Some time ago I updated from TeX Live 2014 to 2015. Now I want to sometimes compile a file with last year's version. It seems to be enough to just specify the full path of the executable on the command line, i.e. /usr/local/texlive/2014/bin/x86_64-linux/xelatex, as the messages of the packages loaded all mention the 2014 directory. Or is there still something I don't see which pulls in stuff from 2015?

  • 1
    You can install the two texlives in two directories with other names, and make a symbolic link on the one you want to use. Even make a script to switch. – Tarass Aug 6 '15 at 18:41
  • Just calling latex with the full path indeed doesn't seem to be enough. While the compile process looked fine almost up to the end, it didn't produce a new pdf, xdvipdfmx:fatal: Something is wrong. Are you sure this is a DVI file?, so I guess $PATH is necessary. – muk.li Aug 6 '15 at 18:48
  • As a side note, multiple installation of TeX Live can be smoothly handled with MacTeX, see tug.org/mactex/multipletexdistributions.html . – Clément Aug 7 '15 at 6:23

For each YYYY version of TeX Live which I have installed, I set up two symbolic links as follows:

cd /usr/local/texlive
ln -s <YYYY>/bin/x86_64-linux/
ln -s current.<YYYY> <YYYY>/

For the active version, I then do

ln -s bin.<YYYY> bin
ln -s current.<YYYY> current

For example, right now, it looks like this:

drwxr-xr-x 11 texlive texlive    4096 Mai  20  2012 2011/
drwxr-xr-x 10 texlive texlive    4096 Ebr  11  2013 2012/
drwxr-xr-x  9 texlive texlive    4096 Ebr  22  2014 2013/
drwxr-xr-x  9 texlive texlive    4096 Ebr  15 23:15 2014/
drwxr-xr-x  9 texlive texlive    4096 Gor  25 22:11 2015/
lrwxrwxrwx  1 texlive texlive       8 Meh  17 00:36 bin -> bin.2015/
lrwxrwxrwx  1 root    root         21 Rha  12  2011 bin.2011 -> 2011/bin/x86_64-linux/
lrwxrwxrwx  1 texlive texlive      21 Gor  21  2012 bin.2012 -> 2012/bin/x86_64-linux/
lrwxrwxrwx  1 texlive texlive      21 Meh  29  2013 bin.2013 -> 2013/bin/x86_64-linux/
lrwxrwxrwx  1 texlive texlive      21 Meh  20  2014 bin.2014 -> 2014/bin/x86_64-linux/
lrwxrwxrwx  1 texlive texlive      21 Meh  12 02:03 bin.2015 -> 2015/bin/x86_64-linux/
lrwxrwxrwx  1 texlive texlive      12 Meh  17 00:36 current -> current.2015/
lrwxrwxrwx  1 texlive texlive       4 Ion  17  2012 current.2011 -> 2011/
lrwxrwxrwx  1 texlive texlive       4 Gor  21  2012 current.2012 -> 2012/
lrwxrwxrwx  1 texlive texlive       4 Meh  29  2013 current.2013 -> 2013/
lrwxrwxrwx  1 texlive texlive       4 Meh  20  2014 current.2014 -> 2014/
lrwxrwxrwx  1 texlive texlive       4 Meh  12 02:03 current.2015 -> 2015/
drwxr-xr-x 11 texlive texlive    4096 Gor  25 22:11 texmf-local/

I then create a script part as /etc/profile.d/<some_name_with_texlive>.sh with the following content:

if [ `whoami` != "root" ]
        [ -d "/usr/local/texlive/bin" ] && export PATH="/usr/local/texlive/bin:${PATH}"

Note that this deliberately does not change the PATH of the root user for security reasons.


The settings above are enough to access MAN pages but they are not sufficient for them to be indexed. To ensure that MAN pages are indexed and that man -k or apropos can find them when searching, I did the following. This is likely to be more system-dependent than the earlier part of this answer, so tread with care and adapt to your system's existing configuration.

The first thing I did was to make a backup copy of /etc/man_db.conf and then open the original for editing.

In the section mapping parts of the PATH to parts of MANPATH, I added the following line:

MANPATH_MAP    /usr/local/texlive/bin  /usr/local/texlive/current/texmf-dist/doc/man/

In the part mapping MANPATHs to CATPATHs, I added this line:

MANDB_MAP      /usr/local/texlive/current/texmf-dist/doc/man/  /var/cache/man/texlive

I then saved the changes.

So far, this doesn't do much good because the index of MAN pages is created by a process running as root. Since root's PATH doesn't include /usr/local/texlive/bin, the mappings do not help.

To address this, you need to know which process compiles the index on your system. The index is usually updated automatically on a regular schedule e.g. once per day.

