How to install Linux applications in OS X – a complete walkthrough

This tutorial will take you each and every step of the way through installing Linux programs in OS X – using Fink and FinkCommander.

Something I should mention up front – during this process you’ll be asked to enter your password about a half-million times. I left those ‘steps’ out to keep this shorter.

  1. Installing Fink and Fink Commander
  2. Configuring Fink
  3. Installing Linux applications
  4. Launching Linux applications with Quicksilver

Installing Fink and Fink Commander

  1. The first step in getting Linux programs running in OS X is to install X11, if it isn’t already. To check if it’s installed, open Finder, select Applications and then Utilities. If you don’t see X11 (or depending on your view settings) it’s not installed. Fortunately, I have a complete walkthrough for that as well.
  2. Once you’ve got X11 installed, visit and download the appropriate version of Fink for your Mac. Once the download has completed, open the .dmg file and run Fink xx-xx installer.pkg.

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  4. The Fink installer will launch. Click Continue and I Agree a bunch of times. You’ll be prompted for your password at least once during the installation.

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  6. Towards the end of the installation, a Setting up your Fink environment window will pop up. Make sure to click Yes.

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  8. Assuming all went well, a confirmation window should appear.

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  10. Click Close to finish the Fink installer.

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  12. Now, back in that .dmg file, locate the folder titled FinkCommander and open it.

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  14. Drag the FinkCommander file to your Applications folder. This is an important step – FinkCommander will not work properly if you run it from inside the .dmg file.

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Configuring Fink

  1. From your Applications, locate FinkCommander and launch it.

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  3. You’ll be presented with a rather large list of Linux packages – but before you go crazy installing them, you’ll need to run a few updates first.

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  5. Select Source from the top menu and then Scanpackages from the drop-down list.

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  7. Do not be surprised if you’re prompted to enter your password – twice, and then get a message (see screenshot below) saying you need to run Scanpackages again.

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  9. Repeat the Source -> Scanpackages process and the 2nd time it’ll work.

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  11. Now select Source from the top menu, Utilities and then Index.

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  13. Watch as FinkCommander runs some updates, and once that has completed…

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  15. Select Binary and then Update descriptions

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  17. Now locate Fink in the list of packages. You can sort the packages by Name to quickly locate it, or use the Search feature. Select Fink by clicking on it once.

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  19. With Fink highlighted, select Binary and then Install

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  21. And once again, watch as Fink updates itself.

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Installing Linux applications

  1. Now it’s time for some fun. Locate a Linux program/package that you want to install. I used trackballs (a silly but fun game) as an example. Once you’ve found the program you want to install, highlight it by clicking it once.

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  3. Select Binary and then Install

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  5. During the installation, you may get a pop-up window asking for you to respond to something (see screenshot below). Generally it’s looking for a Y/n (yes/no) answer – but check the status part of FinkCommander. In this case, the default is Y (yes), so you can select Accept default response and click Submit.

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  7. That’s it. Fink will automatically determine any packages that are required to run whatever program you chose to install, and install them as well. To launch your recently installed program, open up a Terminal and type in the programs name. If you’re a Quicksilver user (and you should be!) – keep reading for instructions on how to launch Linux programs with it.

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Launching Linux applications with Quicksilver

  1. Once you’ve installed a Linux app or two using Fink, you can launch them with Quicksilver if you add the folder they’re stored in to Quicksilver’s catalog. Bring up the Quicksilver preferences by invoking Quicksilver and click the Apple key + ,

    Select Catalog from the top menu

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  3. Click the + (plus sign) and select File & Folder Scanner
  4. Navigate to Macintosh HD -> sw -> bin and click Open

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  6. Make sure the bin folder was added to the Sources list.

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  8. From the side drawer, change the Include Contents: entry to Folder Contents
  9. Back in the Catalog window, click the Refresh button (the swirl arrow)
  10. The bin entry in the Sources list should now have 80+ items (give or take) indexed. Exit out of the Quicksilver preferences.

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  12. Invoke Quicksilver and test it out.

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89 thoughts on “How to install Linux applications in OS X – a complete walkthrough”

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  4. Electric Cat Herder


    Yes, Gnome is available, but a bit dated, though it looks like there’s been some work to bring everything up to version 2.16.

    This article’s headline is a bit misleading. Fink does not install Linux applications– The binaries are in Mac OS X/Darwin Mach-0 format, not ELF. The Fink project provides Mac builds of popular applications designed for a variety of UNIX-type operating systems, such as Linux and Solaris. The Fink maintainers have worked out the build specifics for Mac OS X and make binaries available. The graphical programs use X11 and by extension Gnome or KDE, just as they do on other UNIX platforms.

    Personally, I’d like to see more work towards implementing GTK and QT APIs for the Aqua desktop and Core Graphics, bypassing X11, but these things take time. For those comfortable with X11, Gnome and KDE, Fink dramatically expands your choices for Mac software.

