Packaging system for Mac OS X 10.5 and above; heavy optimisations, no redundant packages and a bonus beer theme


Homebrew is a package management system for OS X. In other words it is a tool that helps you manage the installation of other open source software on your Mac.

Here’s why you may prefer Homebrew to the alternatives:

  1. Zero configuration installation
    Copy the contents of this directory to /usr/local. Homebrew is now ready for use.

  2. Or… install anywhere!
    You can actually stick this directory anywhere. Like ~/.local or /opt or /lol if you like. You can even move this directory somewhere else later. Homebrew never changes any files outside of its prefix.

  3. The GoboLinux approach
    Packages are installed into their own prefix (eg. /usr/local/Cellar/wget) and then symlinked into the Homebrew prefix (eg. /usr/local).

    This way packages can be managed with existing command line tools. You can uninstall with rm -rf, list with find, query with du. It also means you can easily install multiple versions of software or libraries and switch on demand.

    Of course you don’t have to do anything by hand, we also provide a convenient and fully-featured four-letter tool called brew.

  4. You don’t have to sudo
    It’s up to you. We recommend not–see the relevant later section.

  5. Easy package creation
    Packages are just Ruby scripts. Generate a template with:

    brew create http://foo.com/tarball-0.8.9.tgz

    Homebrew will automatically open it for you to tweak with TextMate or $EDITOR.

    Or edit an existing formula:

    brew edit foo
  6. DIY package installation
    MacPorts doesn’t support the beta version? Need an older version? Need custom compile flags? The Homebrew toolchain is carefully segregated so you can build stuff by hand but still end up with package management.

    Just install to the Cellar and then call brew ln to symlink that installation into your PATH, eg.

    ./configure --prefix=/usr/local/Cellar/wget/1.10
    make install
    brew ln wget

    Or Homebrew can figure out the prefix:

    ./configure `brew diy`
    cmake . `brew diy`

    This means you can also install multiple versions of the same package and switch on demand.

  7. Optimization
    We optimise for (Snow) Leopard Intel, binaries are stripped, compile flags tweaked. Slow software sucks.

  8. Making the most of OS X
    Homebrew knows how many cores you have thanks to RubyCocoa, so it makes sure when it builds it uses all of them, (unless you don’t want it to of course).

    Homebrew knows exactly which Mac you have, and optimizes the software it builds as well as it possibly can.

    Homebrew can integrate with Ruby gems, CPAN and Python disttools. These tools exist already and do the job great. We don’t duplicate packaging effort, we just improve on it by making these tools install with more management options.

  9. No duplication
    MacPorts is an autarky. You get a duplicate copy of zlib, OpenSSL, Python, etc. To cut a long story short, Homebrew doesn’t. As a result everything you install has less dependencies and builds significantly faster.

  10. Fork with Git
    The formula are all on git, so just fork to add new packages, or add extra remotes to get packages from more exotic maintainers.

  11. Surfing the cutting edge
    If the package provides a git:// or svn:// url you can choose to install that instead and then update as often as you like.

  12. Homebrew has a beer theme
    Beer goggles will help you to evangelise Homebrew more effectively.

  13. Homebrew helps get you chicks
    There’s no conclusive scientific evidence as yet, but I firmly believe it’s just a matter of time and statistics.

Why you might not want to use Homebrew:

  1. It’s a little more hands-on than the competition. For example, we don’t set up postgresql for you after installing it, but we do provide instructions. This isn’t apathy, it’s by design – Homebrew doesn’t make assumptions about how you want your software to run. You have to have some knowledge or be willing to learn to use Homebrew for some tasks.

  2. Dependency resolution and updates are basic or not working yet.

I know I’ve made it sound so awesome you can hardly wait to rip MacPorts out and embrace the fresh, hoppy taste of Homebrew, but I should point out that it is really new and still under heavy development. Thanks!

Max Howell – http://twitter.com/mxcl


Homebrew requires no setup, but almost everything it installs is built from source; so you need Xcode:


Many build scripts assume MacPorts or Fink on OS X. Which isn’t too much of a problem until you uninstall them and stuff you built with Homebrew breaks. So uninstall them (if you prefer, renaming their root folders is sufficient).


