Best File Comparison Tools

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Many aspects of our daily lives have undergone a sea change, and as an Internet user, this can be a good thing for us. One such area is file comparison. As the number and variety of online providers of data has increased, so too has the need to compare files. The idea is a simple one: more people are using more apps to access more of their stuff on the Internet in more places than ever before.

If you are a computer nerd, I’m going to guess that you like testing new software. And if you do, then you might have already used different file comparison tools while working on your projects. But just because we test new software every once in a while doesn’t mean we’re looking for new software to use every time. It’s true that some file comparison tools are better than others which can be frustrating — even if the ones you’re using now work fine. So, which is the best tool for comparisons? What about the best tool for Windows (or Mac)? Are there any good tools for comparing files for macOS or Linux?

If you’re looking for the best file comparison tools, then there is no other place to look. We review all the different specialized and unsophisticated diff programs. Our editors have developed the list by reading various online forums and social media sites for feedback from many users. We have also done some original testing of our own to come up with this complete list of best file comparison utilities available in 2022.

We all have a few files and folders that need to be compared, but we don’t always want to go find the right tools for the job. That’s why we’ve gone through all of the popular file comparison tools, and put together this list that collects the best of them all in one convenient place.

Our Recommendations

The file comparison tools below are a great way to compare files and documents. With these tools, you can also merge the files and documents and resolve merging conflicts. We have compiled both free and pro version file comparison tools for Windows PC in this article.

If you want a file comparison tool for personal usage, we recommend choosing a free tool such as WinMerge or KDiff3. However, Litera Compare is a professional file comparison tool specially designed for law firms, corporate solutions, and services. If you have enough budget and want a professional file comparison tool, you can use Litera Compare.

AptDiff

Aptdiff File Compare

AptDiff is a freeware that’s now discontinued, but still available to download through some third-party websites. Despite being free, it’s an advanced and responsive file comparison tool for Windows. It lets you compare two files (text or binary) to check if any of them is a duplicate. It gets downloaded quickly and is pretty easy with no complications involved. From options to customize keyboard shortcuts, getting file backups, or personalizing the UI fonts and colors to supporting multiple languages, there’s a lot that it’s capable of.

Price: free

DiffMerge

Diffmerge

Those looking for a file comparison tool would find DiffMerge much helpful due to its powerful features. The application visually compares files and even merges them on major platforms like Windows, Mac, and Linux. Moreover, it graphically represents the modifications between the two files. Also, it features options like intra-line highlighting and complete support for editing. Similarly, it also shows the modifications (merging) between three files, graphically.

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It enables the files to merge automatically whenever possible, and also allows complete control on the editing of the file generated. Furthermore, it compares the two folders side-by-side, while displaying which files are only present in a single file or in the other. It also shows the file pairs that are either similar or different.

Price: free

Diffuse

Diffuse File Compare

If you are looking for a simple, yet powerful graphical tool that helps to merge and comparing text files, Diffuse can be your best bet. It can easily compare random file parallelly while providing you the option to manually adjust line-matching and also the option to edit files directly.

Not just that, it can also recover amendment of files from Darcs, SVK, Monotone, Git, Mercurial, Bazaar, RCS, Subversion, and CVS libraries for comparison and merging. What’s more? Line-matching can be manually amended by the user, option for syntax highlighting, or easy navigation of keyboard are some of its other major features to look out for.

Price: free

ExamDiff

Examdiff File Compare

It’s an easy to use file comparison tool, that allows you to compare to documents. Examdiff is a freeware that does not need you to mention both the filenames, but just entering the directory name for one of the files for comparison should be fine. Among its significant features are auto pick feature to remember matching files, automatic detection of file changes and notifying users to repeat the file comparison, quick selection of the two files to compare, drag and drop option to add one or two files in the program window, or easy editing of both the files.

There are any more features offered by this tool which you can explore on your Windows platform.

Price: free

Beyond Compare

Beyond Compare

Choosing the best file comparison software, you cannot pass by Beyond Compare – a truly one-of-a-kind comparison tool. Versatile and complex, Beyond Compare allows you to literally compare anything you want, from files of different types and sizes to folders and entire repositories like Dropbox or Amazon S3. And it works perfectly with large files.

Aside from highlighting the differences, you can also merge files, synchronize changes, and generate comparison reports for checks in this app. A 3-way merge is also possible!

Pros

  • Intelligent file comparison software to compare files, folders, and drives
  • Has no problem with large files
  • Ability to merge and edit changes, as well as produce reports based on comparison results
  • Intuitive folder sync

Cons

  • Limited navigation between compared items
  • Not so many formats supported

Pricing: $30 per user per month, but if you have more than 4 users, the price goes down.

Pics.io

Pics.io

Strictly speaking, Pics.io is a lot more than a mere instrument for file comparison. It’s a comprehensive app for cloud-based digital assets management (DAM). And it has all the related bells and whistles, such as collections, tagging, keywording, search, sharing, versioning, and many others.

One of the core functionalities of Pics.io is the Visual Diff tool. And it works ideally for comparing visuals: photos, all kinds of images, Sketch and other multi-page designs, PDFs, and video files. With Diff Tool, two similar visual files will be placed one over the other for better contrast, and you can move the slider sideways to compare them.

Pros

  • Side by side comparison of visuals to see the subtlest changes such as brightness or saturation
  • Working with any formats you need, designer files included (Adobe XD, Sketch, or AI), plus videos and PDFs
  • Powerful version control in case revisions pile up over time
  • Commenting to discuss file changes with colleagues
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Cons

  • A bit of a learning curve

Pricing: $18 per user per month, though there are also pricing plans suitable for team users.

