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Mac OS X for Economists: economics on a mac

This page is really just a list of resources for research economists who want to use a mac rather than a Windows or Linux machine. Yes, the software you rely on does run on a mac. Indeed, Apple's operating system, OS X, is actually built on top of BSD UNIX, and so numerical software you run under Windows should do quite well under OS X as well. The notes here relate to PowerPC and Intel software. At this point, the introduction of versions of packages that run on the new Intel-based macs as well as the PowerPC based macs is more or less complete. This list is not comprehensive, and is offered without any warranties or guarantees implied or otherwise. Caveat emptor.

Word processing, equation editors, and such:
  • LaTeX: If you want to install Latex, i recommend starting with the MacTex distribution package, distributed by the MacTex user's group. This includes LaTex itself as well as a front end editor (TexShop) and also some other useful front-end packages. Since *.pdf file generation is a native part of the print technology on a Mac, Latex files look really good when they are mac generated:
    Download Here:
    Bonus:With this slightly hacked version of TCILATEX.TEX you can also edit files generated by Scientific Workplace, and even handle the way it manages graphics files. (Scientific Workplace does not do Tex graphics properly). Just place it in the same directory as the SWP file you are editing.
  • MathType: MathType's Equation editor works with MS Office for OS X, and also generates LaTex equations. As such, you can use it as a WYSWYG editor for equations that you can then port to LaTeX (in case you, like me, are lazy at times...) You can download the editor here.
  • MS Office for OS X: Yes, you can even run MS Word, Excel, and Powerpoint under OS X. This is available (generally with an academic discount) from the Apple Store, or from Microsoft itself: Microsoft offers some related utilities on this site. For example, Remote Desktop Client lets you log onto a Windows XP machine from your mac (over a network, or over the internet).
  • Adobe: Pdf is a native feature of the OS X operating system. This means anything you can print, you can dump to a pdf file instead. HOWEVER... the resulting files can be huge, as Apple tries to keep track of graphic details of the original document. This makes sense if you are working on special effects for the next StarWars movie, but not if you are trying to produce a paper with a few graphs and such for a journal. Adobe solves this problem:

Econometrics, numerical modeling, and such :


  • STATA: Stata is available as a native OS X application. Issues remain with running STATA as a true 64bit application. Recently, STATA has started offering multi-processor licenses. As Intel macs can have 4 or 8 processors, you might want to explore a multi-processor license if you are doing huge estimation jobs.
  • SPSS: SPSS is another statistical package that is widely used and also available for OS X. Information is available here:
  • TSP: TSP offers a version for OX S.
    Information is available here:
  • SAS: SAS has stated emphatically that they belong to Bill Gates:
    "FAQ # 1732
    Q: Will there be a version of SAS software that is carbon compliant for running under Mac OS X?
    A: There will not be a carbon-compliant version of SAS for Mac OS X, but SAS Release 6.12 continues to run as a Classic application
    SAS ETS seems to run on every possible platform (maybe not the X-box) except for OS X machines...
  • GAUSS: GAUSS is indeed available for OS X, currently as a 32-bit application. 64-bit will probably come with the move to the Intel chipset. Information is available here:
  • GRETL: GRETL Is a cross-platform software package for econometric analysis, written in the C programming language. This econometrics package is being written by Allin Cottrell of Wake Forest University. It is is free, open-source software (GNU licensed) -- thus the full
    name: "Gnu Regression, Econometrics and Time-series Library"). Binary versions are
    available here:


