Web writers or developers, and programmers often need to compare different versions of the same code or text to track changes. But figuring out changes in files manually is not an easy task. As documents become longer and more complex, you are more likely to make comparison errors and can waste time.
File comparison tools help you compare and combine the differences between two (or more) versions of the same file. There are different types of utilities, each designed for a specific type of data and file format. We will review some of the best file comparison apps for macOS.
Meld is a simple diff and join tool. The user interface is intuitive and packs all its functions neatly into a handy menu. It has many customizable settings to make file comparisons easy and fast. On first launch, the app gives you the option to select a comparison module.
To start the comparison, click on the module File and select your file from Finder. Meld will display them side by side. Any differences between them appear highlighted to make individual changes easier to see.
On either side of the panel, you will see two vertical bars with colored blocks. They give you a bird’s eye view of all changes, such as inserted, deleted, changed, or in conflict. Click the arrows in the segment to copy or merge one file block with another.
Meld Unique Features:
- Three-way file comparison. Changes are updated in real time, no matter how big the file gets.
- The app integrates with source control systems, such as Git, Bazaar, Mercurial, and SVN to perform version control tasks.
- The text editor supports line numbers, whitespace, syntax highlighting, and text wrapping for a user-friendly experience.
- With text filters, you can ignore text that matches a certain pattern or even use regular expressions to create complex filters. To try it, go to Preferences and turn it on Text Filters.
Helix P4 Diff and Merge
Helix P4V is an enterprise version control software for managing source files, web pages, manuals, OS code and more. P4V is a client for Helix’s core server which holds all your data and resides in the depot. You open the file and edit it in your workspace.
Once done, send the modified file back to the shared repository or depot, where it keeps track of all file revisions. P4V is integrated with P4 diff and merge tools. The purple icons and their color scheme highlight the input files, while the green icons and their color schemes highlight the output files.
P4Merge displays files side by side, with the middle as the base file. This allows you to compare two files with a base file to find differences and select the text you want in the merged file. To navigate, select the button Previous or Next.
Unique Features of Helix P4:
- P4Merge works with a variety of image formats, including PNG, GIF, JPG, and more. This highlights areas that are identical in gray and differences in yellow in both images. You can also compare file resolution, depth, size and other details.
- Integration with P4V can reveal the entire revision history of a file, plus what changed over a period of time. This is useful for solving bugs.
- Visualize differences and resolve conflicts resulting from parallel or concurrent development through color coding, syntax highlighting, line numbers, and patches.
Beyond Compare is another utility for comparing files and folders. With multiple buttons and a colorful interface, the app tries to strike a balance between features and performance. On the first launch, select the comparison module for a specific task from Tex, RTF, Hex, MP3, Table, and much more.
This app will show your files side by side. It uses red text to highlight important differences and blue for insignificant changes. You can customize these colors according to your preferences.
The overview thumbnail in the left pane displays a color visual map. To navigate, use the keys Previous and Next to browse all your differences. Then, use the arrow keys to merge your files. Click button Save located to the right of the window to save your file.
What Beyond Compare has to offer:
- Each comparison task starts with a session, which you can customize and save to open later. This gives you great flexibility and saves time.
- The session settings that control this comparison are called Rules. They put you in control of how each session works and help you spot the significant differences.
- Session Table Compare compare text files with tabular data. You can sort and align data on key fields and compare them cell by cell.
- This application provides script processing features to automate routine tasks. For more details, visit the scripting section of the Help page.
- Compare files in remote storage via Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3, OneDrive, and Source Control Manager.
DeltaWalker from Deltopia is a cross-platform visual diff and mix tool. Intuitive interface, with just a few menu buttons. It relies more on visual parameters to help you spot the differences. Out of the box, it supports Office files, Java archives, ZIP, XML, PDF, and more. By the way, we have discussed How to Compare Two Excel Files and Two Word Files using another method.
Click button Browse in the entry field to open a dialog box File Open. On the other hand, you can open local or remote files via SFTP, HTTPS, WebDAV, Dropbox, or Google Drive. Applications use colors to indicate changes in blocks that are inserted, deleted, changed, and in conflict.
You’ll also see connecting lines joining related blocks to simplify results. The vertical color strip located in the right pane shows a summary with a reduced visual map of all the differences. Click the arrow buttons (appears on mouse hover) to merge your files.
DeltaWalker Unique Functions:
- One-click integration with Git, Bazaar, Mercurial and SVN. Go to Preferences > SCM Integration and toggle your preferred SCM to use it.
- The Find and Replace feature helps you find specific characters and use regular expressions for advanced cases. Or use a shortcut to access it without opening the Find/Replace window.
- The linked undo/redo feature tracks changes across editors. When you undo, the changes occur in reverse order across the editor.
- This application has the ability to export file comparison reports as HTML and Patches. The latter contains the differences between one or more different pairs of files, which is useful for app developers.
Merge is a complex diff and merge tool. It works with many file formats, including Office files, PDF, XML, HTML, Binary, and source code files. This makes the app suitable for a wide range of creative professionals and use cases.
Click button Browse to open your file. Combine using text extraction filters and formatting tools to help you see changes more clearly.
open Preferences > File Comparison > File Types to configure filters for different file types. The thin overview strip next to the scrollbar shows the change position. And the status bar shows a summary of changes entered, deleted, modified, and deleted.
There are two layout options: vertical and horizontal. Both work with two- and three-way file comparison modes. Use button Previous or Next (or shortcuts) to navigate within the file. Also, click the small merge button in each block to copy, replace, or merge files.
Unique Features of Araxis Merge:
- The plugin’s file system gives you access to files located in Git, Perforce depot, SVN, and Time Machine Volumes.
- Drag and drop blocks of text in any pane to edit the file. Merge analyze changes in the background and save them. At any time, you can cancel the result.
- Make a marker to show the line you’ve modified. Add a bookmark to remind yourself, or leave a comment to note important information.
- The sync informasi feature can help you identify points of similarity between files to simplify comparison results. It works well with complex files.
- Exports file comparison reports as HTML, XML, and Unix Diff. This feature is useful for future auditing, storage, and sharing.
Use Notepad++ to Compare Files
There are many reasons to use a file comparison tool. Software developers may need syntax highlighting and exporting features, while authors may prefer a visual diff tool for comparing text. The applications discussed here cover every use case. Give them a proper trial and see which one suits your needs.
If you use the excellent Notepad++ text editor, then you can easily compare files with plugins. It is feature rich and suitable for both casual users and programmers. see How to Compare Two Files With Notepad++.