MacPorts: Easily install open source software on Mac with MacPorts

May 21, 2007 - 9 Comments

MacPorts, formerly DarwinPorts, is a free open source app that allows Mac users to easily install command line software and x11 software in Mac OS X by using the ‘ports’ command line tool for package management.

MacPorts is probably best for more advanced Mac users who have some experience with the command line, because MacPorts itself is also a command line tool.


MacPorts is free to download and to install, but before downloading MacPorts you will need to be sure you have the Mac Command Line Tools installed on the computer as that is a prerequisite. If you’re already familiar with the command line and package management then you’ll probably be right at home with the whole the setup and installation proces.

After you install MacPorts, using it is pretty easy (assuming familiarity with the command line), you can search for, update, and install software with just a few commands.

Search for packages with MacPorts

Search for software with MacPorts (replace irssi with your package):

port search irssi

Install packages with MacPorts

Install software with MacPorts (replace irssi with your package):

sudo port -v install irssi

Update installed packages with MacPorts

Update all installed ports to most recent versions:

sudo port upgrade outdated

If all of this makes MacPorts sounds to you like Fink or Homebrew, well, you’d be right because it’s serving a similar function as a package manager, so it’s pretty close. Functionality is much the same, but some people swear that one is better than the other. If you pick one package manager, you don’t need to install another one, however, as there could be overlap and doubled binaries.

If you would prefer to use a GUI to install command line software, try out Fink Commander, which performs much the same as MacPorts but through a GUI interface. There are several GUI options available for MacPorts but most of them are shareware or commercial, but you can explore those as possibilities if you’re interested.

There are other command line package manager options out there too, for example the tool called Homebrew has gained a lot of popularity and you can install Homebrew on Mac with relative ease, which allows for simple installation, updating, and management of command line tools.

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Posted by: Bill Ellis in Command Line, Development, Mac OS X

9 Comments

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  1. suresure says:

    fink is better, macports is all outdated and slow

  2. Maciek says:

    When I was trying out Fink, I decided to install Subversion as first thing.

    I quickly found out the most recent svn binary package is at version 1.2 (well, a BIT outdated), so I decided to go with building most recent ver from source and I ended on building whole Apache 2 with whole subset of not really neccesary libraries.

    When I was trying to build some other console app (don’t remeber what exactly right now), Fink asked me for confirmation to build xorg from sources.

    I said “NO!” and currently I am completely happy with MacPorts. Maybe selection of packages is not so huge as in Fink, but quality is definitely better.

    That’s my 5 cents…

  3. cos says:

    “I decided to go with building most recent ver from source and I ended on building whole Apache 2 with whole subset of not really neccesary libraries.”

    well, macports does the same, y’know – the build-time dependencies for subversion are the same.

    hopefully macports’ summer of code task to build binary packages will bear fruit…

  4. ed says:

    hey am a rookie to this one question after you install a program how do l open the program

  5. Jeamr says:

    ed, you use the terminal, type port in the terminal

  6. Frank says:

    There’s also prefix-portage, it uses stuff developed on Linux, and nowadays works great on Mac OS. All packages are bleading edge, no outdate stuff.
    See also: http://www.gentoo.org/proj/en/gentoo-alt/prefix/index.xml

  7. Adam says:

    w00t! thanks for this command……

  8. […] that wget is not installed in Mac OS X by default and that you’ll need to install it using MacPorts, you can check out our past article on installing MacPorts or visit the developer website at […]

  9. John Doe says:

    I’m having a bit of trouble trying to install fink, I know how to execute the command lines but I can’t even get it to install, OK I get this problem when I trying to install

    I typed in Terminal; “./bootstrap” I pick Option 1 from the list then Option 1 again to install the 32-bit(Default) I then enter my pass from sudo command, then comes this

    Choose a mode: [1] 2
    Checking package… looks good (fink-0.29.10).
    Checking system… i386-apple-darwin10.2.0
    This system was not released at the time this Fink release was made.
    Prerelease versions of Mac OS X might work with Fink, but there are no
    guarantees.
    Distribution: 10.6
    Architecture: x86_64
    Checking cc… not found.
    ERROR: There is no C compiler on your system. Make sure that the Developer
    Tools are installed.

    it tells me there’s no C compiler on my system, but I’ve already downloaded them before because I have Xcode 3.2.1 installed along with the other stuff that came with the Developer Tools. Do I have to re-download it to make it work or do I have to find a C compiler to make this work?

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