  • GAMS: GAMS is available as an OS X application. Like the UNIX version, it does not include the IDE that is distributed with the Windows version. However, the combination of the OS X text editor (which allows column editing) and the Unix Shell are sufficient. You also have full cross-platform compatability of GAMS GDX datasets. GAMS is built on both PowerPC and Intel chipsets.
    You do not get the GAMS IDE, but surely someone out there can work out how to use XCode (see below) as an IDE.
  • GEMPACK: GEMPACK can be built under OS X as a UNIX application. This means that, like the UNIX distribution of GEMPACK, you do not get the Windows-based system of graphical data editors. You do get all the numerical solvers though. This does require FORTRAN (see below). Again, "somebody" should work our how to use XCode as a GEMPACK IDE. I have succesfully built GEMPACK on an Intel mac using both the Intel Fortran compiler and gfortran. Contact me if you want to try this. An advantage of the
    Intel compiler is that GEMPACK data files are then fully compatible with the Windwos-based ones built from a Lahey-Fortran based version of Gempack. In other words, you can directly port files between Windows and Intel-based macs. The Intel macs can have 4 or 8 processors, so this means you can technically take advantage of the multi-processor features of GEMPACK. (I have note tried this myself).
  • FORTRAN: You may find you need a FORTRAN compiler for OS X. While OS X includes gcc, it does not include the FORTRAN component of GCC. You can download freeware versions (distributed under a GNU license) here: This includes f77, g95, and gfortran. With my PowerPC macs, I actually use XLF. This is IBM's Fortran compiler, for use on the PPC chipset. It seems twice as fast as f77 (and totally outperforms the other leading commercial compiler.) HOWEVER... IBM was not happy when Apple announed a move toward INTEL processors, and so after OS X 10.3, it stopped supporting XLF. This does not seem to matter, though. It has been used for building GAMS using XLF, and reports are that in other applcations it works with OSX 10.4 as well. (XLC did not port successfully to 10.4 Tiger, it seems). So, I recommend usingg XLF if you want a FORTRAN compiler for OS X 10.4. It is now sold through Absoft, and information is available here: Also, Intel has announced a set of developer tools (FORTRAN anc C++ compilers etc) for the Intel macs. I have used the Intel FORTRAN compiler ifort for building GEMPACK, and it seems to work well (and fast!) There is also an Intel c++ compiler.
  • GCC, the XCODE IDE, and such: I also recommend installing Apple's suite of developer tools, called XCode. These can be downloaded for free, and install the full BSD UNIX underbelly to OS X so that you can work in a Shell environment and safely assume that things like GCC are actually there. it also installs the Apple IDE. Sometimes this ships with the OS X disks, or with a given compter. Sometimes it does not. If you do not have the disk, you can download an image for free from the Apple website:
  • Maple, Matlab, and Mathematica: If you need these, you probably know what they do already. These are, of course, the path to working with your computer do your symbolic and numercial maths. More information on Maple, Matlab, and Mathematica are available here:
    Given the target audience for some Apples (Hollywood special effects types, and molecular biologists who like to build 3D models and flip them around) the graphics Mathematica produces on the mac can be quite beautiful.
  • GAMBIT: Gambit is a library of game theory software and tools for the construction and analysis of finite extensive and normal form games. Gambit is designed to be portable across platforms: it currently is known to run on Linux, FreeBSD, MacOS X, and Windows 98 and later. You can download it here:

UNIX and miscellaneous stuff :

  • GRAPHER: OS X comes with a very nice numerical graphing package, called ... grapher, of course. It usually resides under utilities, for some reason.
  • BASH and the UNIX Shell: We are not in Windows anymore... If you want to work in a UNIX shell environment, you will need to define your environment vaiables (like where GAMS or XLF or whatever is located). OS X gives you some options with respect to bash (the default shell environment). I recommend setting up the file ".profile" in your user home directory. If your name is dreadpirateroberts, for example, your home directory will be "/Users/dreadpirateroberts" and the local use profile is then "/Users/dreadpirateroberts/.profile". This file can then be used to define paths, environment variables, and related things.

    Basically, every time you log into the shell environment, bash will look for initialization files that are used to customize your environment. Thus, instead of executing the same commands every time you log in, you can place these commands in your initialization file so that bash will do the grunt work for you. Bash looks for these files in a few different locations, with each having its own distinct purpose:

    File Description
    /etc/profile system-wide configuration file for the bash and sh shells
    ~/.profile executed every time a new shell is created, such as when you open a new Terminal window
    ~/.bash_logout executed when you log out from a shell

    More information is available from this article:

    There is one complication. OS X hides files beginning with a "." so that you cannot normally see them. This keeps the graphical interface clean. However, it also means you can't find the file to edit. You have at least two options here. One is to reset OS X to show hidden files from the terminal shell itself:

    Show all folders/files:
    $ defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE
    $ killall Finder
    Set back to default:
    $ defaults write AppleShowAllFiles FALSE
    $ killall Finder

    Or, like me, you can use a utility like Tinkertool. This is a utility that handles this through a graphical interface package. It lets you reset other OS X features as well.


 “On two occasions I have been asked … 'Pray Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures,
will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the confusion of ideas that could
provoke such a question."

Charles Babbage (19c inventor of the first "computing machine")