This way you can compare folders and files

Do you put in all the effort in the world to keep two photo folders in different storage locations neatly synchronized, and yet one day you start to have doubts. You may have edited the same document on different drives, but you're not sure which version is the most recent. And are you sure that all files have been transferred correctly? With the free WinMerge you can compare files to spot any differences and merge files.

Tip 01: Installation

We download WinMerge from the Ninite website, which always collects the latest versions of the most useful tools for Windows. There you will find the download in the section Developer Tools. Place a checkmark in front of the WinMerge option and use the button Get Your Ninete. After a few seconds, you can download the installer without any redirects or junkware – a great advantage of Ninite. It is only a small file. During the installation procedure you indicate which components you want to use. By default, the WinMerge.Core Files already checked, but also select the Filters, the Plugins and the Dutch menus and windows. Two steps further you can reach the Additional tasks check that the tool may integrate into the contextual menu of the Windows Explorer.

Tip 02: Test folder

The main task of this useful application is to find out to what extent two folders contain the same content. WinMerge highlights the differences so you can determine what needs to be done to make exact copies of the two folders. This application will not perform automatic synchronization itself. To demonstrate how WinMerge works, we have put together two test folders. In addition to a number of identical files, folder A contains two extra Word documents and two extra jpg images. In addition, A and B contain jpg images with exactly the same name, yet the jpg file in B has a later editing date. It is a photo of which we edited the B version later.

Tip 03: Left and right

To reveal the differences, click the button To open – that's the second button from the top left. In the dialog you indicate which folder you want to Left want to open,

you open the second folder Right. You can compare two files in the same way. The filter box defaults to *.*; because of this, WinMerge will simply compare all file types. Also tick the option Include Subfolders on when the directories you are comparing contain subdirectories.

Integration in Explorer

Because you checked the integration with Windows Explorer during installation, you can also get this comparison tool from the right mouse button. When you select one or two folders in Explorer, you can open the WinMerge shortcut. The application will immediately compare the selected items.

In the comparison result, WinMerge ranks the files according to the nature of the difference

Tip 04: Result

A few seconds later, WinMerge displays the result in a list. Look at the column Comparison Result and click on the title of this column so that the software sorts the files according to the nature of the difference. The designation Binaries are different means the files are different. For example, it could be images or exe files with the same file name, but they are not identical. Read you in the column Comparison Result the notification Text files are different, then this tool can indicate the text differences. With the indication Right only or Left only you know that these files are missing in either folder.

Tip 05: Copy to the right

To copy missing files to the right, select these files at once by clicking the Ctrl-key or the shiftbutton. Shift is used when it comes to files that fit neatly together. You click on the first file you want to copy, you press the Shift key and then you click on the last file in the series. Ctrl press if you want to expand the selection one by one. Then you go to the menu To combine and choose the assignment Copy right. Of course you use the same technique to copy to the left. After this operation, the file comparison status will change to Identical.

Show only

To make working easier, there is the menu item Image. For example, here are the assignments Show different items and Show identical items. Under the same menu item you will find Show right unique items and Show left unique items, so you go through Select everything and then To combine, Copy to the right copies all missing items to the correct folder in one move.

Tip 06: Text files

WinMerge can easily compare text files, and by that we mean .txt files. We'll explain in a moment how to compare Word documents. This is especially useful for people who work on scripts or web pages, for example. Double click in the column Comparison Result on a text file from which WinMerge indicates a deviation. Then the application opens a new window where the differences between left and right are highlighted. The orange areas indicate the lines that differ, gray areas show lines that appear in one file but not the other, and the white area shows the same lines in the file. The toolbar buttons allow you to merge all or selected changes of the file from left to right or vice versa

For those who want to compare long Word texts, WinMerge comes as a gift from heaven

Tip 07: Office documents

Most users do not write their texts in Notepad, but in Microsoft Word. For those who want to compare long Word texts with each other and possibly merge them, WinMerge comes as a gift from heaven. For example, we are thinking of pupils and students who work together on theses and papers. You can compare Word files with WinMerge under two conditions. First you have to install a plug-in and it has to be a doc file. If you want to examine the contents of docx files, you must first open them in Microsoft Word and save them in the doc format. To download the plugin get the file xdocdiffPlugin_1_0_6d.zip within. If you unzip this file you will get the folder xdocdiffPlugin. Place that folder on the desktop.

Additional comparison options

This plugin not only supports doc format. After installation, you can also compare files from other applications such as Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, Outlook Email and RTF documents, as well as OpenOffice.org and Lotus 1-2 -3.

Tip 08: Plug-in installation

The installation of the plugin is a bit cumbersome. Close the WinMerge application. Then open the folder on the C drive of your PC where the WinMerge program is located. With us that is: C:\Program Files (x86)\WinMerge. In this folder you place two files that are in the download folder, namely xdoc2txt.exe and zlib.dll. In the subfolder MergePlugins put the file _xdocdiffPlugin.dll. If there is no subfolder MergePlugins in the map WinMerge this means that during installation you have the option Plugins forgot to indicate. No problem, just create a new subfolder and name it MergePlugins. Then remove the dll file from the download and drag it into this new folder.

Tip 09: Compare Docs

Then open WinMerge again. In the menu Plugins choose the List command. If everything went well, you should now see the new plugin, but you still need to enable it. Then you select the files you want to compare in the usual way. In the comparison window, the contents of both doc files will be next to each other and WinMerge will highlight the differences. You can use the location window to quickly navigate through the Word document. If you find a piece of text in the left window that you want to add to the right version, select this text so that it appears in the difference window. That's the bottom pane. With the right mouse button you choose the command Copy right. To go to the next difference, use the right mouse button again so that you are at the command Go to - Difference comes.

Beyond Compare

For those who want to take it one step further in the field of intelligent comparison, there is Beyond Compare. An important difference with WinMerge is that the standard version costs $30 and the pro edition costs $60. Beyond Compare has a version that works on Windows, macOS, and Linux. The pro edition allows you to triple merge; that means you combine the changes from two versions into a new third output file. Moreover, you can use this tool to automate folder synchronization.

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