This question presumes that vanilla texlive is superior and thus deserves to be installed despite the troubles over Ubuntu apt-get. What exactly are these benefits?

I'm considering going back to texlive via apt-get due to some issues in Rstudio and knitr, but want to fully understand the trade-offs.

1 Answer 1


Some benefits (in no particular order) assuming we are speaking of the Ubuntu official repositories are:

  1. More uptodate packages. As of today, several months after the release of TexLive 2014 ubuntu 14.04 still has TexLive 2013 or PGF 2.10 in the official repos.
  2. More control over the system. Even if you only need the e.g. tcolorbox ctan-package you have to find the ubuntu-package where they put it (assuming it's even packaged, see 3.) and install all of its content, which may be several megabytes of packages you'll never use.
  3. More packages. Sooner or later you'll stumble into a ctan-package that has not been packaged for Ubuntu. In such cases you need to perform a manual installation or hope for a third party/unofficial repository.
  4. Easier fallback in case something breaks. Say that the ubuntu packaging occurs while a broken version of a package as been uploaded to CTAN. If you're using ubuntu packages you are stuck with the broken version until the ubuntu-packager fixes its package, while with tlmgr you'll get the fixed version as soon as it is uploaded to CTAN and can easily revert to a previous version of a single package.

I forgot my favorite: simplicity. Using Ubuntu packages you are basically introducing another layer of complexity over Texlive, since Texlive already is a distribution system that you are forcing into another distribution system (Ubuntu packaging). With more complexity comes less control, less understanding and a higher risk of breakage. Some distros (say ArchLinux) suggest to install vanilla Texlive over their own packages for the sake of simplicity.

  • 3
    Total agreement, having tried both, as long as you resolve the dependency problems for other packages and set the path correctly. One more reason: nearly everyone on this site is using the most current TeXLive system, so you will be able to get better support here. Sep 8, 2014 at 18:37
  • 8
    So in short, don't buy themed lego boxes, you can only build the thing on the picture on the box.
    – percusse
    Sep 8, 2014 at 18:56
  • Agree and can only add for clarity re simplicity: vanilla texlive does not entail any dependencies hell.
    – ajeh
    Sep 8, 2014 at 19:14
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    As the one responsible for tlmgr and the Debian/Ubuntu packages: yes, I agree with what is written, but: (1) if you are writing normal documents (2) are not developing, then the Ubuntu packages might be better, because better integrated. I myself would be content with TL2005 packages - and Zi write a lot of tex code! last: dependency hell comes from not using the Debian/Ubuntu packages.
    – norbert
    Sep 9, 2014 at 17:50
  • 3
    @norbert It might be useful to add an answer giving these reasons for preferring the ubuntu versions. Just so both sides of the story are represented.
    – Seamus
    Nov 25, 2014 at 11:38

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