This might be managed by a utility called cron or anacron or similar. If so, you may find details in something like /etc/crontab or /etc/cron.daily/<some-script>.

On my system, the indexing is now controlled by systemd. The default files controlling it are /usr/lib/systemd/system/man-db.service and /usr/lib/systemd/system/man-db.timer.

The `.service file has the following content:

Description=Update man-db cache

ExecStart=/usr/bin/mkdir -m 0755 -p /var/cache/man
ExecStart=/usr/bin/mandb --quiet

and the .timer file is as follows:

Description=Daily man-db cache update


As you might guess, the .timer file just tells systemd to update the index on a daily basis. No need to change that.

I therefore copied just the .service file to /etc/systemd/system/man-db.service and added the following line to the [Service] section:


This means that, when indexing the MAN pages, root's PATH will have /usr/local/texlive/bin added to the existing PATH. This will then get mapped to the appropriate MANPATH and CATPATH, since I've already set these mappings up in /etc/man-db.conf.

So, the complete systemd unit file in /etc/systemd/system/man-db.service:

Description=Update man-db cache

ExecStart=/usr/bin/mkdir -m 0755 -p /var/cache/man
ExecStart=/usr/bin/mandb --quiet

Note 2 things:

  • root's PATH is only altered for this single task and not more generally;
  • even for this task, the addition to the PATH is added to the end of root's PATH and not to the beginning, as in the case when configuring ordinary users' default PATHs.

Both provide greater security than would altering root's PATH along with the PATHs of ordinary users.

And the results? apropos pdflatex - which only yesterday found nothing appropriate - today suggests the following MAN pages:

pdflatex (1)         - PDF output from TeX
purifyeps (1)        - make an Encapsulated PostScript file work with both dvips and pdflatex

You've got two texlive installations:


For your personal use, it is not necessary to change anything there. Just put into the file


a line like

PATH=/usr/local/texlive/2014/bin/x86_64-linux:$PATH; export PATH

Save the file, log out (no need to reboot), log in again and you are on texlive 2014.

At least this is how I do I do it on openSuse since 2009.

I'm quite sure that there are better and easier ways. Probably a developer who has to maintain different versions of his package won't always log in an out.

Maybe you can for your cases have a second user on your machine and so you'd just have to switch between users. But this won't work out of the box, if one user owns the files you'd like to compile.


When you install a texlive (I do it with symbolic links for the binaries) all is in the directory :

/usr/loca/share/texlive/2014 or 2015

the binaries are links (for me) in /usr/local/bin pointing on the last installed 2014 or 2015 previously seen directory.

the environment variables and pathes are set on the last installation (2014 or 2015) previously seen directory (the same as binaries).

You just have switch between 2015 and 2014 directories using links :

rename /usr/loca/share/texlive/2014 as /usr/loca/share/texlive/old rename /usr/loca/share/texlive/2015 as /usr/loca/share/texlive/new

In the /usr/loca/share/texlive/ directory make a link called 2015 or 2014 (depending of witch is the last texlive installed) pointing on old or new depending on witch texlive you want to use.


I now did the following:

$ sudo ln -s /usr/local/texlive/2014 /usr/local/texlive/active

Edited /etc/profile.d/texlive.sh such that the only uncommented lines are

export PATH=/usr/local/texlive/active/bin/x86_64-linux:$PATH
export MANPATH=/usr/local/texlive/active/texmf-dist/doc/man:$MANPATH
export INFOPATH=/usr/local/texlive/active/texmf-dist/doc/info:$INFOPATH

Then I rebooted, but surely there is an easier way of resetting the path.

Now TeX Live 2014 was active. To switch back to 2015:

$ sudo rm /usr/local/texlive/active
$ sudo ln -s /usr/local/texlive/2015 /usr/local/texlive/active

Which indeed could be put in a script.

  • 2
    If you are using a modern GNU/Linux distribution, do not set MANPATH or INFOPATH. These are no longer necessary and it is actually harmful to set them. In modern distros, they are generated on-the-fly based on PATH. If you set the variable, you risk ending up only having accessing to TeX man/info pages. echo $MANPATH and echo $INFOPATH both return an empty line for me and all works great. – cfr Aug 7 '15 at 1:41
  • @cfr I took out the $MANPATH and $INFOPATH variables, as they are not necessary for man to find the manpages. They didn't seem to create any problem though, the normal manpages also functioned. – muk.li Aug 7 '15 at 14:49
  • Hmm... Interesting. In that case, I don't know. I thought that was why it was bad to set it explicitly but maybe it isn't. I do know it is better to not do so. I guess now I'm just not entirely sure why. – cfr Aug 7 '15 at 19:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.