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 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`

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

  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 sometimes 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 isn’t, and as a result everything you install has less dependencies and builds significantly faster.

    Homebrew can integrate with Ruby gems, CPAN and Python EasyInstall. 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.

  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 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 is pretty flexible in how it can be installed and used. What follows are probably the simplest methods.


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 git
homebrew/bin/brew list git

Notice how Homebrew installed Git to homebrew/bin/git. Homebrew never touches files outside its prefix.

Installing to /usr/local

We think /usr/local is the best location for Homebrew because:

  1. It’s already in your PATH
  2. Other software checks /usr/local for stuff (eg. RubyGems)
  3. Building your own software is easier when dependencies are in /usr/local

But… 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` /usr/local

NOTE: Performing the above command may break some programs that are already installed in /usr/local. One specific example is mysql. Fixing mysql may be as simple as:

sudo chown -R mysql:mysql `brew --prefix`/mysql

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

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

Installing to /usr/local

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

You may prefer this third party installer script or .pkg installer.

Using git to install

If you already have git installed then this is the easiest way to install:

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

Building Stuff

Almost everything Homebrew installs is written in C, 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).



cd `brew --prefix`
rm -rf Cellar
brew prune
rm -rf Library .git* 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

Update package list:

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

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

RubyGems, Python EasyInstall and CPAN

These tools are already designed to make it easy to install Ruby, Python and Perl stuff. So we resist the temptation to duplicate this packaging effort and thus avoid accepting such formula into the main tree (although sometimes it is necessary or prudent).

However it’s a nice option to get these other packaging systems to install into Homebrew and there are work-in-progress instructions for how to do this on the wiki.

Contributing New Formulae

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

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

Check it over and try to install it:

brew install foo

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

If you want your formula to become part of this distribution, fork http://github.com/mxcl/homebrew and send mxcl a pull-request. 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! :)

The easiest way to fork is with the github-gem, so potentially this is your workflow:

brew create http://example.com/foo-1.2.1.tar.bz2
git commit Library/Formula/foo.rb
github fork
git push myname master
github pull-request


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


  1. 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!

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

  3. And it’s on Twitter?
    Yes, http://twitter.com/machomebrew.

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