • other font-related conveniences
    • tells AppArmor to allow Evince to access the TeX Live fonts
    • can install TrueType fonts that user provides (--truetype-dir)
    • can install IvriTeX Hebrew fonts (--hebrew)
  • optionally installs additional LaTeX files for common journals that are not included in TeX Live (--more-tex)
  • works non-interactively and thus can be added to a batch install script
  • tlmgr can be run from the desktop menu (if 'gksu' package is installed)
  • install can be done from an ISO file (--iso)

For more details, see

./install-tl-ubuntu --help
  • Can I see somewhere in for example synaptic how the locally installed Texlive satisfies the package dependencies? I have just installed TL2014 right now and it did not appear to interact with the apt system. I have used this approach to trick apt so far: tug.org/texlive/debian.html#vanilla Oct 1, 2014 at 12:10
  • equivs is the only way I know of to trick apt. Anything else would be even more hackish and fragile, I think.
    – scottkosty
    Oct 1, 2014 at 16:22
  • Yes, but what I mean is that I don't see this happening: "apt is notified of the install so it will not try to install TeX Live packages that are already installed". How is that supposed to work? Oct 2, 2014 at 9:08
  • @ThomasArildsen That phrase is meant as a user-friendly way of explaining what equivs does.
    – scottkosty
    Oct 2, 2014 at 15:31
  • Oh, I got the impression that it was supposed to happen automatically. I guess it's what I did then (dummy package as mentioned in @krlmlr's answer. Oct 2, 2014 at 18:51

Installing it via tlmgr was a pain for me. So I did the following:

  1. You will need python installed so sudo apt install python should do the trick if it is not installed yet
  2. Download the script from CTAN and save it as texliveonfly.py.
  3. Make it an executable: chmod +x texliveonfly.py.
  4. Move the file to/usr/local/bin/ according to this answer. You will need root privileges. Type sudo mv texliveonfly.py /usr/local/bin and enter your root password.

From command line, use texliveonfly.py file.tex. This installs required packages and I imagine you will not need to use it too often, after you've used it to install most packages you commonly use.


As of November 22, 2018, I installed TexLive on Ubuntu 18.04 from the source: https://www.tug.org/texlive/quickinstall.html

It's quite straightforward by following the instruction there.

It installs TexLive 2018, the latest. This avoids the potential issue that the Ubuntu repository might not be updated, which might cause some problem.

  • That is the way I use under Linux as well. I recommend to avoid the packaged and outdated version, except for people which don't mind an old version and would like to install it the easiest way possible. This topic is handled in more detail in another question: How to install “vanilla” TeXLive on Debian or Ubuntu? Nov 23, 2018 at 6:32

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