Octave for macOS

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On macOS systems GNU Octave can be installed by:

  1. macOS App Bundles "Octave.app" (a single dmg-file)
  2. macOS package managers.
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GNU Octave 7.2.0 is the current stable release.

macOS App Bundles

The Octave.app project provides an unofficial ready-to-use, drag-and-drop macOS App installer based on Homebrew (see below).

A very old installer is hosted on SourceForge.

Package Managers

All package managers below are given in alphabetical order. The Octave developers do not recommend a certain package manager.


Link to Octave package there.

Homebrew was written 2009 by Max Howell and has gained popularity in the Ruby on Rails community and earned praise for its extensibility.

Install GNU Octave using Homebrew:

  1. Install Xcode via the Mac App Store.
  2. Follow Homebrew's installation instructions.
  3. Ensure brew itself has the latest definitions
    brew update
  4. Install Octave
    brew install octave

Further reading

The default charting package in Octave is straight qt. However, on the Mac gnuplot often works better. To switch to gnuplot, place the following text in your ~/.octaverc file:


Note: If brew complains about:

Linking /usr/local/Cellar/ghostscript/9.14...
Error: Could not symlink share/ghostscript/Resource
/usr/local/share/ghostscript is not writable.

This is telling you the user permissions for ghostscript are not setup in a way that your user profile can use. You need to change those permissions to your user profile. The following command will repair the issue:

sudo chown -R `whoami` /usr/local/share/ghostscript
brew link --overwrite ghostscript

Then run the brew install octave command again.

Note: If brew complains about not having a formula for octave, the following command should fix it:

brew tap --repair

The command below upgrades Octave and its dependencies to the latest Homebrew-supported versions:

brew update && brew upgrade octave

Octave has a built-in GUI (developed using Qt lib) installed by default so that gnuplot and other tools can use it directly. This GUI is always installed when installing Octave using Homebrew.

In case of trouble, see the Homebrew Troubleshooting Guide, which assists in diagnosing problems and craft useful bug reports. Bugs may be reported at Homebrew-core's issue tracker.


Link to Octave package there.

MacPorts, formerly called DarwinPorts, was started in 2002 as part of the OpenDarwin project, with the involvement of a number of Apple Inc. employees including Landon Fuller, Kevin Van Vechten, and Jordan Hubbard.

Install GNU Octave using MacPorts:

  1. Install Xcode via the Mac App Store.
  2. Follow MacPorts' installation instructions.
  3. Update your installation
    sudo port selfupdate
    sudo port upgrade outdated
  4. Install Octave
    sudo port install octave


Link to Octave package there.

Spack is a package management tool that supports the installation of multiple versions of software on macOS and other operating systems. It was created 2013 by Todd Gamblin and is currently being updated and developed by a large list of contributors (mainly via GitHub).

Install GNU Octave using Spack:

  1. Install Xcode via the Mac App Store.
  2. Follow Spack tutorial.
  3. Update Spack by going to the local Spack repository (develop branch) folder and run
    git pull
  4. Install Octave
    spack install octave
  5. To use Octave we need to first load the package
    spack load octave
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The entire installation process can take up to a few hours. Octave has many dependencies which will be downloaded and installed prior to Octave.

In case of trouble, please visit the Spack repo issues list, and browse through Octave related issues by writing is:issue octave in the filters box.

Create a launcher app with the Script Editor

For example Homebrew installs Octave to /usr/local/bin/octave by default. From the Terminal application you can enter the command which octave to find out the exact location.

If you know the installation location, open the Script Editor application and write the following text in the editor window:

do shell script "/usr/local/bin/octave --gui"

if you wish to start the Octave GUI by default. If you want to start the Octave command-line interface (CLI), enter instead:

tell application "Terminal"
 do script "/usr/local/bin/octave; exit"
end tell

or if Octave is in your default path:

tell application "Terminal"
 do script "`which octave`; exit"
end tell


  • With a script open in the Script Editor app on your Mac, choose "File > Export".
  • In the menu that appears, select "Application" from the "File format" menu, then navigate to the "Applications" folder and save your script there as "Octave.app"

To change the application icon:

  • Open this link in a web browser, right-click and select "copy image".
  • Select "Octave.app" in the Finder, then press command-i to bring up the file info dialog.
  • In the file info dialog, select the icon (in the top left) and press command-v to paste the Octave icon over it.

See also