How to adjust the $TEXMFCNF variable not to interfere with ConText?

Reinhard Kotucha reinhard.kotucha at
Sat Sep 19 23:05:15 CEST 2020

On 2020-09-19 at 10:06:18 -0300, Pablo González L wrote:

 > I prefer to use environment variables and not touch any `.cnf` file
 > (that's only for advanced users).

I don't recommend to set any environment variables except PATH,
MANPATH, and INFOPATH at all.  There is a texmf.cnf file, usually in
/usr/local/texlive/2020 which is empty by default.  This is the
preferred place for such variables.

The main reason is that you can have more than one TL installation on
your system.  You are probably not aware of it.  You installed TL in
/usr/local but your Linux package manager installed another TL, at
least partly, as a dependency of another package.

Environment variables affect all instances of TL, not only the one you
want to configure.  If you fix one instance you probably break

TeX Live is portable.  You can move it from one directory to another
and you only have to adapt PATH, MANPATH, and INFOPATH.  There is no
need to adapt any other environment variable at all if customization
is done within the TL directory tree.

The file /usr/local/texlive/2020/texmf.cnf is definitely not only for
advanced users.  It's the preferred file for customization.
Environment variables are fine for advanced users in certain
situations in order to change the behavior temporarily.  On Unix you
can say

  FOO=bar pdftex myfile.tex

without setting FOO permanently.  This is the only situation where
environment variables are useful.  At least for advanced users.  In
all other cases it's best to avoid them.


Reinhard Kotucha                            Phone: +49-511-3373112
Marschnerstr. 25
D-30167 Hannover                    mailto:reinhard.kotucha at

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