Checking Differences with diff
Comparing Three Different Versions with diff3
Side-by-Side diffs: sdiff
Comparing Files Alongside One Another
Choosing Sides with sdiff
diff for Very Long Files: bdiff
More Friendly diff Output
ex Scripts Built by diff
Problems with diff and Tabstops
cmp and diff
Comparing Two Files with comm
make Isn't Just for Programmers!
Even More Uses for make
Show Changes in a troff File with diffmk
The diff command displays different versions of lines that are found when
comparing two files.
(There's also a GNU version on the CD-ROM.)
It prints a message that uses ed-like notation (a for append,
c for change, and d for delete) to describe
how a set of lines has changed.
This is followed by the lines themselves.
Let's create an example to explain the output produced by diff. Look at the contents of three sample files:
When you run diff on test1 and test2, the following output is produced:
diff test1 test23c3 < walnuts -- > grapes
The diff command displays the only line that differs between the two files.
To understand the report, remember that diff is prescriptive, describing
need to be made to the first file to make it the same as the second file.
This report specifies that only the third line is affected,
This is more apparent if you use the -e option, which produces an
editing script that can be submitted to ed, the UNIX line editor.
to capture this script in a file.)
diff -e test1 test23c grapes .
This script, if run on test1, will bring test1 into agreement with test2. (Article 28.9 describes how to get ed to execute this script.)
If you compare the first and third files, you find more differences:
diff test1 test31dO < apples 3a3 > chestnuts
To make test1 the same as test3, you'd have to delete the first line (apples) and append the third line from test3 after the third line in test1. Again, this can be seen more clearly in the editing script produced by the -e option. Notice that the script specifies editing lines in reverse order; otherwise, changing the first line would alter all succeeding line numbers.
diff -e test1 test33a chestnuts . 1d
So what's this good for? Here's one example.
When working on a document, it is not an uncommon practice to make a copy of a file and edit the copy rather than the original. This might be done, for example, if someone other than the writer is inputing edits from a written copy. The diff command can be used to compare the two versions of a document. A writer could use it to proof an edited copy against the original.
diff brochure brochure.edits49c43,44 < environment for program development and communications, -- > environment for multiprocessing, program development > and communications, programmers 56c51 < offering even more power and productivity for commericial -- > offering even more power and productivity for commercial 76c69 < Languages such as FORTRAN, COBOL, Pascal, and C can be -- > Additional languages such as FORTRAN, COBOL, Pascal, and
Using diff in this manner is a simple way for a writer to examine changes without reading the entire document. By redirecting diff output to a file, you can keep a record of changes made to any document. In fact, just that technique is used byto manage multiple revisions of source code and documents.
- from UNIX Text Processing, Hayden Books, 1987, Chapter 11