[OS X TeX] Installing unstable packages

Alan Munn amunn at gmx.com
Thu Feb 17 13:00:30 EST 2011

On Feb 17, 2011, at 11:38 AM, Theo Moore wrote:

> Hi,
> I'd like to install the pgfplots unstable package
> (http://pgfplots.sourceforge.net/). I already have the latest stable
> version of pgfplots installed, but I need a feature from the unstable
> version. I have a couple of questions:
> [1] Is there a (painless) way to install both and use one or the other
> when the situation demands? I have lots of documents that use
> pgfplots, so it wouldn't be nice if installing the newer, unstable
> version somehow begins producing errors in the older documents.

Define painless. :-)

I don't think there's a really simple way to have two identically named packages selectively available. For small packages that involve a single .sty file, for example, the simplest solution is therefore to rename the unstable version and install it in your local texmf folder.  However, for a complex package like pgfplots, this isn't really very practical, since it has lots of sub-parts.

So an alternative is to create a duplicate of your ~/Library/texmf folder, give it another name, (e.g. texmf-unstable) and install the development version of pgfplots there.  Then when you want to use the development version of the package, you need to change the value of the environment variable TEXMFHOME:

(The reason to copy your existing ~/Library/texmf is that you want all your existing local packages to be available when you are using the development packages too.)

bash syntax:

export TEXMFHOME= ~/Library/texmf-unstable

tcsh syntax:

setenv TEXMFHOME ~/texmf-testing

Of course, this works for compiling from the command line, which is probably not your usual mode of operation. So you also need to connect it up with your editor.  If you are using TeXShop, you can create a new engine and put this line into the Engine file. (Since most of the simple engine files in TeXShop are tcsh scripts and not bash scripts, you would use the latter command.) For other editors I don't know how you would do it, but I'm sure its possible.

So you can create e.g. an unstable.engine file (copied from another engine file) and then add that line.  Then when you want to use the unstable version, use that engine file.

Remember that if you create an engine file from scratch, you need to set its executable bit.  (chmod +x <filename>)


> [2] Where should the package be installed? There were a couple paths
> suggested in (http://www.mail-archive.com/lyx-users@lists.lyx.org/msg67001.html),
> and it seems most of them will work equally. However, I know I have
> the older pgfplots package: what should I be doing to avoid conflicts?
> Thanks!
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Alan Munn
amunn at gmx.com

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