Lesser-known Homebrew features

2014-05-03 · 2 min read

Homebrew is a package manager for OSX that greatly simplifies software installation. It has many interesting features that are not widely known and that may substantially improve your workflow. In this article I will present some of them.

Software versions

Once a package is upgraded you can easily switch back to older version with switch. Check currently installed versions with info,

brew info elasticsearch
elasticsearch: stable 1.1.1, HEAD
/usr/local/Cellar/elasticsearch/0.90.1 (30 files, 19M)
  Built from source
/usr/local/Cellar/elasticsearch/1.1.1 (31 files, 21M)
  Built from source
From: https://github.com/Homebrew/homebrew/commits/master/Library/Formula/elasticsearch.rb

and then switch to an older version if needed

brew switch elasticsearch 0.90.1
Cleaning /usr/local/Cellar/elasticsearch/0.90.1
Cleaning /usr/local/Cellar/elasticsearch/1.1.1
3 links created for /usr/local/Cellar/elasticsearch/0.90.1

Currently active version can be checked with which

brew which elasticsearch
elasticsearch: 0.90.1

If you need to install older software at any time, simply add homebrew/versions tap

brew tap homebrew/versions

Check available software versions with search or on Github.

brew search postgresql

OSX Applications with Cask

Cask is a Homebrew plugin that allow to install OSX applications distributed as binaries. Usually you get a dmg file and then drag-n-drop into /Applications - with Cask this process can be automated using the command line.

Install Cask

brew tap caskroom/cask
brew install brew-cask

Install an OSX application

brew cask install adium

Cask puts applications into /opt/homebrew-cask/Caskroom and the symlinks them to /Applications.

The list of OSX applications that can be installed with Cask is available on Github. You can also use search command i.e.

brew cask search google
==> Partial matches
google-chrome         google-earth        ...


Homebrew allows to define dependencies with single file Brewfile similar to bundler from Ruby world and its Gemfile, .e.g

install curl
install openssl
link --force openssl

Once defined, you can install those dependencies by running brew bundle. Each command prefixed with brew and executed in defined order.

Brewfile provides a useful method to store in one place all software needed to be installed on given machine.

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