I using debian (unstable) and have installed most of my LaTeX packages from the official repositories (except few ones which I copied directly inside a folder recognized by texhash).

I just learned it is possible to update package with tlmgr utility and commands like :

tlmgr update --self --all

I am wondering how this command is "safe" on my debian. Indeed, if I update my texlive distro like this, my packages will be newer than what debian offers (inside meta-packages like texlive-latex-extra). So, what happens when there is a debian update? Isn't there some kind of conflict?

  • 3
    Short answer: no. Why? Because you do this in bypassing the package manager. And that's evil. And if texlive-latex-extra will be updated - it will rewrite all files updated by tlmgr.
    – m0nhawk
    Nov 23, 2013 at 17:49
  • @someonr I did : I specified "unstable" (sid). Unstable is always changing and, so, I can't be more specific.
    – ppr
    Nov 23, 2013 at 23:28
  • @ppr Sry, Looks like I was sleeping yesterday.
    – someonr
    Nov 24, 2013 at 14:07

1 Answer 1


The unstable debian versions sid and Jessie provide tlmgr (as you may lookup here). You may use it, because it runs in user mode (see the doc or the man page). That means it will write the new/updated packages to your home folder and won't conflict with the package manager. PDFLaTex etc. prefer the packages from your home folder.

The tlmgr executable isn't included in any stable debian (see here). So you can't update with tlmgr. You can install texlive manually to /usr/local/texlive without messing up the debian package manger (this is the default directory). /usr/local won't be touched by the official debian packages (see the debian wiki). After doing this you may use tlmgr to update your texlive packages. (I'm doing this on ubuntu without any problems)

  • In Debian, tlmgr is installed when you installed texlive. There is no package with this name but the commandline works. however, this was not my question : I don't want to know how to update with tlmgr but only if it is safe or not.
    – ppr
    Nov 23, 2013 at 18:40
  • @ppr Sry I wasn't aware that it is included in the unstable debian versions. I'm updating my answer.
    – someonr
    Nov 23, 2013 at 18:58
  • 1
    @ppr: Yes. Or deinstall these packages with tlmgr (which should only work on your folder). Nov 24, 2013 at 13:41
  • 2
    @ppr That's part of the 'design': your local tree is just for you, and can override the 'managed' tree. That idea is independent of using tlmgr.
    – Joseph Wright
    Nov 26, 2013 at 17:00
  • 3
    I'll throw in some information for people who stumble on this page now, years after this answer was given. When this answer was originally posted/edited, it was correct. However, since then, Jessie has gone stable, and tlmgr is still available. The remarks about safety still apply, though [it will only run in "user mode," so it has no effect on apt(itude or -get), so it's not a problem to use it].
    – TCF
    Mar 12, 2016 at 2:32

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