In macOS Sierra 10.12.x, what is the modern way to add a directory to the PATH environment variable that can work across shells or specifically work with zsh shell (I switched from the default bash to zsh).

I have seen some Questions and Answers such as this one that are bash-specific. And I have seen some such as this one about launchd but it seems I've read launchd is not the right right in later versions of macOS (not sure). I could find no specific references for Sierra, so I am posting now.

I am trying to install Maven with instructions saying:

Add the bin directory of the created directory apache-maven-3.3.9 to the PATH environment variable

  • For maven you just need to edit the shell start files in your home directory. The more complex ways are for running guide apps – mmmmmm Mar 6 '17 at 11:22


To change the path within your shell session, not system-wide, you can use the bash-style export command with zsh, as documented here.

The name of the PATH variable is case-sensitive and must be all-uppercase.

export PATH=$PATH:/folder/you/want

To verify your change, run:

echo $PATH

You will see results like this.



This answer (to a different question) suggests modifying /private/etc/paths or adding a file to the directory /private/etc/paths/d. I just tried sudo nano /private/etc/paths, added /foo at the end of the file, and opened a new tab in Terminal, and echo $PATH showed /foo as expected, in both bash and zsh shells.

Assuming you've installed Maven to /opt/apache-maven-3.3.3 you could add /opt/apache-maven-3.3.3/bin to /private/etc/paths. However, and I've not tried this (it's been several years since I last did any Java development), I'd be inclined to instead add a file Maven (containing /opt/apache-maven-3.3.3/bin) to /private/etc/paths.d - that'll encapsulate the Maven-specific path change, making it easier to clean up if you ever delete (or upgrade) Maven.

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