GRASS GIS on the Mac
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WARNING: current GRASS binaries may not work with EL CAPITAN - OS X 10.11 unless you disable "System Integrity Protection".

A workaround to allow GRASS to run is provided below. The GRASS development team is working to solve this problem.


If you are not familiar with GRASS GIS, you should visit the main GRASS site to take a look at its features. Used throughout the world, GRASS is one of the most powerful and comprehensive geospatial analysis, visualization, and modeling tools available. In continuous use and development for over three decades, GRASS is also one of the most venerable GIS programs still in active use and development ….and it is freely available to all.

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As open source software, the code and all analytical algorithms can be scrutinized and improved. It is developed and maintained by an international team of geospatial scientists who also use the software in their daily work. GRASS is a founding member of the OSGeo Foundation (Open-Source Geospatial), an umbrella organization that provides a diversity of open-source software solutions for geospatial research, mapping, and interactive use.

In addition to the Mac, GRASS runs under Linux, Unix, and Windows. Versions for these other platforms can be found at the downloads page of GRASS main site. There are very active user and developer lists where you can have questions answered, as well as extensive help online and in the program.

GRASS for Mac Binaries

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Like other GRASS developers, I am a scientist and user of geospatial software, and volunteer my time to the GRASS project. If you use and like this software, I hope you will consider contributing to the project. There are many roles, even if you don't think of yourself as someone who can program.

As part of my own research and helping with GRASS development, I compile GRASS source code so that it runs on the Macintosh. I do this when time permits, so my releases can be irregular. But I do try to keep up with major developments and changes in the software. Currently, all versions that I compile will run on OS X 10.7 and above. They use the pre-installed Python 2.7 that comes on the Mac, and have a bundled wxPython 2.8.12 (for the GUI) so that you don't have to download it.

My binaries also come with LAS Tools precompiled and installed for advanced LiDAR processing support. In GRASS 6, you will need to run these from the command line. In GRASS 7, they also support as set of GRASS specific LiDAR processing tools. For more information about LAS Tools, visit: http://liblas.org/utilities/lasinfo.html.

How to alter system settings in OS X 10.11 (El Capitan) so that GRASS will run

This is a work around that seems to allow you to run GRASS on a Mac after upgrading to the new Apple OS. It involves disabling a new System Integrity Protection feature. This reduces security of your system to the level it was before you upgraded to El Capitan.

  1. Restart your Mac in Recovery Mode. To do this, choose Restart from the Apple menu, and as soon as the screen turns black hold down Command + R on the keyboard until the Apple logo appears on your screen.
  2. Select Terminal from the Utilities menu.
  3. In the Terminal Window that opens type: csrutil disable
  4. Press the Return key.
  5. Choose Restart from the Apple menu.

To reenable System Integrity Protection, follow the above steps but in the terminal, type: csrutil enable

Some people may need to reinstall frameworks for GRASS to run. For others, this is not necessary

Installing GRASS for Mac

There are two steps to installing GRASS for the Mac.

  1. You need to download and install some helper programs, called frameworks (the same as "dependencies" on Linux systems). I've provided these on the frameworks page.
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    William Kyngesburye compiles the frameworks so you don't have to and packages them into an easily installable set. His site is at: http://www.kyngchaos.com/software:frameworks. You can find the latest versions there. You must either use the ones I provide (the ones I used to compile the binaries) or install newer ones.
  2. Then you just need to download one of the GRASS binaries from the download page. It comes as a compressed disk image (*.zip expanded to *.pkg). You just double click and follow the instructions.
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