Homebrew and macports both solve the same problem - that is the installation of common libraries and utilities that are not bundled with osx.
Typically these are development related libraries and the most common use of these tools is for developers working on osx.
They both need the xcode command line tools installed (which you can download separately from https://developer.apple.com/ ), and for some specific packages you will need the entire xcode IDE installed.
xcode can be installed from the mac app store, its a free download but it takes a while since its around 5GB (if I remember correctly).
macports is an osx version of the port utility from BSD (as osx is derived from BSD, this was a natural choice). For anyone familiar with any of the BSD distributions, macports will feel right at home.
One major difference between homebrew and macports; and the reason I prefer homebrew is that it will not overwrite things that should be installed "natively" in osx. This means that if there is a native package available, homebrew will notify you instead of overwriting it and causing problems further down the line. It also installs libraries in the user space (thus, you don't need to use "sudo" to install things). This helps when getting rid of libraries as well since everything is in a path accessible to you.
homebrew also enjoys a more active user community and its packages (called formulas) are updated quite often.
does not overwrite native OSX packages - it supplies its own version - This is the main reason I prefer macports over home-brew, you need to be certain of what you are using and Apple's change at different times to the ports and have been know to be years behind updates in some projects
Can you give a reference showing that macports overwrites native OS X packages? As far as I can tell, all macports installation happens in /opt/local
Perhaps I should clarify - I did not say anywhere in my answer that macports overwrites OSX native packages. They both install items separately.
Homebrew will warn you when you should install things "natively" (using the library/tool's preferred installer) for better compatibility. This is what I meant. It will also use as many of the local libraries that are available in OS X. From the wiki :
We really don’t like dupes in Homebrew/homebrew
However, we do like dupes in the tap!
Stuff that comes with OS X or is a library that is provided by RubyGems, CPAN or PyPi should not be duped. There are good reasons for this:
- Duplicate libraries regularly break builds
- Subtle bugs emerge with duplicate libraries, and to a lesser extent, duplicate tools
- We want you to try harder to make your formula work with what OS X comes with
You can optionally overwrite the macosx supplied versions of utilities with homebrew.