Maxima is a great multi-platform tool for modeling mathematical problems. It’s a computer algebra system similar to Mathematica or Matlab. I recently tried to install Maxima on a Mac, as I’ve used it before in Windows. I ran into some confusion that was met with a disappointing amount of help on the Internet. So, I thought I would outline the steps I took to get it working in hopes that it will be useful to my future self and others.

As of this post, the version I installed was 5.30.0, and I was running OS X Yosemite.

  1. First off, you probably want the GUI called wxMaxima. It also comes with the Maxima engine itself. Download the archive here.

    • Note that the page contains information on installing via Homebrew, but I didn’t have much luck with that, and I prefer installing it myself anyway.
  2. Opening the archive will reveal the following components:

    • wxMaxima
    • Maxima
    • Gnuplot
    • jsMath fonts
  3. Start by opening the jsMath TeX fonts folder and installing each font (initiated by double-clicking each TTF file).

  4. Next, create a folder called Maxima in your Applications folder, and copy wxMaxima, Maxima, and Gnuplot into it. You can store these somewhere else if you prefer, but the remaining steps will assume this location.

  5. Now, wxMaxima has to know how to connect to the Maxima engine.

    • Open wxMaxima and navigate to Preferences from the program’s toolbar menu.
    • Click on the Maxima tab and point the Maxima program text field to /Applications/Maxima/
  6. To configure wxMaxima for plotting, point it to Gnuplot by creating and modifying a configuration file called maxima-init.mac in your home directory. Enter the following commands into an OS X terminal:

     $ mkdir .maxima
     $ cd .maxima
     $ echo 'gnuplot_command: "/Applications/Maxima/" $' >> maxima-init.mac
     $ echo 'set_plot_option([gnuplot_term, x11]) $' >> maxima-init.mac
  7. Gnuplot requires a graphics terminal for plotting. The most popular options are X11 and AquaTerm. X11 is the way I went. It used to come pre-installed on any Mac, but now it has to be downloaded separately as part of XQuartz. Once a graphics terminal is installed, you should be good to go.

You should now have a working Maxima configuration. Happy modeling!

mac maxima os x wxmaxima