JP Vossen on 11 Feb 2011 02:50:15 -0800

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[PLUG] (Free) Graphical Diff Tools

Summary: Quick run-down on 3 open-source graphical diff tools.

Why you care:

* If you already know and love 'diff', these can be easier to
read and also allow you to interactively 'patch' from one file to the

* If you don't know what 'diff' is, you want to because it shows
you the differences between 2 files, for example between the config file
from the device that works and the one that doesn't. It is invaluable
for t-shooting and programming.


I was using the 'meld' graphical 'diff' program on Linux the other day
and it occurred to me that a quick discussion of that was probably
useful. For general details on diff see:

On Windows I use TortoiseMerge.exe from the TortoiseSVN project, but I
can't recommend it without reservations.  See it at and download it from  The problem
is that I find it much too tedious to use from the command line without
a wrapper [1], and it only allows merging from the left to the right

Probably the more common Windows tool is which has
vastly improved since the last time I checked it out.  I now find it
easier to run but slightly more clunky to use than TortoiseMerge.
However it does allow more flexible merging of data from either pane
into either pane and it does some syntax highlighting, which is nice.

All 3 tools also show you changes in the line itself, which is very
handy.  WinMerge will be easier to get up and running on Windows.

However, both of those pale before 'meld', which is Unix/Linux only (and
in the stock Debian, & Ubuntu repos or the CentOS/RHEL EPEL third-party
repo). See it at; it is much cooler looking
than the two above. It does syntax highlighting too, but apparently not for *.conf files, which WinMerge handled. Interesting...

There are also a large number of other Windows GUI diff tools, many of
which are not free. I saw no point to any of them, but that was years
ago now.

[1] TortoiseMerge.exe wrapper for command line use:

	@echo off
	REM svndiff.cmd--Wrapper for TortoiseMerge, part of TortoiseSVN
	REM TortoiseMerge.exe MUST be in your %PATH%!
	rem set PATH=C:\Program Files\TortoiseSVN\bin\;%PATH%
	if "%3" == "" (
	    start TortoiseMerge /base:"%1" /theirs:"%2"
	) else (
	    start TortoiseMerge /base:"%1" /theirs:"%2" /mine:"%3"
JP Vossen, CISSP            |:::======|
My Account, My Opinions     |=========|
"Microsoft Tax" = the additional hardware & yearly fees for the add-on
software required to protect Windows from its own poorly designed and
implemented self, while the overhead incidentally flattens Moore's Law.
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