I recently installed TeXLive 2011 on my Mac running Snow Leopard. I did not download MacTeX (for reasons we won't go into here). I'm running into a problem where pdflatex can't see my local texmf tree. I have the tree at ~/Library/texmf and I have a symbolic link to that directory at ~/texmf.

In a previous installation, it could see my tree at ~/Library/texmf without me doing any extra configuration after installation.

What do I need to do to make [la]tex see my local tree?

  • 1
    If you didn't install MacTeX, did you install it using install-tl? I hate to tell you this, but installing MacTeX might be faster than solving this problem. (Especially since 99% of Mac users have MacTeX and therefore little experience with the basic TL install.)
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Oct 4, 2011 at 23:01
  • @Jeremy: yes bad idea if you don't know how to manage a tl distribution. The best way is to install MacTeX. Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 3:55
  • @alanMunn Unfortunately, I don't have the option of using MacTex. I don't have admin access so I can't install MacTex. Previously I had tl installed through install-tl -in-place and it found my local texmf tree without any trouble. I was hoping for a simple solution.
    – jlconlin
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 4:56

4 Answers 4


Untested, since I don't have the setup that you do. Try the following:

 tlmgr conf texmf TEXMFHOME "~/Library/texmf:~/texmf"

And see if that works. Normally this would be run with sudo but since you don't have admin access, I'm assuming that running it without will work for you.

  • 1
    This worked. Can I simply set my TEXMFHOME variable in my ~/.bash_profile?
    – jlconlin
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 13:03
  • 3
    No, because if you use TeX from within an editor, for example, or any regular application that isn't called from your shell, your .profile is not read. This sets it at the distribution level, which will be read by any call to a tex binary independent of your profile. That's why @Patrick suggested a different route in his answer, but IMO the method I've suggested is to be preferred.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 16:03

When you install TeX Live, there is a bunch of path settings that you can modify:

<D> directories:
  TEXDIR (the main TeX directory):
  TEXMFLOCAL (directory for site-wide local files):
  TEXMFSYSVAR (directory for variable and automatically generated data):
  TEXMFSYSCONFIG (directory for local config):
  TEXMFVAR (personal directory for variable and automatically generated data):
  TEXMFCONFIG (personal directory for local config):
  TEXMFHOME (directory for user-specific files):

You can easily change TEXMFHOME during installation to point to your desired destination like ~/Library/texmf with both command-line and GUI installer. If you are already past that point, you can find a file texmf.cnf on top level folder where you installed TeX Live (next to texmf-whatever trees). If not, just create a new one. Change (or create) the line with TEXMFHOME to:

TEXMFHOME = ~/Library/texmf

MacTeX sets (redefines) the following variables inside texmf.cnf:

% (Public domain.)
% ...
TEXMFHOME = ~/Library/texmf
TEXMFVAR = ~/Library/texlive/2011/texmf-var
TEXMFCONFIG = ~/Library/texlive/2011/texmf-config

You could do the same if you want identical locations as in MacTeX, but I would not advise you to touch TEXMFVAR after installation is over or at least you should better move folders from old location to the new one.

For personal installation I would advise you to select the portable installation anyway and only change TEXMFHOME.

Please note that Alan Munn's suggestion with

> tlmgr conf texmf TEXMFHOME "~/Library/texmf:~/texmf"
setting texmf TEXMFHOME to ~/Library/texmf:~/texmf (in /path/to/your/texlive/texmf.cnf)

does exactly the same (except the triviality that it sets search path to two different folders) in a user-friendly way, provided that you can remember that command. I find it easier to simply edit the configuration file (or reinstall TeX Live if I screw up other settings as well :).

  • 2
    Just a note about editing texmf.cnf: If you have installed TeX Live as an admin user, the default place for this file will be /usr/local/texlive/<year>/texmf.cnf. Since this is in space that is only writable by admin users, you need to either edit it from within the terminal using sudo <editor> ... or use a GUI editor that allows you to authenticate and save (e.g. TextWrangler, but not e.g. TextEdit).
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 23:28

Try running kpsewhich -var-value TEXMFLOCAL to see where TeX thinks your local texmf tree should be.

  • 6
    I think you mean TEXMFHOME not TEXMFLOCAL.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 0:01
  • When I run the command kpsewhich -var-value TEXMFLOCAL I get /path/to/somewhere/TeXLive2011/texmf-local. When I do kpsewhich -var-value TEXMFHOME I get /home/jlconlin/texmf.
    – jlconlin
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 12:57
  • 4
    @Jeremy Justin's answer identifies the problem, but doesn't solve it. The second command shows that TeX thought that your local texmf folder was in /home which isn't a directory that is even used on a Mac.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 16:07

You can edit your ~/.MacOSX/environment.plist and set TEXMFHOME to /Users/<your short username>/Library/texmf. That file is a plain text XML file you can edit by hand or use XCode (link to a Technical Q&A doc from Apple). The next time you log in, all applications have that environment variable set, even if they are not run from the terminal (which reads ~/.bash_profile).

  • 1
    In my experience, using .MacOSX/environment.plist can cause more problems than it solves. In this particular case (setting just TEXMFHOME it might be relatively benign, but e.g. using it to set paths can be very problematic.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 11:28

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