I found there is some differences between the utility command I used on the mac OSX and linux. I want to make my experience united.

How could I replace all my mac utilities with GNU utilities?

  • 2
    See also apple.stackexchange.com/questions/71119/….
    – lhf
    Nov 9, 2012 at 23:44
  • 2
    Here's a guide topbug.net/blog/2013/04/14/…
    – Dennis
    Mar 19, 2015 at 8:50
  • 24
    I sympathize with your frustrations but I believe that, in the long term, it will cause greater frustration if they are replaced - After seeking to do the same thing I'd recommend using homebrew as mentioned below, and then just learning to use the utilities with a g ( gsed, greadlink, etc ) instead of replacing the system utilities.
    – cwd
    Mar 29, 2015 at 13:51
  • 7
    I disagree with @cwd, using --with-default-names is only affects the local user. It could be an issue with mac oriented terminal utilities, but if you use homebrew for everything, you might aswell pretend you're using linux. Mixed with iterm2, it's working great for me, I can basically pretend I'm home with my linux boxes.
    – Ray Foss
    Jun 30, 2017 at 17:39
  • 4
    Does anyone have a concrete example demonstrating that this "will cause greater frustration"? Feb 28, 2020 at 21:24

7 Answers 7


This adds symlinks for GNU utilities with g prefix to /usr/local/bin/:

brew install coreutils findutils gnu-tar gnu-sed gawk gnutls gnu-indent gnu-getopt grep

See brew search gnu for other packages. If you want to use the commands without a g prefix add for example /usr/local/opt/coreutils/libexec/gnubin before other directories on your PATH.

$ brew info coreutils
coreutils: stable 8.21
Depends on: xz
/usr/local/Cellar/coreutils/8.20 (208 files, 9.4M)
/usr/local/Cellar/coreutils/8.21 (210 files, 9.6M) *
==> Caveats
All commands have been installed with the prefix 'g'.

If you really need to use these commands with their normal names, you
can add a "gnubin" directory to your PATH from your bashrc like:


Additionally, you can access their man pages with normal names if you add
the "gnuman" directory to your MANPATH from your bashrc as well:

  • 9
    FWIW, I have a Homebrew Formula that acts as a meta-package for all those great GNU utils: see shiny-and-gnu.rb in github.com/al-the-x/homebrew-mine
    – AL the X
    May 13, 2014 at 20:47
  • 1
    The first PATH works, but MANPATH failed, why? Is it because I'm using OSX10.10? I echoed $MANPATH, and I got /usr/local/opt/coreutils/libexec/gnuman:, seems original MANPATH wasn't include. After commented out the MANPATH conf in my bashrc, I got nothing by ecoh $MANPATH. And of course, if I use man pwd, I got the BSD manual. How to fix this?
    – Zen
    Mar 5, 2015 at 15:42
  • 4
    For findutils, you need to add PATH="/usr/local/Cellar/findutils/4.4.2/bin:$PATH" which is not stated in the installation console output. Apr 28, 2015 at 20:09
  • 3
    In addition, to get the right man page for findutils, add this to your $MANPATH /usr/local/opt/findutils/share/man Aug 3, 2015 at 19:05
  • 6
    @Zen: the right way to initiate MANPATH so as to keep the default system value is: MANPATH="/usr/local/opt/coreutils/libexec/gnuman:${MANPATH-/usr/share/man}". The key is in the construct ${var-default_value}.
    – dan
    Oct 6, 2015 at 7:43

Besides brew install coreutils, you may also need to install some other packages, such as gnu-sed, grep:

brew install findutils
brew install gnu-indent
brew install gnu-sed
brew install gnutls
brew install grep
brew install gnu-tar
brew install gawk

Note that the --with-default-names option is removed since January 2019, so each binary has to be added to the path if they are to be used without the g prefix.

Old reference (when --with-default-names was available): http://www.topbug.net/blog/2013/04/14/install-and-use-gnu-command-line-tools-in-mac-os-x/

  • Note that brew install gawk (unlike all the others) will replace awk (via a symbolic link /usr/local/bin/awk). If you want to keep the original /usr/bin/awk, just rm /usr/local/bin/awk
    – wisbucky
    Jun 1, 2019 at 10:48
  • Is there a GNU version of ping available?
    – HappyFace
    Mar 16, 2021 at 14:46
  • @HappyFace I don't think so. On GNU/Linux, ping is a Linux kernel utility: github.com/iputils/iputils
    – xuhdev
    Mar 16, 2021 at 21:19

I'm not sure that I would recommend replacing them; however, you can install them to a different path and utilize them that way. Overall, if you are coming from Linux and would like access to more "generic" *nix utilities, and a system similar to apt, then I would recommend looking into Macports: http://www.macports.org

It allows, for example, using the latest "generic" GCC, as opposed to/in addition to Apple's included GCC, just as an example.

