I'm trying to run some Linux applications on macOS. I have installed XQuartz but if I attempt for instance to run firefox it does something - i.e. the firefox process can be seen by ps:

$ps -ef | grep firefox
  502 29337 29230   0 11:59AM ttys032    0:00.01 X /Users/steve/Downloads/firefox/firefox

.. But it does not show up as an X app:

So which additional steps are required to get Linux binaries to run?

  • 2
    You can‘t run the Linux version of Firefox (or any other application) on macOS. Which specific version did you download/install? – nohillside Jul 6 at 19:21
  • um .. huh what is XQuartz about? oh that's one thing I should change to xquartz: updating OP but still does not launch – javadba Jul 6 at 19:28
  • XQuartz implements the APU that X11 lib calls can make to write to and read from the macOS graphics layer. It does not allow other programs linked for another OS to run. You can build firefox to use X11 on macOS – user151019 Jul 6 at 20:01
  • 1
    I made a rather heavy-handed edit to cover your scope update while trying to keep the existing answer relevant. – nohillside Jul 8 at 5:36
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    @nohillside: hard but nice work :). – dan Jul 8 at 11:35

You can't launch the Linux version of Firefox on macOS, because it is a binary for Linux calling libraries from Linux and calling system calls of Linux.

You have to build a macOS version of Firefox on macOS from the source tree you download from here:


through the traditionnal steps:

/usr/bin/sudo make install

And during the configure step, you will have to take care to use the standard sets of X11 libraries (disclaimer: I didn't test this).


macOS can‘t run binaries compiled for Linux for the same reason it can't run Windows binaries: the underlying architecture and the required libraries are different. For Windows binaries there are wine and CrossOver, I‘m not aware of something similar for Linux binaries. If you have access to the source code, you can try to port/compile it yourself. Or you can try to install it through Homebrew.

  • Virtualization? Too complex? – dan Jul 8 at 11:36
  • @danielAzuelos Probably doable (it works for wine after all), but given the availability of VirtualBox & friends the effort may be too high compared to the gains. – nohillside Jul 8 at 11:56

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