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 the filesystem is the package database and packages can be managed with existing command line tools. For example, you can uninstall with rm -rf, list with find, query with du. It also means you can 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.

  5. Create new package descriptions in seconds
    Package descriptions (formula) are simple Ruby scripts. Generate a template with:

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

    Or edit an existing formula:

    brew edit foo
  6. Package descriptions not required
    MacPorts doesn’t support the beta version? Need an older version? Need custom compile flags? The Homebrew tool-chain 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 link 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`
  7. Optimization
    We optimize for (Snow) Leopard Intel, binaries are stripped, compile flags are tuned to your exact Mac model. Slow software sucks.

  8. Making the most of OS X
    A touch of RubyCocoa, a cheeky sysctl query or two and a smattering of FSEvent monitoring. In these manic days of cross-platform development, it’s can be a welcome relief to use something that is better because it isn’t too generalized.

  9. No duplication
    MacPorts is an autarky – you get a duplicate copy of zlib, OpenSSL, Python, etc. Homebrew uses what is already there, and consequently, most stuff has zero dependencies and builds faster.

    We resist packaging stuff that is already packaged. So we have a wiki page that describes how best to use RubyGems, Pip (or easy_install) and CPAN with OS X and Homebrew.

  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://, svn://, cvs:// or hg:// 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 can help you hook up
    There’s no conclusive scientific evidence as yet, but I firmly believe it’s just a matter of time and statistics.

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

  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.

  3. We don’t support PowerPC or OS X less than Tiger (though you could always maintain your own fork for such things if you like…)

Max Howell — http://twitter.com/mxcl


You can install Homebrew anywhere:

mkdir homebrew
curl -L http://github.com/mxcl/homebrew/tarball/master | tar xz --strip 1 -C homebrew

Homebrew can already be used, try it:

homebrew/bin/brew install pip
homebrew/bin/brew list pip

Notice how Pip was installed to homebrew/bin/pip — Homebrew never touches files outside of its prefix.

But… we recommend installing to /usr/local because:

  1. It’s already in your PATH
  2. It makes it easier to install other stuff like Ruby Gems

Build tools all look to /usr/local for library dependencies and thus you can get on with building your own gems and not worry about having to Google for unnecessary build assistance.

But… don’t sudo!

Homebrew can be used with or without sudo, but, OS X was designed to minimise sudo use, you only need it occasionally. For example, as long as your user is in the admin group, this just works:

cpan -i MP3::Info

Using sudo all the time is annoying, but far worse — it conditions you to type in your root password without thinking about it. Homebrew compliments OS X so you are unlikely to install anything that really needs to be chown:root. Let this be your last sudo for some time:

sudo chown -R `whoami` /usr/local

NOTE: If you already installed, eg. MySQL into /usr/local then the recursive chown may break it. Fixing MySQL should be as simple as:

sudo chown -R mysql:mysql /usr/local/mysql

Installing to /usr/local

curl -L http://github.com/mxcl/homebrew/tarball/master | tar xz --strip 1 -C /usr/local

Homebrew can co-exist with any software already installed in its prefix.

Installing with Git

cd /usr/local
git init
git remote add origin git://github.com/mxcl/homebrew.git
git pull origin master

One last important caveat

Almost everything Homebrew installs is written in C, so you need Xcode:



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

Two ways to update the package descriptions:

brew update
cd /usr/local && git pull

Two ways to delete a package:

brew uninstall 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

Two ways to search for a package to install:

brew search
ls /usr/local/Library/Formula/

Two ways to see what is already installed:

brew list
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

Contributing New Formulae

Create a new formula thusly:

brew create http://example.com/foo-1.2.1.tar.bz2

Homebrew automatically opens Library/Formula/foo.rb in your $EDITOR. You can now install it:

brew install foo

The wiki has more help and information.


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

The Wiki

The wiki probably has the answers to any other questions you may have.

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