Aug 26 2011

25+ Useful Document and File Comparison Tools

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Figuring out how a document has changed from one version to another isn’t always the simplest task. It’s further complicated when that document is longer or more complex, like source code.

The tools collected here can help you analyze and compare your documents and files, as well as merge them if necessary. There are tools to compare everything from Word docs to WAV files, and everything in between (including plenty that support syntax highlighting for code). Some are free and some are paid, and there are options available for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux.

File and Document Comparison Tools

Beyond Compare Version 3

Beyond Compare lets you easily compare files and folders, including text files (with syntax highlighting for HTML), Word Docs, and PDF files, among others. Available for Windows and Linux for $30 (standard edition) to $50 (pro edition).

Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope lets you compare text documents (including source code) and images. It has built-in integration with other programs, and can read .psd, .txt, .png, .jpg, and .html files. Available for Mac OS X for €29.

Workshare Compare

Workshare Compare is an enterprise-level document comparison tool that lets you compare Word documents and text-based PDFs. You can compare one document to multiple others. It’s available for Windows for $145 for a one-year subscription. There’s also a Basic version for $99/year that only compares Word documents.

Docu-Proof Enterprise

Doc-Proof works to compare XML, Word, text, and PDF files. It makes it possible to quickly compare fonts, sizes, deletions, insertions, spelling, and location.

ExamDiff

ExamDiff is a freeware visual file comparison tool for Windows. It includes automatic change detection, one-click recompare, drag and drop support, and is fully customizable. There’s also a Pro version with more features for $34.99.

Diff Doc

Diff Doc can be used to compare Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, RTF, text, HTML, XML, and other document types. It’s available for Windows.

Compare Suite

Compare Suite lets you compare by keyword, compare two folders, ignore certain words, and includes syntax highlighting to make it easier to compare code documents. Compare Suite is available for Windows for $70 for a single user license.

WinMerge

WinMerge is an open source differencing and merging tool for Windows. It shows comparisons visually, and makes it easy to merge documents.

Araxis Merge

Araxis Merge is a three-way document comparison, merging, and folder synchronization tool. It can be used to compare source code, web pages, XML, and other text files, as well as Word and Excel documents, PDFs, and RTF files. It’s available for both Windows and Mac OS X for $129 for the Standard version and $269 for the Professional version.

Changes

Changes lets you sync folders, compare both code and prose, and even compare right inside a variety of text and code editors (including Coda and TextWrangler). Changes is available for Mac OS X for $49.95 for a single license.

CodeCompare

CodeCompare is a source code comparison tool built on the .NET framework that includes support for syntax highlighting, Visual Studio integration, three-way merge, version control integration, and folder synchronization. Basic functionality is free, but there’s also a Pro version for $49.95.

Compare++

Compare++ has built-in analysis fuctions for C/C++, C#, Java, CSS3 and more. It’s available for Windows for $29.95 for a single user.

DiffMerge

DiffMerge is a free document comparison and merging tool for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. It includes full editing support for compared files, and merging for up to three files.

Pretty Diff

Pretty Diff is a free web app for comparing code, written entirely in JavaScript.

Kompare

Kompare is a graphical difference viewer that lets you compare two text files It’s included in the KDE Software Development Kit.

UltraCompare

UltraCompare is a file and folder compare utility that works for text files, Word documents, zip files, and jar archives. In addition to local/network directory compare, it also supports FTP compare. It’s available for Windows for $49.95.

Code Difference Comparison Tool

This is a free, bare-bones, web-based comparison tool. Just enter the master text and the second text and choose whether you want it compared inline or side-by-side.

Diffuse

Diffuse is a free Python text comparison and merge tool for Windows and Linux.

Compare & Merge

Compare & Merge is a file comparison and merging utility for source code, HTML, XML, and other text-based files. It’s available for Windows for $39.95.

Active File Compare

Active File Compare has syntax highlighting support for C++, C#, Java, Visual Basic, HTML, PHP, XML, and many other programming languages. It can also compare files that exist in Zip, Tar, and GZip archives. It’s available for Windows for $15.95 for a business license or $9.95 for a personal license.

Colored Diffs

Colored Diffs is a Thunderbird plugin for highlighting differences in CVS or SVN email notifications about changes made by other users.

Compare It! 4

Compare It! lets you compare not only text files, but also binary and image files, and includes an editing engine. It’s available for Windows for $29.

Compare PDF

Compare PDF has support for both PDF and text file comparisons. It can be integrated with other software products. Compare PDF is available for Windows for $35 for a single user license.

DiffPDF

DiffPDF is a free program that lets you compare two PDF files, with both text and appearance views (to check things like reformatting of a paragraph or if an image is changed). There are versions for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

Meld

Meld is a free visual comparison and merging tool for Linux. It allows for comparison of two or three documents, and in-place edits. It also allows folder comparisons.

Files Compare Tool

Files Compare Tool is a visual comparison app for files and directories. It offers color-coded side-by-side comparison and a powerful editing engine.

Quick Diff Online Tool

Quick Diff is a simple, free online comparison tool. Just copy and paste the two bits of text you want to compare, and indicate whether you want it to compare side-by-side or inline.

FourierRocks

FourierRocks is a graphical WAV file comparison tool. It’s open source, and works on the .NET framework.

Conclusion

The tools above can be a great way to compare documents and files. But don’t overlook the document comparison tools built into many programs developers and designers already use. Dreamweaver has built-in tools for comparing documents. So does Google Docs. Even WordPress has comparison tools for posts and pages. Leave us a comment and tell us what your favorite comparison tools are?

(rb)

About the Author

Cameron Chapman is a professional Web and graphic designer with many years of experience. She writes for a number of blogs, including her own, Cameron Chapman On Writing. She’s also the author of Internet Famous: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Online Celebrity.

