Open source Unix software not available as Mac OS X packages exists as bundles of raw (usually C) source code and helper files. Fortunately, there are some long-standing traditions and idioms with Unix source installation that make this process somewhat easier, but there also remain many places to get stuck, which can bewilder those without C-programming experience (and bewilder those with experience if the source is messy enough).
The usual idiom for installing software from source runs as follows.
Obtain the source code as a
.tar.gz file (a.k.a.
a tarball). If you download it through a web
browser, StuffIt Expander automatically inflates it into a folder
within your browser’s download folder (see Section 6.2.4); otherwise, manually use StuffIt Expander or
(since you’re probably in the Terminal already) the
tar command, with its xzvf
verbose-mode, file-based) options, like so:
something-i-just-downloaded.tar.gz...output of list of files and directories extracted... [jmac]%
cd into the directory created through the previous step, and read the README and INSTALL files (and generally anything else with an all-caps filename), if they exist. These provide important information, including hints for installing the software on various systems—if Darwin or Mac OS X appear here, you’re in luck. Also consult any information found on the web site for the ftp directory from which you obtained the source. Be generally suspicious ...