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Homebrew, The Missing Package Manager for OS X

Posted on 21 Jun 2012

One of my biggest (of many) complaints about the Mac operating system is the lack of a package manager. Package managers are my favorite feature of most Linux operating systems. They make it easy to find, install, customize and keep up-to-date most software available for the architecture.

Sure, there’s the App Store now, but that’s a piece* and doesn’t have most of the apps I would want anyway. I’m mostly talking server/command line stuff: Apache, PHP, MySQL, PostgreSQL, wget, etc. There are a multitudemultitude</a> of options for third party package managers for OS X, some of them more glamorous and some of them more tedious, but I haven’t really enjoyed using many of them. None of them seemed as nice, powerful or reliable as package managers on various Linux flavors.

Then I found Homebrew. And there was much rejoicing.

Homebrew is a package manager for Mac. It is essentially a system for pulling down source code, configuring and making it, much the same way Gentoo’s Portage works. It’s not much different from pulling down source and compiling it yourself, except it does it for you, and if you’re like me, it’s smarter and probably does it better than I would myself. And it also provides a mechanism for letting me know when there’s new updates and allowing me to upgrade those packages. It’s perfect.

It does depend on having Xcode installed. If you’re on OS X Lion, it’s available in the App Store.

The first thing you should do is run:

brew doctor

Follow all the advice given here and fix all the issues. Trust me. Two days of headaches and agony may follow if you don’t. Then, to install a package, such as PostgreSQL:

brew install postgresql

Boom. Done. Follow the notes given on the screen (if you miss them, type brew info postgresql to recall them) and you’re good to go. Want to see if any packages have updates?

brew update

To update any package listed in the available updates:

brew upgrade [package-name]

It’s that simple. And I like simple.

* Seriously, am I the only one that has issues deleting some applications? Or issues trying to download some, or perhaps apps that somehow get marked as hidden without you doing the hiding? Or just blank buttons next to apps that fail to download? Wtf Apple?


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