  • 3
    For instance, tar and zip from Mac OS X know about metadata that the GNU versions do not.
    – lhf
    Oct 22, 2012 at 17:49
  • 1
    There are Apple supplied apps, which are just GUIs for some command line tools and if you replace them the apps may start behaving strangely, so go with adding, not replacing.
    – Ɱark Ƭ
    Oct 23, 2012 at 11:56
  • Right; something like Macports adds them, it doesn't replace them.
    – Jonathan
    Oct 23, 2012 at 12:10
  • 3
    If you want to use the GNU utilities by default with MacPorts you can add /opt/local/libexec/gnubin to the front of your PATH environment variable.
    – markshep
    Sep 26, 2016 at 11:59

I've written a script to do exactly this! The script can be viewed here (or below). However, I can't always guarantee this post will reflect the latest version of the script linked previously.

Upon running the script, Homebrew will be installed (if not already), all the associated GNU utilities will be installed (if not already), and the PATH variable will be built from the installed utilities.


# Install Homebrew (if not already installed)
/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL "\

# Install required packages from Homebrew
brew tap homebrew/dupes
brew install coreutils binutils diffutils ed findutils gawk gnu-indent gnu-sed \
  gnu-tar gnu-which gnutls grep gzip screen watch wdiff wget bash gdb gpatch \
  m4 make nano file-formula git less openssh python rsync svn unzip vim \
  --default-names --with-default-names --with-gettext --override-system-vi \
  --override-system-vim --custom-system-icons

# Empty the .bash_path file that holds GNU paths
[[ -f ~/.bash_path ]] && mv ~/.bash_path ~/.bash_path.orig

# Build PATH variable script in ~/.bash_path
for i in /usr/local/Cellar/*/*/bin; do
  echo 'export PATH="'$i':$PATH"' >> ~/.bash_path
for i in /usr/local/Cellar/*/*/libexec/gnubin; do
  echo 'export PATH="'$i':$PATH"' >> ~/.bash_path
for i in /usr/local/Cellar/*/*/share/man; do
  echo 'export MANPATH="'$i':$MANPATH"' >> ~/.bash_path
for i in /usr/local/Cellar/*/*/libexec/gnuman; do
  echo 'export MANPATH="'$i':$MANPATH"' >> ~/.bash_path

# Check if .bash_path is being called from .bash_profile
PATCH=`grep "~/.bash_path" ~/.bash_profile`
if [ "$PATCH" == "" ]; then
  # Add Ubuntu-style PS1 to .bash_profile
  cat <<EOF > ~/.bash_profile
export PS1="\[\033[1;32m\]\u@\h\[\033[0m\]:\[\033[1;34m\]\w\[\033[0m\]# "
  # Add .bash_path to .bash_profile
  echo "source ~/.bash_path" >> ~/.bash_profile

I have written a script that transparently transforms the macOS CLI into a fresh GNU/Linux CLI experience by

  • installing missing GNU programs
  • updating outdated GNU programs
  • replacing pre-installed BSD programs with their preferred GNU implementation
  • installing other programs common among popular GNU/Linux distributions


git clone https://github.com/fabiomaia/linuxify.git
cd linuxify/
./linuxify install

It also allows you to easily undo everything.

./linuxify uninstall

As an alternative to setting the PATH and MANPATH environment variables (which I would actually recommend), it is also possible to symlink binaries to an existing PATH location like this:

You need to know where Homebrew installs coreutils binaries.


The /usr/local/opt directory is where Homebrew stores relatively static files that are unlikely to change between updates.

Then you can create symbolic links from there to a location that is already on your PATH. It must be a path that is loaded early on PATH, because the PATH is searched on a first-come, first-serve basis. /usr/local/bin is a good choice based on looking at echo $PATH.

which sha256sum # prove it is not on PATH
ln -s /usr/local/opt/coreutils/bin/sha256sum /usr/local/bin/
which sha256sum # prove it is on PATH

This way, it would almost as easy to create symbolic links. In some cases, like when you want tighter control, it is a good option rather than adding an entire directory to your PATH and MANPATH.


I agree with using brew install coreutils to install the tools. But if you want to use them without the g prefix and are using Oh My Zsh, you can add gnu-utils to your zshrc file to do enable this easily:

plugins=(... gnu-utils)

More info available here: https://github.com/ohmyzsh/ohmyzsh/tree/master/plugins/gnu-utils

  • How does this impact shell scripts expecting the BSD version of commands?
    – nohillside
    Nov 16, 2022 at 14:55
  • 1
    @nohillside The plugins should be set in your .zshrc file, so their effect should only apply to interactive shells rather than scripts.
    – nofinator
    Dec 15, 2022 at 15:44
  • the only problem I see with this is: what if you want to bring some user scripts that work in a GNU/Linux environment to macOS? Apr 10 at 14:04

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