Tips and Tricks

Installing previous versions of formulae

The supported method of installing specific versions of some formulae is to see if there is a versioned formula (e.g. gcc@6) available. If the version you’re looking for isn’t available, consider using brew extract.

Installing directly from pull requests

You can browse pull requests and install through their direct link. For example, Python 3.7.0 from pull request Homebrew/homebrew-core#29490:

brew install https://raw.githubusercontent.com/sashkab/homebrew-core/176823eb82ee1b5ce55a91e5e1bf2f50aa674092/Formula/python.rb

Quickly remove something from /usr/local

brew unlink <formula>

This can be useful if a package can’t build against the version of something you have linked into /usr/local.

And of course, you can simply brew link <formula> again afterwards!

Activate a previously installed version of a formula

brew info <formula>
brew switch <formula> <version>

Use brew info <formula> to check what versions are installed but not currently activated, then brew switch <formula> <version> to activate the desired version. This can be useful if you would like to switch between versions of a formula.

Install into Homebrew without formulae

./configure --prefix=/usr/local/Cellar/foo/1.2 && make && make install && brew link foo

Pre-downloading a file for a formula

Sometimes it’s faster to download a file via means other than those strategies that are available as part of Homebrew. For example, Erlang provides a torrent that’ll let you download at 4–5× the normal HTTP method.

Download the file and drop it in ~/Library/Caches/Homebrew, but watch the file name. Homebrew downloads files as <formula>-<version>. In the case of Erlang, this requires renaming the file from otp_src_R13B03 to erlang-R13B03.

brew --cache -s erlang will print the correct name of the cached download. This means instead of manually renaming a formula, you can run mv the_tarball $(brew --cache -s <formula>).

You can also pre-cache the download by using the command brew fetch <formula> which also displays the SHA-256 hash. This can be useful for updating formulae to new versions.

Installing stuff without the Xcode CLT

brew sh          # or: eval $(brew --env)
gem install ronn # or c-programs

This imports the brew environment into your existing shell; gem will pick up the environment variables and be able to build. As a bonus brew’s automatically determined optimization flags are set.

Install only a formula’s dependencies (not the formula)

brew install --only-dependencies <formula>

Interactive Homebrew Shell

$ brew irb
1.8.7 :001 > Formula.factory("ace").methods - Object.methods
 => [:install, :path, :homepage, :downloader, :stable, :bottle, :devel, :head, :active_spec, :buildpath, :ensure_specs_set, :url, :version, :specs, :mirrors, :installed?, :explicitly_requested?, :linked_keg, :installed_prefix, :prefix, :rack, :bin, :doc, :include, :info, :lib, :libexec, :man, :man1, :man2, :man3, :man4, :man5, :man6, :man7, :man8, :sbin, :share, :etc, :var, :plist_name, :plist_path, :download_strategy, :cached_download, :caveats, :options, :patches, :keg_only?, :fails_with?, :skip_clean?, :brew, :std_cmake_args, :deps, :external_deps, :recursive_deps, :system, :fetch, :verify_download_integrity, :fails_with_llvm, :fails_with_llvm?, :std_cmake_parameters, :mkdir, :mktemp]
1.8.7 :002 >

Hiding the beer mug emoji when finishing a build


This sets the HOMEBREW_NO_EMOJI environment variable, causing Homebrew to hide all emoji.

The beer emoji can also be replaced with other character(s):


Editor plugins

Sublime Text

In Sublime Text 2/3, you can use Package Control to install Homebrew-formula-syntax, which adds highlighting for inline patches.


brew.vim adds highlighting to inline patches in Vim.


homebrew-mode provides syntax highlighting for inline patches as well as a number of helper functions for editing formula files.

pcmpl-homebrew provides completion for emacs shell-mode and eshell-mode.


language-homebrew-formula adds highlighting and diff support (with the language-diff plugin).

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