On a fresh macOS installation there are three empty directories for add-ons available to all users:
/Library/Ruby /Library/Python /Library/Perl
Starting with OS X Lion (10.7), you need
sudo to install to these like so:
sudo gem install,
sudo easy_install or
sudo cpan -i.
An option to avoid sudo is to use an access control list:
chmod +a 'user:YOUR_NAME_HERE allow add_subdirectory,add_file,delete_child,directory_inherit' /Library/Python/2.7/site-packages, for example, will let you add packages to Python 2.7 as yourself. That is probably safer than changing the group ownership of the directory.
One reason is executables go in
/usr/local/bin. Usually this isn’t a writable location. But if you installed Homebrew as we recommend,
/usr/local will be writable without sudo. So now you are good to install the development tools you need without risking the use of sudo.
Rather than changing the rights on
/Library/Python, we recommend the following options:
easy_install is deprecated. We install
pip3 for Python 3) along with python/python3.
We set up distutils such that
pip install will always put modules in
$(brew --prefix)/lib/pythonX.Y/site-packages and scripts in
$(brew --prefix)/share/python. Therefore, you won’t need sudo!
brew info python or
brew info python3 for precise information about the paths. Note, a brewed Python still searches for modules in
/Library/Python/X.Y/site-packages and also in
This is only recommended if you don’t use a brewed Python.
On macOS, any Python version X.Y also searches in
~/Library/Python/X.Y/lib/python/site-packages for modules. That dir might not yet exist, but you can create it:
mkdir -p ~/Library/Python/2.7/lib/python/site-packages
pip to install there, either use the
--user switch or create a
~/.pydistutils.cfg file with the following content:
[install] install_lib = ~/Library/Python/$py_version_short/lib/python/site-packages
pip and creates isolated Python environments with separate site-packages, therefore you won’t need sudo.
If you use rbenv or RVM then you should ignore this stuff
Brewed Ruby installs executables to
$(brew --prefix)/opt/ruby/bin without sudo. You should add this to your path. See the caveats in the
ruby formula for up-to-date information.
To make Ruby install to
/usr/local, we need to add
gem: -n/usr/local/bin to your
~/.gemrc. It’s YAML, so do it manually or use this:
echo "gem: -n/usr/local/bin" >> ~/.gemrc
However, all versions of RubyGems before 1.3.6 are buggy and ignore the above setting. Sadly a fresh install of Snow Leopard comes with 1.3.5. Currently the only known way to get around this is to upgrade rubygems as root:
sudo gem update --system
Just install everything into the Homebrew prefix like this:
echo "export GEM_HOME=\"$(brew --prefix)\"" >> ~/.bashrc
Note, maybe you shouldn’t do this on Lion, since Apple has decided it is not a good default.
If you ever did a
sudo gem, etc. before then a lot of files will have been created owned by root. Fix with:
sudo chown -R $USER /Library/Ruby /Library/Perl /Library/Python
The Perl module
local::lib works similarly to rbenv/RVM (although for modules only, not perl installations). A simple solution that only pollutes your
/Library/Perl a little is to install
local::lib with sudo:
sudo cpan local::lib
Note that this will install some other dependencies like
Module::Install. Then put the appropriate incantation in your shell’s startup, e.g. for
.bash_profile you insert the below, for others see the
eval $(perl -I$HOME/perl5/lib/perl5 -Mlocal::lib)
Now (after you restart your shell)
perl -MCPAN -eshell etc. will install modules and binaries in
~/perl5 and the relevant subdirectories will be in your
If you don’t even want (or can’t) use sudo for bootstrapping
local::lib, just manually install
~/perl5 and add the relevant path to
PERL5LIB before the .bashrc eval incantation.
Another alternative is to use
perlbrew to install a separate copy of Perl in your home directory, or wherever you like:
curl -L https://install.perlbrew.pl | bash perlbrew install perl-5.16.2 echo ".~/perl5/perlbrew/etc/bashrc" >> ~/.bashrc
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