This question is similar to How do I set up MacTeX so admin rights aren't necessary?.

I have a Mac at work, and the sysadmins won't give me write permissions to /usr/local/texlive. So, per the instructions in Is there any way to have a LaTeX compiler on a Mac without root access?, I installed my own user-specific version of TeX Live, at ~/Library/texlive/2014, and it is working fine.

Now, I'd like to know, is there any way to tell MacTeX's "TeX Distribution" utility (in System Preferences) about this installation of TeX Live, so that I can use MacTeX with it? If I need admin rights to do this, it would be okay -- I can ask our sysadmins to do this if it's a one-time thing. What I don't want is to be tied to asking them, for example, every time I want to install a new package.


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    Welcome to TeX.SX! Nice first question. I'm not a Mac/MacTeX user myself, but I'm sure somebody around here will be able to help. :-) Feb 24, 2015 at 19:24
  • And in case they won't, please consider asking the TeX on Mac OS X Mailing list. tug.org/mactex/help Feb 24, 2015 at 19:32
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    And then get the answer on this page somehow – either by directing them to this site or by quoting the necessary stops to a solution. xkcd.com/979 Feb 24, 2015 at 19:35
  • I suspect that you could do this by creating appropriate symbolic links under /Library. If I remember correctly, that's where the distribution magic enabling the preference pane happens. But I've not used MacTeX for some time...
    – cfr
    Feb 24, 2015 at 20:30
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    You could create the symlinks in /Library/TeX manually, but there's really no reason to do so; the TeXDist prefpane is only useful if you have multiple distributions, and it requires admin rights to change between them. Set your PATH for Terminal-based programs as @MikeRenfro indicates, and point GUI programs (e.g., TeXShop, BibDesk, TeX Live Utility) at the same directory in their preferences. Feb 25, 2015 at 2:32

1 Answer 1


Thanks for the responses. I posted the question to the mailing list, and got a good answer from Richard Koch: the LocalTeX Preferences Pane:

It is a “Local Pref Pane”, and is available, compiled and with source, at


This requires Mavericks or higher.

The idea of this pane is to select an active distribution JUST FOR YOU, independently of the choice in the global pane. It can coexist with the global pane, or work even if there is no global pane. It can see distributions with TeX Dist structures. So if the global choice is TeX Live 2014, but you want to use TeX Live 2013, you can.

This new pane makes it essentially trivial to add extra distributions, including the one you mention, to the available distributions.


  1. You must reconfigure your GUI apps. But this need only be done once, and the Pane itself will reconfigure a few of them. The global pane uses /usr/texbin as an indirect pointer to the active distribution. The local pane uses ~/Library/TeX/LocalTeX/texbin as a similar pointer.

  2. You must also add ~/Library/TeX/LocalTeX/texbin to your path if you access TeX from the shell.

  • Thanks also to @Adam Maxwell for leaving the same suggestion in the comment above.
    – Klortho
    Mar 12, 2015 at 15:23

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