Install Tex Live 2011 on Ubuntu 12.04

The default Tex Live package in Ubuntu 12.04 is very outdated (version 2009) which is bad because it does not contain e.g. the paralist package that is great for making compact lists. This is easy to fix, just install the newest Tex Live directly from the source (Tex Live 2011 @ Tex Users Group) – it is actually really easy and it does not conflict with the Ubuntu Tex Live 2009 package. Below is a guide on how to install it – I got much inspiration from Quick Install Guide by the Tex Users Group.

Prerequisites
Make sure that you have got Perl installed. (Ubuntu should have this already) You can check it by opening a terminal (shortcut: “CTRL+ALT+T“) and write “man perl” which should open up the Perl Interpreter manual page (which you can quit by pressing “q“) – if there is no manual entry then you should be able to install perl by writing “sudo apt-get install perl“.

Also make sure that you have a stable internet connection and sufficient amount of available space, because you gotta download minimum 3.1 GB of Tex Live program data.

Download and installation
1. Download the installation archieve (Tex User Group Tex Live 2011 Download) and unzip it somewhere in your home folder.

2. Open a terminal (shortcut: “CTRL+ALT+T“) and navigate into the unzipped folder that starts with “install-tl” using the “cd” command.

3. Now we gotta start the installation. The default setting is to install Tex Live at the location “/usr/local/texlive” and that should not be a problem unless you have made a separate system partition (the one that contains the “/usr” folder) that is not big enough to contain minimum 3.1 GB data from Tex Live. – that was the case for me 🙁 (I use separate “/home” and “/” partitions to enable easier clean Ubuntu upgrades.)

3a) If you have plenty of space on the system partition then you can just install by writing “sudo ./install-tl”. (“sudo” has to be used because a normal user does not have permissions to change stuff in the “/usr” folder.

3b) Else you can specify the installation path of Tex Live by using the following command instead (replace “/home/USER_NAME/texlive” by what “/path/to/folder” you want, but remember “sudo” in front if you install outside of the “/home” folder): “TEXLIVE_INSTALL_PREFIX=/home/USER_NAME/texlive ./install-tl

If there are no warnings, then press “I” to start the download and installation. Now the Tex Live installation program will automatically download and install 3.1 GB of data – it will take quite a while.

Important post-installation (setup “PATH” environment variable)
Once the installation is complete, you must setup the “PATH” environment variable so the terminal knows where the Tex Live binary programs are located – e.g. when you run “latex fileName.tex” or “pdflatex fileName.tex” in the terminal then the terminal uses the “PATH” environment variable to find the “latex” and “pdflatex” programs.

Navigate using the “cd” command to the folder where you installed Tex Live. (The default folder is once again: “/usr/local/texlive“) Then continue navigating further down into the “2011/bin/” folders and finally navigate down into a folder with a platform dependent name (it is named “x86_64-linux” at my computer, but e.g. “i386-linux” on a different architectures). If you write the command “ls | grep ^pdflatex“, then it should find the “pdflatex” program and hence you have found the correct folder for the PATH environment variable.

Now write “pwd” to get the current folder path – on my computer that is “/home/USER_NAME/texlive/2011/bin/x86_64-linux“. Copy the path, lets call it “TEX_LIVE_BIN_PATH“.

Finally, you need to modify the “.profile” file (in other distributions than Ubuntu it might be “.bash_profile“) in your home directory by writing “gedit ~/.profile“. Add the following at the end of the file (replace “TEX_LIVE_BIN_PATH” by the path from the “pwd” command) and save: “PATH="TEX_LIVE_BIN_PATH:$PATH"” (The “.profile” file will be run every time you login, which will ensure that the “PATH” environment variable always contains the Tex Live path.)

Close the terminal, logout, login and now Tex Live 2011 should work.

Test
Start a new terminal (shortcut: “CTRL+ALT+T“), now if you write “echo $PATH” then the output will contain your “TEX_LIVE_BIN_PATH“-path, otherwise something went wrong in saving it in the “.profile” file (or “.bash_profile” for other than Ubuntu).

Finally, run this command to check that latex works as intended: “latex small2e” The output should start with something like “This is pdfTeX, Version 3.1415926-2.3-1.40.12 (TeX Live 2011)“, where the important bit is that the bracket should say (“Tex Live 2011“) and not e.g. (“Tex Live 2009“) – if the latter is the case, then either you have not setup the “PATH” environment variable correct or the Tex Live 2011 installation failed.