Easily Install Apache Tomcat on Mac OS X El Capitan

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By far the easiest way to install and configure an Apache Tomcat server on a mac is using the open-source homebrew package management suite. If you’re not already using homebrew, check out its popularity on GitHub. It makes open-source package management on mac 100 times cleaner than doing it manually (everything is stored in one place, packages are easy to remove, upgrade and find configs for).

There is a good tutorial here on installing homebrew if you do not already have it.

1)  –  Install Tomcat Server

Install tomcat with the brew install in terminal (as a normal user, not root):

$ brew install tomcat

This will take care of the downloading, installation and configuration of Tomcat and manage its dependencies as well. Take note of the output, brew commands are typically really good at displaying concise but useful info, error messages and help.

Homebrew keeps packages (known as kegs) in the Cellar, where you can check config and data files. It is a directory located at:

$ ls /usr/local/Cellar/

Verify the Tomcat installation using homebrew’s handy “services” utility:

$ brew services list

Tomcat should now be listed here. brew services are really useful for managing system services, type $ brew services --help for more info.

2)  –  Run Tomcat Server

We are going to start the server by executing Tomcat’s Catalina command with the “run” parameter as such:

$ ls /usr/local/Cellar/tomcat/

$ /usr/local/Cellar/tomcat/8.5.3/bin/catalina run

or more generally:

$ /usr/local/Cellar/tomcat/[version]/bin/catalina run

With [version] replaced with your installed version.

The version number and installation directory will have been listed by homebrew at the end of the installation output (typically the last line with a beer symbol in front). Catalina can also be set to start on system launch – although for security reasons we prefer to only run when needed (either using this command or more commonly via an IDE plugin).

Once the server is running you can navigate to the host page at:



3)  –  Configure Tomcat Server

To add and manage applications running on the server you will also need to edit a configuration file:

$ vim /usr/local/Cellar/tomcat/[version]/libexec/conf/tomcat-users.xml

With [version] again replaced with your installed version.

Towards the bottom of this short config file you will see a selection of users – all commented out by default. You need to uncomment one of these and give it the extra role “manager-gui” (preferably also changing the username and password for security). The resultant user entry should look something like this:

<user username="admin" password="password" roles="tomcat,manager-gui" />

After this you can navigate to the page (or click the “Manager App” link on the main Tomcat Server page):


Here you can view or delete the included sample application and deploy your own. Usually, it’s easiest to deploy applications in a dev / testing environment using an IDE like PHPStorm or NetBeans however, Tomcat’s web interface is useful also. For reference, deployed applications are usually then located under the directory:



Please like or share this article if it helps you. Any problems, ask in comments!


11 thoughts on “Easily Install Apache Tomcat on Mac OS X El Capitan”

    1. It should be as easy as “brew upgrade tomcat”. If this doesn’t work try “brew list” and verify it is actually Homebrew managing your Tomcat installation. If it is listed, the command “brew uninstall tomcat” will take you back to the start of the tutorial.

  1. tomcat does not appear in the brew services list, after installation (tomcat 8).

    The plist file does not seem to be anywhere under /usr/local/Cellar/tomcat
    A sample can be found here: https://gist.github.com/danielmccosker/4688819, but it’s not official.

    (You’ll need to change the path to catalina to /usr/local/opt/tomcat/bin/catalina, in order to make it work).

    1. On the Server’s tab, click to create a new server and select Tomcat 8.5, then enter tomcat’s Cellar folder location in the popup box. Save the server then select and run it.

      1. brew install tomcat@8.0
        start tomcat, check the CATALINA home variable
        then in eclipse you need to give a path to CATALINA_HOME
        in my case it was /usr/local/Cellar/tomcat@8.0/8.0.39/libexec

  2. Great article. I’ve experienced much heartache over oast couple of days in this regards. In hindsight I think the key is keeping on top of the contents of:


    Especially after a year or two’s projects cluttering the place. Also I really need to start using:

    brew services list

    A lot more often. That command is a gem!

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