Perhaps, every programmer or accountant faced the following problem. There are several versions of source code or a quarterly financial report that have to be reviewed. What does “reviewed” mean? Reviewed means compared. Yes, document comparison is a common task in offices for a wide range of professionals, from ordinary document officers to lawyers and financial directors. It may sound ridiculous, but even one symbol or comma may turn things upside down. The app code will have a bug, or the contract may have a wholly different meaning. Thus, comparison of docs and looking for all differences and similarities is a task that you should not charge yourself with. We mean that we a human beings. So, we all make mistakes. We get tired after reviewing several docs. We may miss some important details. Therefore, it is better to let software do the job. File comparison software is widely used in a variety of industries, although not all apps are equally efficient. This article will try to help inexperienced users locate really worthy apps to compare documents, files and folders.
If you plan to use software to compare source codes (programmer constantly need such apps to contrast various code versions), it would be great if the application can recognize different codes of different programming languages. For example, if you compare two php or c# codes, the software will highlight those parts of text that are identified as php code. This helps in locating mistakes and differences. Besides, for instance, in case of html comparison, sometimes users are not interested in changes in html code but page content, and vice versa. As a rule, efficient applications automatically recognize most popular codes. This is an extremely helpful feature for programmers and team leaders.
As known, compared docs may or may not have a common ancestor which means that may have a few or many differences. Depending on similarity degree, it is recommended to use various comparison modes. For instance, the application will highlight differences on the word level. It may highlight changes on the symbol level as well. Thus, if for instance, you compare two contracts, word by word comparison is a good idea, while char by char comparison (on a symbol level) is the best solution for app code comparison. Some docs do not have many common words, thus, comparison by keyword would work the best there.
Commenting and reporting. Once the comparison is over it might be necessary to save results in a report. Usually, reports contain statistic info on word count, % of common and different words, files types and locations etc. As to commenting features, they can make any file comparison software an excellent communication tool. For example, it is possible to write a comment to a word or a line, save the report and email it to a colleague. This is an efficient way of conveying information and commonly working on different documents.
Of course, file comparison software should not be too sophisticated. General software knowledge should be enough to operate it.