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Supported Systems

MacTeX is an install package which installs everything needed to use TeX and LaTeX on a Macintosh. It completely configures all programs, so after installation a user can immediately use the software.

In 2016, TeX Live for the Macintosh was compiled on Leopard-PPC, Leopard-Intel, and Snow Leopard-Intel. The system then ran on Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Yosemite, El Capitan, and Sierra. Because the GUI programs did not support this range of systems, several versions of each GUI app had to be packaged in the install package. Testing became a nightmare and users on recent systems had to run software compiled on much older machines.

After completing that distribution, the members of the MacTeX support team discussed various ways to bring some order to the process. Eventually, we decided to support those versions of OS X for which Apple still provides security patches. Apple supplies security patches for the three most recent versions of OS X; therefore MacTeX-2021 runs on Mojave, Catalina, and Big Sur. It contains both Arm and Intel code. According to Apple, Mojave can be installed on machines introduced in 2012 or later, so we are supporting machines sold in the last nine years.

According to Apple, both Intel and Arm machines will be introduced in the next two years and all of these machines will be supported for many years to come. Therefore, we expect MacTeX to contain both Arm and Intel code for roughly the next decade.

Apple conducts its Worldwide Developer Conference, WWDC, in June, where it gives developers their first beta of the next version of OS X. This version is then released in September. The members of the MacTeX working group test this beta as soon as it is introduced and have always supported it when it is released. Thus in practice we support four versions of macOS throughout most of the year.

MacTeX contains TeX (the actual typesetting software), Ghostscript, and four GUI programs. Although MacTeX requires macOS 10.14 or higher, TeX Live supports older versions of macOS as well. We compile the TeX Live binaries x86_64-darwin on macOS 10.14, Mojave, but Mojca Miklavec compiles the binaries x86_64-darwinlegacy on macOS 10.6, Snow Leopard, and they work on that system and higher. There are two ways to install TeX: MacTeX (which installs everything) on macOS 10.14 and above, or a Unix install script (which only installs TeX Live) on all machines with macOS 10.6 or higher.

New users running Mojave and higher should certainly use MacTeX because it gives everything needed to get started with TeX. Users upgrading to TeX Live 2021 and running Mojave or higher have a choice: they can either upgrade with MacTeX, or they can upgrade the TeX Live portion with the Unix install script, upgrade the four GUI programs with their "Check for Updates" menu items, and upgrade Ghostscript with an install package on our "Smaller Download" page. The Unix install script for TeX Live on a recent system gives exactly the same result as installing TeX Live 2021 with MacTeX.

Users of older systems must install TeX Live using its Unix install script. A link from the main MacTeX page explains how. All other MacTeX packages, like BasicTeX, Ghostscript, GUI Applications, etc., require Mojave and above, but users with old systems usually have Ghostscript and GUI front ends already. For those few users with older systems who do not have Ghostscript or the GUI applications, previous versions of MacTeX are archived at ftp://ftp.math.utah.edu/pub/tex/historic/systems/mactex/. In particular, MacTeX-2016 at this site supports Leopard and higher on PPC and Intel.

The difference between using MacTeX to install and using the Unix install script to install is mainly psychological. MacTeX requires a long download; after that, installation is fairly rapid. The Unix install script starts downloading and installing quickly, but takes a long time to download and install over 3700 packages. In a recent test in Oregon, downloading MacTeX took 28 minutes and installing the downloaded package took 10 minutes. On the same day, downloading and installing with the Unix script took 1 hour and 30 minutes.

MacTeX Installer Support