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Installing and working with Homebrew

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What is Homebrew (for Mac OS, not the homebrew you drink)

Homebrew is the Mac equivalent of an application package manager. Package managers are fundamental to Linux systems (which OS X / macOS is based on), for installing pretty much anything you may need at the command line level and also front-end applications. Although on your Mac Homebrew is only used for command / system level tools and applications. On Debian based Linux systems (such as Debian, Ubuntu, and others) there’s a tool called Advanced Package Tool, or APT for short, and it comes with the OS. Without getting into all the details, in this Mac Tip I will share basic instructions on how to install and use Homebrew. But first, let’s look at why you’d even bother.

Why use Homebrew?

For many Apple computer users, there’s no reason at all to use Homebrew. If you’re not someone that likes to tinker under the hood of your operating system, and use your computer for anything more than the common tasks performed through the graphical user interface (GUI), then Homebrew is likely not of much use to you. If, however, you like to make you Mac perform other tasks that the GUI doesn’t support, such as programming related tasks, then Homebrew is likely to be very handy. If you’re on of those people, you probably already have it installed, and know how to use it. Just in case you’re new to this, please go over the following instructions.

How to install Homebrew

Installing Homebrew is super simple.

  1. Open Terminal app.
  2. Type (or paste) in the command, /bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/HEAD/install.sh)"
  3. Once that finishes doing it’s thing, Homebrew should be installed. Type in brew --version and something like the following should show up:
Homebrew 3.1.9
Homebrew/homebrew-core (git revision 7bd3aacf5d; last commit 2021-05-29)
Homebrew/homebrew-cask (git revision f350ee0a28; last commit 2021-05-28)

Keeping Homebrew updated

Before installing packages with Homebrew it’s a good idea to update its application repository data (basically its list of known applications), if you’ve not done so for some days or longer. Use this command:

brew update

If you want, you can have Homebrew update the repository data automatically. To set that up, run this command:

brew autoupdate start

This will have it check for updated repository data every 24 hours. If you want to set it to a different interval, you’d use the following command. The number on the end is in seconds. So for 12 hours, you’d set it to an interval of 43200

brew autoupdate start 43200

You can also add on some other options, such as --upgrade or --cleanup to automatically run brew upgrade and/or brew cleanup respectively. Add on the option  --enable-notification to send a notification when the autoupdate process has finished successfully.

Available Packages

Packages on Homebrew are known as Formulae. You can browse the available Formulae here.

Common Homebrew Commands

Search
brew search <name>

Download and install that package

brew install <name>

Remove that package from your system later

brew remove <name>

Install graphical apps

Search for a graphical app

brew cask search <name>

To install an app use the following command (this will automatically download, extract the app, and install it to your Applications folder)

brew cask install <name>

Uninstall an app with Homebrew Cask

brew cask uninstall <name>

Update your local packages

First, update the formulae and Homebrew itself

brew update

See what is outdated

brew outdated

Upgrade everything

brew upgrade

Upgrade a specific formula

brew upgrade <name>

Stop a formula from being updated

Stop something from being updated/upgraded

brew pin <name>

Allow that formula to update again

brew unpin <name>

Uninstall old versions of a formula

By default, Homebrew does not uninstall old versions of a formula. So when formulae are updated, Homebrew leaves the old stuff sitting around. The following commands for for cleaning that stuff up.

Clean up one specific formula

brew cleanup <formula name>

Clean up everything at once

brew cleanup

To first see what would be cleaned up, without actually doing the cleaning:

brew cleanup -n

Uninstall a formula

Remove a formula entirely (only do this if you know what you’re doing)

brew uninstall --force <name>

Where does stuff get downloaded?

brew --cache

Which will usually return: ~/Library/Caches/Homebrew

Uninstall Homebrew

To uninstall Homebrew, paste the command below in a Terminal prompt:

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/uninstall)"

More Homebrew information

There’s a lot of articles online about things you can do with Homebrew, including many tips on Best Mac Tips. If you’d like to dig deeper into it, take a look at the man page (the manual page or documentation) available here. You can also access the man in Terminal. Use the command man brew

 


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