Meld

Meld

Free and open-source, Meld is a great comparison app to see the difference between two or three files and merge them. The compare software allows you to navigate between contrasts easily. As usual, the changes get marked with a different color. Also, use the regex text feature to ignore the differences you want to leave untouched.

This file comparison software will also come in handy to compare folders. Feel free to compare two (or even three!) media libraries to see differences file by file. Alter files on the fly, and once you notice that something’s missing, don’t hesitate to open the folder directly from Meld to fix things.

Pros

  • Comparing two or three files at once
  • Edit or merge files right in the file comparison app
  • Support for folder comparison
  • Basic file management when comparing directories

Cons

  • Needs download and installation
  • Clunky interface, and sometimes, the app is difficult to operate as Meld is designed for tech-savvy users
  • Available for Windows and Linux only

Pricing: Free

Diffchecker

As the name suggests, Diffchecker is an online tool to check the differences between two files. It lets you compare texts, PDFs, spreadsheets, and even images. Besides its online tool, Diffchecker has desktop apps for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Thanks to its clean UI and multiple views, you can view line-by-line differences between text files. For images, it has a slider to zoom in for viewing differences.

Diffchecker can compare PDFs too, as its OCR technology enables it to read scanned copies. Similarly, you can view the cell-by-cell differences when comparing two spreadsheets, either in XLS, XLSX, CSV, or other formats. Best of all, it can merge the two files together.

While the free plan will suffice for most, you can upgrade to the Pro plan to get advanced features and real-time diff reports for $8 per month. If you want to install the Diffchecker desktop app, it costs $12 per month. But the desktop version lets you compare entire folders as well.

DiffNow

DiffNow is an online diff finder tool for comparing different types of files. You can input text, upload various types of files, and enter URLs to compare them. Better still, you can upload complete folders as ZIP files for comparison.

DiffNow is quite customizable as you can change how the files are compared. For example, you can select whether to ignore line breaks, white spaces, and case differences. Similarly, you can change how the results are displayed. It can compare Python, HTML, C, C++, and JavaScript codes as well.

The free account gives you only 20 comparisons per month. You can upgrade to a Premium account for $3 per month to get unlimited comparisons.

Copyleaks Text Compare

Copyleaks is a plagiarism detector at its core, but has a tool for comparing text as well. Using Copyleaks Text Compare, you can either paste the text, upload a file, or enter the URL.

Perhaps the best thing about this tool is that you can compare more than two files together. The supported file types are HTML, TXT, PPT, Doc, PDF, etc. It supports multiple languages and gives you a comparison report to download.

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Since it’s a plagiarism detector, the Copyleaks Text Compare tool focuses on similar content rather than the differences. It shows the identical text, paraphrased content, and minor changes. Therefore, if you’re looking for a free online plagiarism detector, this can serve as one.

How to compare files with the fc command on Windows 10

To compare files with the fc command tool, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.
  3. Type the following command to browse to the folder with the files you want to compare and press Enter: cd PATH\TO\FILES In the command, update the path with the location of the folder with the files to compare. This example navigates to the Downloads folder: cd C:\Users\USERACCOUNT\Downloads
  4. Type the following command to compare two similar files and press Enter: fc filename1.txt filename2.txt In the command, replace filename1.txt and filename2.txt for the name of the files you want to compare. Source: Windows Central
  5. Type the following command to compare two similar files in ASCII mode and press Enter: fc /L filename1.txt filename2.txt
  6. Type the following command to compare two files displaying only the first line that is different and press Enter: fc /a filename1.txt filename2.txt Source: Windows Central
  7. Type the following command to compare two files in Unicode mdoe and press Enter: fc /u filename1.txt filename2.txt Source: Windows Central
  8. Type the following command to compare two files in baniry mode and press Enter: fc /b filename1.txt filename2.txt Source: Windows Central
  9. Type the following command to compare all the files (*.txt) in the same folder to the new file (filename2.txt) and press Enter: fc *.txt filename2.txt Source: Windows Central
  10. Type the following command to compare two files in different locations and press Enter: fc DRIVE:\PATH\TO\filename1.txt DRIVE:\PATH\TO\filename2.txt In the command, replace DRIVE for the storage location drive letter and \PATH\TO\filename1.txt and \PATH\TO\filename2.txt with the path and name of the files you want to compare. This example compares two files in different folders: fc C:\Users\USERACCOUNT\Downloads\filename1.txt C:\Users\USERACCOUNT\Downloads\new\filename2.txt Source: Windows Central
  11. Confirm the output to see the difference between the files. Quick tip: You can view the list of options and more examples using the fc /? command.

Once you complete the steps, you will be able to see the difference between two similar files.

While the tool allows you to compare files, remember that this is a basic tool meant to use it with text files and extensions like .exe, .com, .sys, .obj, .lib, or .bin. You may be able to compare files like those from Microsoft Office or images, but you can only compare them at the binary level.

Conclusion

File and directory comparison software help you quickly identify differences between files, folders and entire drives. A great tool for everything from simple backups to large data centers, File Explorer is free for home use and available for Windows 8, Vista, XP and 7.

If you have ever purchased a new piece of electronic equipment, you need to compare the device with the one that you already own. If it doesn’t have removable parts, then you shouldn’t be concerned with file comparison software. However, there are times when it’s necessary to compare two different files and figure out the differences between them. This can be particularly handy if you created a document or image, and want to see exactly which changes were made by others.

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