Die, WinDiff! Die!

Have you ever used Microsoft WinDiff to compare two files? If so, I feel for you. The interface is terrible. It "merges" the two files into a single window and color codes any differences - red for the first file, yellow for the second file. If there are a bunch of large differences between the files, you'll feel like you've been teleported to McDonalds!

Fortunately, there are much better options available:

  • Beyond Compare is my favorite full-featured file comparison tool. The user interface is intuitive. Both file and directory comparisons are handled flawlessly. And, it will even synchronize the files in two different folders. The caveat is that Beyond Compare is not free. A "standard" license will set you back $30. A "pro" license costs $50. (The pro version adds three-way merge*, secure FTP support, SCC integration and more.)
  • WinMerge is an open source alternative to Beyond Compare. It, too, handles file and directory comparisons with aplomb. Though, it doesn't provide all the bells and whistles of Beyond Compare, it is absolutely free.

With these options at hand, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to continue using WinDiff!


* A three-way merge is what you do when both you and a coworker change the same file. The merge tool looks at your file, your coworker's file, and the shared ancestor file, then merges the non-conflicting changes automatically. Conflicting changes will need to be resolved manually, but most three-way merge tools proved a simple "this, that, or both" format for selecting which change should be included in the final file.