Running the LKB on MacOS

Currently (August 2017) there is a new, native version of the LKB for macOS, which looks and behaves similarly to the long-established version developed in Allegro CL. At present, the code is very fluid, so the changes to the LKB source code required for this version have not yet been committed to the central code repository. Until that happens, you can download a binary for macOS, lkb_macos.tgz. See the following sections for installation and usage instructions.

An alternative approach is to run a Linux version of the LKB in a virtual machine. The most convenient way to to this is with Ubuntu+LKB, a VirtualBox appliance based on Ubuntu Linux.

LKB MacOS Version

The macOS version of the LKB uses X Windows graphics, which requires XQuartz. If you don't already have this application, download it from and install it. Then follow the 'Manual Installation' instructions on the LkbInstallation page. The file lkb_macos.tgz contains an LKB precompiled binary, lkb.command. You can run this binary by typing its name in the Terminal application or in an xterm hosted by XQuartz. Alternatively, you can just double-click it.

There is built-in support for the Linguistic User Interface (LUI): see the LkbLui pages for information on installing and using the LUI. Type (lui-initialize) and (lui-shutdown) to enable and disable it, respectively.

Features and Enhancements

Porting the LKB to macOS has provided an opportunity to make some improvements to the LKB code base. In addition, the use of a different underlying Lisp system (SBCL with McCLIM rather than Allegro CL and its native CLIM implementation) gives advantages in the areas of efficiency, multilingual support, and visual appearance. Moreover, SBCL and McCLIM are open source, which means that this version of the LKB will be completely open source when it is fully released. Improved features include:

Experienced LKB users might notice further refinements:

Practical Hints and Tips

Text fields in dialogs do not respond to mouse or trackpad gestures (clicking / dragging), but expect keyboard commands using the arrow keys, backspace key and standard emacs key bindings. Useful commands in this context are:

Ctrl-space: set mark
Alt-B / Alt-F: go backwards / forwards one word
Alt-Backspace / Alt-D: delete previous / next word

In addition, the following commands access the macOS clipboard:

Ctrl-C: copy to clipboard the text between cursor and mark
Ctrl-X: cut to clipboard the text between cursor and mark
Ctrl-V: paste from clipboard at cursor
Ctrl-Z: undo the last change

For interactive input, the macOS Input Sources menu can be used to switch between language scripts, and the Keyboard Viewer provides convenient multilingual text entry. For output, the LKB requires a Unicode-compatible font. There is no font substitution: all characters to be displayed have to be in the selected sans-serif and monospace fonts.

Suitable Unicode fonts are DejaVu Sans (attractive, and covering many language scripts), Code2000 (less attractive, but with even better coverage), or WenQuanYi Zen Hei (reasonably attractive, with full CJK coverage). These are not standard macOS fonts, so you will have to download them yourself and install them - a suitable location on your machine is /opt/X11/share/fonts/TTF/. Once installed, you can use the following Unix command to select DejaVu Sans:

cat > ~/.fonts.conf <<!
<?xml version="1.0"?>
 <family>DejaVu Sans</family>
 <family>WenQuanYi Zen Hei</family>
 <family>DejaVu Sans Mono</family>
 <family>WenQuanYi Zen Hei</family>

You can verify that DejaVu Sans is selected by running the Unix commands

fc-match sans
fc-match mono

The output of these commands should be

DejaVuSans.ttf: "DejaVu Sans" "Book"
DejaVuSansMono.ttf: "DejaVu Sans Mono" "Book"

You can then start up the LKB and it will use these fonts. Note that if you want to input or output non-ASCII characters, you should make sure you are using a Unicode locale such as en_US.UTF-8.


Unanticipated errors may cause the LKB graphical interface to become unresponsive. This is because the underlying Lisp system is expecting the user to enter the debugger for that thread. To enter the debugger, execute (sb-thread::release-foreground) at the Lisp prompt. You can then type backtrace to inspect the context of the error, and Ctrl-D to kill the thread. The interface should then start responding again.

If you encounter problems using the macOS LKB, please email the support address for the LKB (and other LinGO resources):

LkbMacintosh (last edited 2017-09-09 21:18:05 by JohnCarroll)

(The DELPH-IN infrastructure is hosted at the University of Oslo)