Note to Self: Managing TeXLive on Debian: Where is tlmgr?

There is a small issue in managing TeXLive on Debian (and many other Linux distros, and cygwin too); if TeXLive is installed via Debian’s own package manager (apt, synaptic, etc), TeXLive’s package manager, tlmgr, will not be available. This means that if a newer version of a package, or a package that is not in one of Debian’s own groups of LaTeX packages is required, it ends up being manually installed and that can make your system messy and hard to maintain.  This can be a big issue with Debian, since it has a very conservative view of what is a ‘stable’ package, and can easily be three years behind the main TeXLive repository.

To my knowledge, tlmgr won’t be available unless TeXLive is installed using its own tools rather than via the distro repo. Deb/Ub/etc strip out the tlmgr since it can create conflicts with apt, their own package manager (apt cannot know what tlmgr has updated or installed, and Deb/Ub have files distributed amongst a different array of packages from TeXLive, etc). I don’t really want to uninstall GB of stuff to fix this problem, partly because my bandwidth is not that great.

Using a local texmf tree (the obvious solution) does not provide tlmgr, but, allows installation of anything new or updated without messing with the installed packages (my local userspace tree is at /home/username/texmf); TeX ought to look here first if configured normally, so if a newer version or something not in the Deb packages is needed, it can be installed locally without messing around in root. This would nominally be a preferred option in the general Linux way of operating. This is suboptimal in disk space (cheap these days, though) and in presence of multiple versions. I mean, Deb will eventually upgrade its TeXLive, and then you might want to manually mess around with your local texmf tree; but it’s always preferable to mess around in userspace.

It is also easy if the package comes off CTAN with a .tds.zip extension (for example, here). If the zip is copied to /home/username/texmf, it is necessary only to go into that folder and type

$ unzip filename.tds.zip

and it will be unpacked into the right arrangement of subdirectories. ‘tds’ stands for something like ‘TeX directory structure’.

After that, the TeX system needs to be told about the new files by running something like texhash or mktexlsr, which may need to be done as root. If fonts are added, the updmap-sys command may be called for as well. That ought to do it, but who really knows?

When you’re on a good thing….

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About Darren

I'm a scientist by training, based in Australia.

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