Comments and Discussions
  • Bpepermans, 26 August 2011

    One free and very easy to use is missing : FileMerge. Mac application, part of Apple xCode utilities. This one fits a lot of simple files/folders compare needs.

  • jeremiah, 26 August 2011

    Notepad++ has file compares built in as well – under plugins in the menu

    • neoprabhu, 29 August 2011

      Pretty good tool, I cant believe its not mentioned in this article …

  • Tom Kruk, 26 August 2011

    Deltawalker (deltopia). Check it out. After months of searching, this is the best one. It compares files as well as folders. My current workflow is compare 2 folders, then compare files that changed. It works great. It’s available for Mac and Windows.

  • Don, 26 August 2011

    I do not understand the value of apps like Kaleidoscope where you can’t merge your changes. It shows you the differences, now what? I would buy Kaleidoscope if it had merge functionality.

    • Robert Bowen, 27 August 2011

      As Cameron says, Don, there are times when you simply need to compare files. To note the changes. There are occasions, I can think specifically for writers, where you would not want to merge them. So that’s where it would come in handy. Perhaps one of the many others that do merge would better suite your needs.

      Noupe Editorial Team

  • Xiao Hechinger, 27 August 2011

    I just added this site to my feed reader, excellent stuff. Can not get enough! I also share that site at Oneview :-)

  • taloweb, 27 August 2011

    As free comparison tool for text files I’m using PsPad, a very basic tool but interesting…

  • Michael Dorf, 28 August 2011

    I use Beyond Compare almost religiously! I would go nuts not having that tool around. But it’s great to see other variations, especially tools that do a better job at comparing binary files, like PDFs. Thanks for putting this list together!

  • Peter, 28 August 2011

    kdiff3 and netbeans (select two files -> right click -> tools -> diff) are my apps of choice

  • Mike, 30 August 2011

    Thanks for sharing. I did not know about some of these comparison tools.

  • Shawn Scammahorn, 02 September 2011

    Meld is definitely my favorite on Linux. It’s speedy and simple to use with a minimal UI.

  • Gary, 06 September 2011

    Diffmerge is a basically perfect file comparison and merging application. Not sure why it’s not mentioned here. It’s completely free, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, it’s fast, has a simple interface, and isn’t lacking in features. I’ve used Diffmerge for years and I can’t think of one reason to use a different file comparison tool.

  • Simon Jackson, 19 September 2011

    Having used examdiff for many years, we have recently switched to winmerge as it is so simple and quick to use. Being able to merge section by section saves a lot of time.

  • Maddy, 04 December 2011

    Guys,

    Please do suggest is there a possibility to compare image file (with text in it) with doc or pdf files from above mentioned softwares or from any other
    Im in very need of it

    Thanks in advance
    Regards,
    Maddy

  • LAKSHMI, 10 February 2012

    Hi,

    I would like to know is there a comparison software which compares jpeg scanned image file with converted excel sheet file…

    Thanks in advance
    Lakshmi

  • cbhatia, 01 March 2012

    OMS!

    Hi,
    If anyone is aware, please help me with this.
    Is there any tool to compare text in jpeg file with text written in a notepad file.

    OMS
    Cbhatia

  • Timothy, 16 March 2012

    are there any tools that can compare a pdf side-by-side with a .tiff image? no editing needed..

  • Durgesh, 27 March 2012

    I have used Beyond Compare 3 for file comparison and found it very useful for me. It is very useful for me and i am using.

  • Pandi, 25 April 2012

    Hi,

    Is there any tool to compare the two website, whether it is in synch or not. Please suggest some ideas.

  • Marina Younes, 22 June 2012

    CodeCompare is a great tool!

  • Mark Chin, 23 June 2012

    Compare++ is great. I like the “function view” feature and also it’s syntax-aware for many languages as C#. It’s very helpful when I compare a moved method.

  • Ashley, 06 July 2012

    Does anyone know of a good compare tool that will compare the same file in multiple languages against each other? Something that could watch for the structure of a document?

    • Yeti, 05 August 2012

      Hello Ashley,

      I’m the developer of Compare++.

      Does you want to get a compare tool which can ignore the string change in different languages?

      For example, you define a variable in file 1:
      str = “example”; // English
      and in file 2:
      str = “Beispiel”; // German.
      Do you want to ignore the change in “” and then only compare the document structure and the rest text? Right?

      If my understanding is correct, we can support the feature in Compare++ future version.

      Thanks,
      Yeti.

  • Steven, 04 August 2012

    Does anyone know which one of these programs would best do a keyword search on 2 files and generate a report comparing those 2 documents based on the keyword search? Thanks

  • isser blum, 15 September 2012

    The information that you gave was very helpful. I would like ask you want pogram would be the best for checking and compearing letters of the the hebrew script I need it to compear them by their form of the letter.

    thank you
    Isser Blum

  • Sagar, 21 February 2013

    Does anyone know of a good compare tool that will compare the same file with spaces also?

    • Pfiffikus, 05 March 2013

      In Diffuse you can configure the handling of spaces+linebreak-coding+empty lines, e.g. :-)

    • Yeti, 06 April 2013

      Please try Compare++, in which you can ignore all formatting changes which includes tab, space, newline and even can ignore brace {} which don’t have any impact on compiler.

  • Jonathan, 21 April 2013

    We’ve just launched a new web-based text and document comparison tool – QCanywhere, based on the technology from Docu-Proof discussed in this post. This tool also compare spaces in your documents and generates a detailed report highlighting the changes.

  • Dave, 12 February 2014

    Sometimes you want to compare a whole folder of word documents or you want the comparison to happen on a server where the user can not start a program interactively.

    docdiff.com is useful for something like that

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