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I have tried creating a portable version of texlive using the network installer. The result was a directory with size of 4.6GB.

Can one create a portable version of texlive smaller than 300MB that still is kind of complete? Or is this big amount of data really needed?

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    Depends what you mean by 'complete'. A large portion of a full TeX Live install is documentation and source, before one starts reducing the number of packages. – Joseph Wright Sep 16 '16 at 20:41
  • emTeX was on 8 floppy disks. :-) – Przemysław Scherwentke Sep 16 '16 at 20:58
  • the first tex I installed was with three floppy disks on a machine with no hard drive, one drive for your editor+document then swap in one of the other two into the other slot for tex or a preview/print driver. it was complete and less than 3Mb but perhaps less functional than you might expect today. (more seriously you could get a lot less than 300Mb if you don't need large font sets, for example. – David Carlisle Sep 16 '16 at 21:51
  • Well, I cannot really define "kind of complete". I could also say "contains everything I will most likely need", but that is similarly vague. But maybe someone already made a package that makes sense. – Nathan Sep 17 '16 at 16:22
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If you look at the break down of the big directories on my Linux 2016 install of TeX Live (which is also 4.6 GB)

 95M    /usr/local/texlive/2016/texmf-var/web2c
 96M    /usr/local/texlive/2016/tlpkg/backups
141M    /usr/local/texlive/2016/bin
252M    /usr/local/texlive/2016/texmf-dist/source
289M    /usr/local/texlive/2016/texmf-dist/tex
1.7G    /usr/local/texlive/2016/texmf-dist/fonts
2.0G    /usr/local/texlive/2016/texmf-dist/doc

If you are willing to limited yourself to a few fonts, most of ./fonts can go. If you are happy with online documentation, you can get rid of ./doc. I am pretty sure ./web2c, ./source, and ./backups are not needed.

You are going to get reduced functionality if you delete things in ./tex (this is where the packages and classes live) and ./bin (this is where the programs live), but there are packages and programs that are rarely used so some space can be saved.

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    Don't delete ’web2c’ dir, it is necessary. – norbert Sep 17 '16 at 6:10
  • Ok, what I need now is a reasonable way of cleaning out "font". Any Idea if I somehow can get a list of fonts I will most likely need in day-to-day yex usage? – Nathan Sep 17 '16 at 16:33
  • Maybe if uses only latin modern and fonts accesible to XeLaTeX – djnavas Sep 19 '16 at 5:12
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TexLive installer currently has the <V> set up for portable installation option. Then, entering the <S> set installation scheme: you'll be able to choose between the following schemes:

 a [X] full scheme (everything)
 b [ ] medium scheme (small + more packages and languages)
 c [ ] small scheme (basic + xetex, metapost, a few languages)
 d [ ] basic scheme (plain and latex)
 e [ ] minimal scheme (plain only)
 f [ ] ConTeXt scheme
 g [ ] GUST TeX Live scheme
 h [ ] infrastructure-only scheme (no TeX at all)
 i [ ] teTeX scheme (more than medium, but nowhere near full)
 j [ ] custom selection of collections

The installer also tells you the disk space required.

Depending on the scheme chosen, you may need to install some missing packages you use.

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