File Compare Program - 2007 market review

By: Sam Miller

What is File Comparison and what is File Compare Program?

File comparison is the method used to compare two files so that the differences between them can be evaluated. The process of comparison is essential when the programmer is considering which of the two files is better. One file may be better with respect to the other in matters regarding the amount of storage space required, time taken for the concerned files to get executed, security offered by the file with respect to resistance to viruses, tampering and such other things that may be of importance in the context in which the programmer is working. File comparison programmes are those programmes that automatically compare the files in question and provide the result automatically.

Tools for File Comparison

There are many tools available for the process in which files are compared. Some of the tools are GUI based, and will display the differences side by side in a window, or perhaps even highlight the difference while others are command line based (like diff).

Some tools support only text files while others may have the ability to compare binary files. Some of the tools employed are:

P4WinMerge - Perforce Visual Merge for Windows

This compares two versions of a file to the original file and produces a merged file. The GUI shows the process of merger and allows the construction of a different merge file using a point and click interface. This includes synchronized scrolling which makes comparing three different files, colour coded text, re selection and re editing of merged changes etc. The program runs on Windows XP, 2000 NT and 95 / 98 and is a part of Perforce SCM package.

ExamDiff

This shows the difference between two ASCII text files by displaying the two files side by side. However Unicode is not supported by this tool. The changes are shown in different colours and configured by the user.

xDelta allows the user to make binary diffs of two binary files. According to the web page of xDelta, the tool is much more than that - it is “a complete system for managing delta compressed storage and network transport".

Java xdelta

This is the binary version of xdelta, a program that can make binary diffs of two files.

GNU Diff Utilities

These compare two text files and present a report as to which lines have changed. These utilities show not only the changes, but also the context surrounding the change. While the diff utilities are a standard part of the Unix system, they are useful for operating systems that do not come with a useful file or text comparison utility. The utilities are command line based and come with full source code.

WinMerge

WinMerge is a Windows tool that can perform the twin functions of differencing and merging. It has a Windows frontend over the GNU diff and merge utilities. It includes Visual SourceSafe integration, visual differencing of text files, the ability to diff entire directories, multiple level undosArticle Submission, an integrated editor etc.

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