I have TeXLive 2016 on a Debian 9.1 system. It seems to default to A4 paper size, and I'd like to change it to letter. I tried

tlmgr paper letter

but I get

(running on Debian, switching to user mode!)
tlmgr: action `paper' not supported in usermode
tlmgr: An error has occurred. See above messages. Exiting.

I don't see any option to run tlmgr not in user mode, so is there some other way to let pdftex know that I want to use letter paper by default?

2 Answers 2


You are using tlmgr as shipped with Debian. In Debian tlmgr always runs in user mode as clearly indicated in the output.

Configuration of the TeX Live system on Debian is different from how it is done in upstream, because TeX Live has to integrate into the Debian framework.

That means, for paper configuration you need to use paperconfig command (as root).

  • 1
    sudo paperconfig -p a4 (or letter)
    – Tony Power
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 12:42
  • 2
    $ sudo paperconfig --paper letter or $ sudo paperconfig --paper a4 Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 18:52

In Debian the default paper size for TeXLive and other applications is supposed to be set via reconfiguring the libpaper1 package. Either using sudo if it's set up, or after switching to root type

dpkg-reconfigure libpaper1

and select the desired letter paper size. This'll save it to /etc/papersize and run the appropriate hook which'll set up the chosen paper size for TeXLive.

  • Well, to be correct it should be a call to paperconfig
    – norbert
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 23:01
  • The paperconfig is called indirectly when dpkg-reconfigure is being executed. Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 4:12
  • 1
    Sure enough, because it is the correct way to adjust it. The two are the same.
    – norbert
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 6:53

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