I am new to the macOS and the apple ecosystem in general. For research purposes I need to install a TexLive distribution on my new machine (MacBook Air M1) which I think can be done in at least two ways :

  1. Using HomeBrew or similar platform
  2. Using MacTeX

My questions :-

A. I will be using HB later on (and most probably with /usr/local as install directory) so should I install TeX using HB or MacTeX?

B. On the official website of MacTeX I read that they will release MacTeX with Arm support around April 2021 but on the linked page above they have provided MacTeX-2020-Universal.pkg which is supposed to run natively on Arm without Rosetta support. So, I am a little confused here as to what the universal package actually is.

C. Also, if I install using MacTeX+MacTeXUniversal and in April 2021 I want to upgrade will I have to delete everything and install from scratch?

2 Answers 2


As it says on https://www.tug.org/mactex/aboutarm.html

After installing MacTeX-2020-Universal, all front ends and the command line programs will automatically use Arm binaries on Arm machines and Intel binaries on Intel machines.

so if you start from scratch and want a working TeX installation which runs natively just install the Universal package and you are all set. The remarks about the 2021 version providing full ARM support most probably refers to extended testing and maybe adapting some programs to make better use of ARM.

As for upgrading to 2021 next year, this will work the same way as before: The 2021 package will install into its own directory within /usr/local/texlive and you can then switch to the new version with the TeX Live Utility. Any user-installed styles and fonts are in /usr/local/texlive/texmf-local so they will remain available.

PS: Using Homebrew has the advantage of updating TeXLive automatically whenever you update your Homebrew installation. OTOH Homebrew currently is still transitioning to ARM so IMHO it's better to install MacTeX directly and run tlmgr update --self; tlmgr update --all every few weeks to keep it updated.

  • Thanks. There is one more thing. I will be using the setup as vimtex+MacTeX+skim and I think HB is necessary for skim. Will there be any issues if MacTeX is installed directly and it is used on top by vimtex to dynamically interact with skim both of which are installed using HB? Dec 18, 2020 at 10:57
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    @asymptoticallyboundedgluon I have a similar setup, it should work as long as you don't use Homebrew to install things MacTeX already installed as well (Ghostscript is a likely candidate for this).
    – nohillside
    Dec 18, 2020 at 12:04
  • Did you update to big-sur as well? The latest install instructions require mac OS 10.x as per the official website. Dec 18, 2020 at 12:58
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    @asymptoticallyboundedgluon You can't run M1 Macs without Big Sur :-)
    – nohillside
    Dec 18, 2020 at 13:25

Regarding your question B:

MacTeX is released in a new, official version once a year. I.e. MacTeX 2019, MacTeX 2020, etc.

In between these releases, development occurs - and various "interim" versions can be made at any time. The Universal package with ARM and Intel code is such an "interim" version.

I.e. if you want the official version, which will most probably be the version that works best, fewest bugs and problems - you want the MacTeX 2020 version that is not universal.

If you want to something that runs faster and you're OK with getting an "in-between" version that hasn't been tested as well as the ordinary versions, then get the Universal version.

In any case upgrading to the new version next year is easy, and does not require you to start from scratch.

  • Thank you. That's what I thought and have been looking for a confirmation of the same. Dec 18, 2020 at 10:57
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    Not sure there is an in-between version: "These universal binaries were constructed from the TeX Live source code as it existed last spring just before TeX Live 2020 was released"
    – nohillside
    Dec 18, 2020 at 12:02
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    Well, depends on your definition of it I guess... it's not the final version, and it's not the version that is MacTeX 2020... so it is a kind of quick rebuilt with what they had at the time - compiled for ARM. It is most probably going to have a bug or two that that is specific to this "preview" version.
    – jksoegaard
    Dec 18, 2020 at 14:18

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