Is it worth the effort to manually install TeX Live 2011 on Ubuntu? Has so much changed since 2009?

I am a new Ubuntu user coming from windows and have very limited knowledge of Linux environment. I have read contradictory things about how to set up TeX Live 2011 in an Ubuntu environment and all the instructions I have found contains part that are obscure to me. Thus, I am somehow compelled to sudo apt-get texlive.

If I only have t manually install a few package in my ~/texmf to resolve some occasional bugs that have been fixed since 2009 that would be all right, at least until I know better. But I am wondering if I might not end up doing this a lot?

  • If you use plain TeX with Computer Modern typeface then there is no reason to update. If you are thinking about using OpenType fonts (XeTeX, LuaTeX) then, yes, you need to upgrade. Something inbetween? I'd say yes, you should consider upgrading, but YMMW. What kind of documents do you create? Do you like to use lot's of fonts? What about math?
    – topskip
    Jun 20, 2012 at 18:23
  • I do not use a lot of fonts but I use math. I do not use XeTeX nor LuaTeX for now and do not plan to do soon. Then I guess Ican do with the Ubuntu version.
    – M. Toya
    Jun 20, 2012 at 18:27
  • 12
    if you're going to upgrade, it is probably worth waiting for tex live 2012, which should be available in a few weeks. Jun 20, 2012 at 18:31
  • 1
    Yes, it's definitely worth upgrading (I agree with barbara's comment to wait a few weeks for tl 2012). Updating individual packages is tremendously hard work, as they almost always have dependencies on other packages. tlmgr handles all of this elegantly
    – cmhughes
    Jun 20, 2012 at 18:38
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    It may be also worth noting that Debian testing has the prerelease 2012 packages now, so it is quite likely that the next release of Ubuntu will have TeXLive 2012. Jun 20, 2012 at 21:20

3 Answers 3


Is it worth the effort? Yes. The installation is pretty straight forward, especially when you install over the internet; you get the benefit of: having the most up-to-date version of every package (not three-year old ones), tlmgr, which will let you update your packages just as easily as apt-get, and finally, the whole installation process will shed some light on the parts you find obscure, in a learn-by-doing sort of way.

Start with How to install TeX Live on Ubuntu: How to install "vanilla" TeXLive on Debian or Ubuntu? and follow the directions therein.

  • The installation process up to running ./install-tl is quite understandable (my only doubt being should I do it with sudo or not?). What confuses me are the post-installation steps: setting the environment variables and making it blend with ubuntu.
    – M. Toya
    Jun 20, 2012 at 19:51
  • I have installed TeXlive as user in a hidden directory of my home: ~/.texlive2011. The only environment that had to be set is PATH, in my case to $HOME/.texlive2011/bin/x86_64-linux:$PATH.
    – krlmlr
    Jun 20, 2012 at 23:24

If you are new to *tex and GNU/Linux, then I'd suggest installing from the repositories first, and learn what and why you need *tex for. By the time you can answer that question competently, you'll be ready to install TeX Live directly. (Or not: by that time you'll probably be able to install packages manually and come to realize that it is not very difficult at all --- assuming your comfort level with using the command line has also grown.)

The downside to this approach is that most of the people who write the (good) answers here will assume you are running as up to date a system as they are. So if you run into problems, lots of the advice here will assume you are not using something as out of date as packages from TL 2009.

One word of warning: if you do install TeX Live from the web, be careful about updating as deadlines approach. There is nothing worse than (foolishly) updating the night before something is due only to find out that it 'breaks' (temporarily) a document that compiled just fine before the update.

In short, if you expect you'll need to use engines like luatex or xetex, packages like pgf (et al.) biblatex (and biber), things related to latex3 (or packages dependent upon it like siunitx), non-standard fonts, and so forth, then TeX Live might be a better starting point (because you'll probably want to update these pretty quickly). If you don't need to be so up to date, ease into using GNU/Linux and install with synaptic or apt-get. And when you do need to update, look first for packages ending with tds.zip from CTAN: they are much easier to install.

  • I am new to Linux but not to *tex. I do use pgf/TikZ and siunitx. I managed to make siunitx work by manually installing a few packages. I have not tried TikZ yet. I think I will wait until I am more familiar with Linux and texlive 2012 comes out.
    – M. Toya
    Jun 20, 2012 at 20:13
  • @AlfredM. -- I agree: wait at least until TL2012. Note also that Debian/Ubuntu packages PGF/TikZ separately from TeX Live. As far as I know the repository version is up to date (discounting the bleeding-edge SVN developments). Also: siunitx is available in a tds.zip version, which you install by moving the file to the base of the texmf-tree (maybe something /usr/share/texmf-texlive), sudo unzip the file, then run sudo texhash and you're done. (Though siunitx depends on the l3* packages I think ... I don't use it myself, actually.)
    – jon
    Jun 20, 2012 at 20:26
  • That is how I have done it and some l3* were indeed required.
    – M. Toya
    Jun 21, 2012 at 6:08

If you install texlive from the command line installer downloaded from http://mirror.ctan.org/systems/texlive/tlnet/install-tl-unx.tar.gz, you should not forget to install symlinks (search in all the options), otherwise it won't work. You can choose the collections, which are pretty much self-explainable.

If you don't care about space, install it all (sudo apt-get install texlive-full). And even texlive 2009 has xetex, and has always worked for me (sudo apt-get install texlive-xetex), and all language packs (if you ever need them).

If you don't care about fonts, don't have lots of space, or don't use many fancy packages, there is no reason to update.

  • I usually don't recommend installing the symlinks with the TUG provided TeX Live, as successive installations with apt-get might want to install also TeX Live/Debian and chaos would ensue. Better use the method outlined in tex.stackexchange.com/questions/1092/…. Note that TeX Live 2009/Debian is really outdated.
    – egreg
    Jun 20, 2012 at 20:00
  • @egreg: I don't quite understand the "BTW: Debian & Ubuntu have TeXLive 2012 now" on that page. I usually symlink the texlive year into current and mention current within the PATH change. Then I only have to mess with the PATH once.
    – daleif
    Jun 20, 2012 at 20:04
  • I could never install symlinks easily (and quit trying) except with the TUG-provided TeX Live. And if apt-get installs texlive from debian/ubuntu/whatever repositories, it's always because the user explicitly wanted or allowed it.
    – user9424
    Jun 20, 2012 at 20:05
  • @daleif It's a method similar to mine: I usually symlink the binaries directory to /opt/texbin (MacTeX does something similar). I don't recommend symlinking the binaries in /usr/bin.
    – egreg
    Jun 20, 2012 at 20:08
  • @egreg Re your first comment, my memory may be failing but I think that the symlinks that TUG puts in are to /usr/local in which case they won't get clobbered by an apt-get. Jun 20, 2012 at 20:46

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