Intro to Homebrew


Home brew is a package manager for macOS, just like apt is for Debian systems and yum is for CentOS systems. The main reason people love Homebrew is because it helps in bringing some Linux utilities to macOS, wget and tree for example. It also makes managing installed packages easier.

Where you’d normally do apt install wget, Homebrew let’s you do brew install wget.


The Cellar is a place that all your kegs go. Homebrew installs packages to their own directory (in the Cellar) and then symlinks their files into /usr/local/.

It contains what homebrew installs. It then creates symlinks in the /usr/local/bin directory to the files in the Cellar. If you delete what is in the Cellar directory you’ll no longer be able to use the stuff homebrew installed.

brew --cellar     # /usr/local/Cellar

Formulae (install scripts)

The package manager builds software from source using formulae, Ruby scripts constructed with Homebrew’s DSL (Domain Specific Language) for managing dependencies, downloading source files, and configuring and compiling software.

Bottles (binary packages)

Binary packages called bottles provide pre-built formulae with default options.

Bottles are produced by installing a formula with brew install --build-bottle <formula> and then bottling it with brew bottle <formula>. This outputs the bottle DSL which should be inserted into the formula file.

Taps (third party repos)

The tap command allows Homebrew to tap into another repository of formulae. Once you’ve done this you’ve expanded your options of installable software.

brew tap                     # list tapped repositories
brew tap <tapname>           # add tap
brew untap <tapname>         # remove a tap

brew tap adds more repositories to the list of formulae that brew tracks, updates, and installs from. By default, tap assumes that the repositories come from GitHub, but the command isn’t limited to any one location.

Homebrew Cask (installs GUI applications)

Homebrew Cask builds upon Homebrew and focuses on the installation of GUI applications. It has been made a part of Homebrew version 0.9.5 and higher.

brew cask install google-chrome


The installation is fairly simple. You run a one-liner to install Homebrew, and then update your $PATH to include /usr/local/bin. The most annoying part is downloading and installing Xcode and it’s Command Line Tools (if you don’t have them installed already)

# sudo xcode-select --install

/usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"
sudo chown -R $USER /usr/local/
export $PATH=/usr/local/bin:$PATH
  • You need Command Line Tools (CLT) for Xcode installed
  • DO NOT install with sudo read this
  • Change /usr/local/ to be owned by $USER, not root, so you can have write permissions and not need sudo. sudo chown -R $USER /usr/local/
  • The $PATH entry for /usr/local/bin should occur before /usr/bin

NOTE: I’m not entirely comfortable with sudo chown -R $USER /usr/local/ because there are some firs in that path that are owned by root:wheel, like remotedesktop. Needs more research on how suitable this is.