Now, download Homebrew:

git clone git://github.com/mxcl/homebrew.git

If this leaves you shaking your head because you are installing Homebrew in order to install git, then try this installer script or this .pkg installer. Note these are somewhat new and are not stamped “definitely works” yet.

Homebrew is self-contained so once you’ve put it somewhere, it’s ready to go. Copy this directory anywhere you like. But we recommend installing to /usr/local because:

  1. It is already in your path
  2. Build scripts always look in /usr/local for dependencies so it makes it easier for you personally to build and install software

You can move the location of Homebrew at a later time, although this will break some tools because they hardcode their installtion prefixes into their binaries. Homebrew does make more effort than competing solutions to prevent this though.

Finally, if you don’t install to /usr/local, you have to add the following to your ~/.profile file:

export PATH=`brew --prefix`/bin:$PATH
export MANPATH=`brew --prefix`/share/man:$MANPATH

Don’t sudo

Well clearly you can sudo if you like. Homebrew is all about you doing it your way. But the Homebrew recommendation is: don’t sudo!

On OS X, this requires your user to be in the admin group, but it doesn’t require sudo:

cpan -i MP3::Info

OS X is designed to minimise sudo use, you only need it for real-root-level stuff. You know your /System and /usr are as clean and pure as the day you bought your Mac because you didn’t sudo. Sleep better at night!

If you are already the kind of guy who installed TextMate by dragging and dropping it to /Applications, then you won’t mind if libflac and pngcrush are installed under your user privileges too. Lets face it; Homebrew is not installing anything system-critical. Apple already did that.

Let this be the last sudo you do for quite some time:

sudo chown -R `whoami`:staff `brew --prefix`

I already have a bunch of junk in /usr/local

The easiest thing to do is just git clone into /usr/local. The files that are there can remain there, Homebrew will never touch them.

Otherwise, delete everything and reinstall with Homebrew. Or merge it in by hand.

How about mate and gitx and that?

These tools install from TextMate and GitX into /usr/local/bin. They (and other similar tools) can co-exist with Homebrew without requiring further effort from yourself.


cd `brew --prefix`
rm -rf Cellar
brew prune
rm -rf Library .git
rm bin/brew .gitignore README.md

It is worth noting that if you installed somewhere like /usr/local then these uninstallation steps will leave that directory exactly like it was before Homebrew was installed. Unless you manually added new stuff there, in which case those things will still be there too.

Sample Usage

Install wget:

brew install wget

Update package list:

cd /usr/local && git pull

Two ways to delete a package:

brew rm wget
rm -rf /usr/local/Cellar/wget && brew prune

Two ways to list all files in a package:

brew list wget
find /usr/local/Cellar/wget

Search for a package to install:

ls /usr/local/Library/Formula/

Search for a package already installed:

ls /usr/local/Cellar/

Two ways to compute installed package sizes:

brew info wget
du /usr/local/Cellar/wget

Show expensive packages:

du -md1 /usr/local/Cellar

A more thorough exploration of the brew command is available at the Homebrew wiki.

CPAN, EasyInstall, RubyGems

Homebrew doesn’t reinvent the wheel. These tools are already designed to make it easy to install Perl, Python and Ruby tools and libraries. So we insist that you use them. However we don’t think you should have to sudo, or install to /usr, so we suggest you adapt the tools to install into Homebrew’s prefix.

There are preliminary instructions on the wiki.

Contributing New Formulae

Formulae are simple Ruby scripts. Generate a formula with most bits filled-in:

brew create http://foo.org/foobar-1.2.1.tar.bz2

Check it over and try to install it:

brew install foobar

Check the wiki for more detailed information and tips about contribution.

If you want your formula to become part of this distribution, fork http://github.com/mxcl/homebrew and ask mxcl to pull. Alternatively maintain your own distribution. Maybe you want to support Tiger? Or use special compile flags? Go ahead that’s what git is all about! :)


Homebrew is mostly BSD licensed although you should refer to each file to confirm. Individual formulae are licensed according to their authors wishes.


  1. Are you excessively interested in beer?

  2. Was Homebrew devised under the influence of alcohol?

  3. Can Homebrew replace MacPorts?
    Maybe. But remember, Homebrew is still incomplete. Be forgiving in your approach and be willing to fork and contribute fixes. Thanks!

  4. Is there an IRC channel?
    Yes, irc://irc.freenode.net#machomebrew.

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