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How to compare two files?

When you need to compare two files, you require file comparison software.

File comparison software is a tool that is specifically designed for computing and displaying the difference between two or more files. Typically, a compare tool is used for a side by side comparison when a user needs to see the differences between two versions of the same file.

You might be surprised, but file comparison tools appeared as long ago as the computer industry developed. At that time, they were only in the form of command-line utilities. And only later they have transformed into the fully-fledged, graphics-based apps we know.

Data comparison software plays a major part in today’s tech world, helping leaders in different fields to notice differences between files, track changes, and troubleshoot problems afterward. Among those who use file compare tools, there are programmers, designers, writers, and so on and so forth.

Types of tools used to compare files

Based on the type of file, file comparison tools divide into:

  • 1.
    Document comparison software that helps you to cross-check the new versions of your text file against its older copies. In this case, a file comparison tool will point you out a variety of updates: formatting modifications, such as the change of fonts or text colors; grammatical and punctuation changes; and any additions and/or omissions in the text.
  • 2.
    Visual file comparison that stands for a side by side comparison for visuals: images, design files, pdfs, or videos. Most advanced digital asset management tools usually have this feature. So there is no need to spend extra on a diff tool.
  • 3.
    Code comparison tools where you copy-paste two pieces of code & see the differences between them.
  • 4.
    Folder compare tools allow you to spot the difference between two folders or directories. For example, you might need to compare directory trees, notice the difference between the hierarchy of folders, or spot the missing files.

Depending on the depth of comparison, there are also different types of diff tools:

  • 1.
    Symbol by symbol comparison helps you compare your files based on different symbols, such as letters in your words. This mode suits best for code comparison where every symbol plays a large role.
  • 2.
    Word by word comparison means that the tool explores differences on the level of words. Of course, this solution works best for your doc files.
  • 3.
    Line by line comparison implies that a line of your text would be marked as different if there is at least one different symbol there.

Why do we even need a differentiation tool?

Saved time & efforts

You won’t deny that any comparison process is tiresome & time-consuming. You’re constantly switching between windows. You’re straining your eyes to catch the difference...

If these are different formats, you’d probably need to change between apps. So you’ll go into trouble downloading & launching large-scale apps. And then you spend time learning how to use them.

And if you’re doing all the comparison manually, I can’t even imagine how challenging it must be. Technology and file comparison software, specifically, should make your life much easier. By saving your time & efforts, file comparison software will then make you more productive & streamline your workflow.

Accuracy & outcomes

Of course, seeing the difference with human eyes is a lot different as compared to doing the same with technology. Even your best & more attentive employee might miss some petty difference, such as a new comma, a bit larger font size, or a slightly different color used. A machine won’t miss anything!

You might try to mark updates while adding them. For example, highlight any new parts you’ve just added to your new blog post version. But this won’t save you from accidental deletes, missed duplicates, etc., etc.

Again, a file comparison tool will provide you with much more accurate results.

How to compare your files?

File comparison is easy if you do it right. So follow the next steps for file comparison procedure:

  • 1.
    Choose the best file comparison software. It should be efficient & accurate. But also simple if you don’t want to spend a whole day on downloading & installing the tool (or learning how to use it). Of course, the best option is to use online software, which will save you lots of time & efforts.
  • 2.
    Download or choose the older version of your file.
  • 3.
    Download or choose the new version of the file.
  • 4.
    Allow the software to do the magic & compare your files.
  • 5.
    Summarize the findings.

Btw, the market is saturated with different comparison tools. So see this post to know your options better.

Some cases of usage

There is a wide range of situations when you might get the advantage of a file comparison tool:

  • 1.
    When you have thousands of code lines, and one misplaced dot makes it ineffectual. A compare tool will help you find this dot in a minute.
  • 2.
    You work in the legal or financial field and have sent your client a hundred-page contract for review. They sent it back, and now you have to distinguish the parts of the text that were added / subtracted. Of course, there is no space for your show of intuition – any missed comma could cost your company millions of dollars.
  • 3.
    Photographers might find it useful to choose the best versions out of tons of similar photos after a photo shoot.
  • 4.
    As a designer, you might have to decide on the nicest/ most updated / most detailed version to use as a design mockup for your website or blog.
  • 5.
    Writers would see the changes made by editors more effortless.
  • 6.
    Real estate agents would save time on seeking amendments that a buyer has made to an offer.
  • 7.
    And when the designer sends the new version for approval, managers would track minor changes that were added easily.
  • 8.
    Finally, a professor would make use of a comparison tool to see changes made by a student in the draft vs. final version of the assignment.


A file comparison tool is a must for you if you need to compare two files and see the difference between them. The software will help you notice the difference quickly and easily. And if you want to learn more about file comparison & digital asset management in general, feel free to browse our glossary any further. With us, you’d become a real expert in file management.

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