  5. Susan you should be able to install Gnome I remember installing KDE using Fink a couple years ago. It’s a long running stable project. I deleted my fink installation last year, but now I am tempted to re-install it. :)

  6. Robin Mordasiewicz

    Being picky these are not linux applications.
    Linux is a kernel which you can run these applications on, just as you can run these applications on the FreeBSD kernel.

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  13. This is a well done walk through, I like it — unfortunately the reality of using fink is often littered with undocumented errors and, as ever so often happens with anything open source, the work-around’s to things like Buildlock failures, are usually fraught with in-speek and gobbledegook only those already familiar with Linux can decipher.

    I built KDE once and it took me a week – and trust me, previous to that, I thought I knew what I was doing.

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  40. how can you add apps to be installed? what I would really love to do is get groupwise (linux platform) to run under this.



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  42. hello just ran across your site and followed direction to install but need help the only application i can get to run is trackball ive tried crafty chess , doewars, danican, othello and some of the editors they wont start im using a mac powerbook g4 with a ppc processor and also when i installed fink i didnt get the Setting up your Fink environment window you spoke of at end of instalation i also want to know should i have got that screen or is that only for intel based chip macs and also once i get it working correctly how can i install linux/unix packages and or applications in fink other than the ones provided

  43. 1. Does this install programs in somewhere like MacHD instead of the Apps folder (just typing the program name in terminal opens the program!)? And I see “sw” folder in the MacHD folder.

    2. How can one un-install Fink after installing it?

    3. I was interested in getting YS Flight to install on Mac. Can I use Fink?

  44. I am going to attempt to run a linux based environmental modeling system on my new MacBook. Does anyone know if my 2.16 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo can handle running a Linux application this complicated? It takes 99.9% of my processing power and 3 hours to run on an old Pentium 4 with Linux installed. I want to speed things up a bit, and I wouldn’t mind the portability. I estimated I could probably run it in 45 min. on this processor, but I’ve never ran a Linux app on my Mac, and I am unsure if there is any % CPU lost when you’re running the app from fink in OS X. Thanks

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  47. Very simple tutorial! Anyone that’s used linux (Even, *shudder* Ubuntu) for an amount of time, & learned it, will recognize what’s going on in your screen shots. QUick, Short Sweet N Effective I rate this tutorial 10 stars even if your technical termonology is wrong & these apps have been ported. THIS WILL SHOW IN GOOGLE when we search using what we want to say. In English. Not Machine Code.
    -ez, then

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  53. can i know how to install Packet Tracer 5 from cisco. there had a version for linux i would like to try to install using it.

  54. Je n’arrive pas à installer “Linux”. Quand je clic sur “Quicksilver”, la fenêtre s’affiche mais je n’ai pas “Trackballs” que j’ai pourtant installer et je ne sais pas d’où vient ce “ Bookmarks”. pouvez-vous m’aider.

  55. Can I install Packet Tracer 5.0 the linux version with this method.

    If the answe is yes how can I do that?? What I need to do with the tar.gz file??


    the information is excelent.

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  57. please, can anyone tell me how to remove fink from my mac??

    i’ve read this:
    Q3.6: How can I remove all of Fink?
    A: Almost all files installed by Fink are in /sw (or wherever you chose to install it). Thus in order to get rid of Fink, enter this command:
    sudo rm -rf /sw
    The only exception to this rule is XFree86. If you also need to remove XFree86, additionally enter this:
    sudo rm -rf /usr/X11R6 /etc/X11 /Applications/
    You also will want to remove the “source /sw/bin/init.csh” line you added to your .cshrc file. To do this, type “pico ~/.cshrc”. Navigate to the “source /sw/bin/init.csh” line and type control-K to remove it. Then type control-O, return, control-X to exit.

    but i have no idea that how to process it…..
    where should i enter “sudo rm -rf /sw” this command?????

    please help!!!!

    thanks loads!!!!

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  59. Hey Peggy !

    to insert comand lines in OSX go to :

    You will be asked for your OSX password (sudo) or you may start the process with sudo su/ENTER

    Good luck !


  60. I’d like to install a third party Linux app on my Mac (specifically Rational Application Developer 7.5) – will this approach work, or will it only work for apps that are distributed with linux?

    I hate using Rational Application Developer (which is an IBM product) – but I hate it even more on Windows. Having an IBM app running on Windows is a compound negative – ug. If I could get RAD7 running on my Mac, it would a least be a bit more tolerable!


  61. How do I install other applications that are not listed by FinkCommander? I need to install am application which is .rpm.


    1. félix – just in case there’s a “linux only” app that you need/want to run. It happens. There are some pretty cool linux-only things out there that I like to have available on my Mac rather than having to use a virtual machine w/ linux, or reboot into linux…

  62. There is a big problem with this now that Fink doesn’t a have a binary installer, and there seems to be some point of confusion for making any of this work.

  63. “Can I use Fink to install a come-on library in my electric cat?”
    Err, probably not. That electrocuted cat is most likely dead anyway. Just like your brain.

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  65. Thank you very much for the app but can someone update the instructions for OSX 10.8 even the Fink has been updated and I don’t have Fink commander in my folder. I need help. I tried everything but still nothing works.

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