Does asdf use Homebrew to install packages?

I’m trying to understand in what sense asdf is not a package manager. It seems like I can use it to install and uninstall packages. But lots of people go to great pains to explain that a package manager and a version manager are different things. So does asdf use a package manager behind the scenes? Can I use asdf even if I don’t use Homebrew or any other package manager?

asdf does not use homebrew. It is actually just a shell script that allows different “plugins” to be hooked into it. This is how you can manage elixir, erlang, node, ruby, etc all with asdf. I can’t speak to every single plugin, but the erlang asdf plugin will use kerl in order to download and manage erlang versions. The elixir plugin seems to just download builds directly from

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Thanks. So does this mean I can just remove Homebrew from my system to keep things simpler? What’s the point in having Homebrew if I have asdf?

Technically yes, but probably not.

There are some things that are just not available when using asdf. I haven’t used a mac or homebrew in a few years. But one thing that I used homebrew for that I couldn’t use asdf for was installing Emacs. Even if asdf offered me an emacs plugin, I wouldn’t use it. I don’t need multiple versions of Emacs on my machine. Similar to something like Postgres (though, I think asdf offers one), redis and other databases. Then there are also things like git, htop, tmux, anki, thunderbird, etc.

Basically, if you do not want/need multiple versions of a given piece of software on your machine, there is no point in using a version manager and you should use a package manager (either that or manually install things and keep everything updated yourself).


Well, building Erlang requires several dependencies that might not be installed on a vanilla Mac system – and without some of them the compiled Erlang version will not have all its features enabled.

But IMO just try it.

The reason why homebrew is not a version manager is also the reason why asdf cannot use it. Homebrew does only supply one version of each package. Only some packages get tagged with versions mostly for compatibility reasons. asdf on the other hand allows you to install any number of versions of a tool and seamlessly switch between using them.