In today’s world, businesses are using cloud technology to create and share files among employees. It has become a common practice to share a file among multiple employees. As each employee reviews the file, they also significantly contribute to it. Unfortunately, it is easy to get confused when dealing with multiple versions of the same file.
Multiple file versions can cause a lot of confusion and panic. You will often find yourself searching for the right file version. Moreover, there is an added risk of accidentally deleting the wrong file. If you delete a newer file version, you will lose any significant changes made to that file. Has that happened to you before? If so, keep reading as we provide a step-by-step guide for file comparison in Windows 11.
Method 1: Using Notepad++ (Free)
Notepad++ is a free and open-source alternative to the Notepad application that comes with Windows 11. It is a feature-rich text editor with lots of features. Many of these features are focused on developers. But a free plugin for Notepad++ makes it easy to compare two files, and see what’s changed.
Important: If there are any other open text files in Notepad++, your changes won’t be lost when the program closes and opens again. However, we still recommend you to save any unsaved changes to prevent unexpected data losses.
- Download, install Notepad++ from its official website.
- Click on the Open icon on the toolbar.
- Select the first file version, and then click on the Open button.
- Similarly, open the second file version in a new tab.
- Click on the Plugins menu on the top.
- Select the Show Plugin Manager option.
- Search for the “Compare” plugin using the Search box on the top right.
- Click on the Install button.
- The plugin will install and restart Notepad++
- Click on the Plugins menu, select Compare > Compare.
That’s it, Notepad++ will quickly compare your files and highlight the text that has been added, changed, or deleted.
Method 2: Using WinMerge (Free)
WinMerge is another freeware and open-source tool that compares both files and directories. In contrast to Notepad++, you will not need to download any external plugins.
- Download and install WinMerge.
- Click on File, and select Open Left File.
- Select the first file version.
- Click on File, and select Open Right File.
- Select the second file version you want to compare.
- Start the comparison.
- WinMerge will highlight changes in both the versions with different colors.
- Optionally, you can also merge the changes from one file to another. To do so, click on the arrow pointing towards your file, and then save your file (File > Save as).
Method 3: Using Beyond Compare (Paid)
Beyond Compare is a paid application that helps compare two files. You can use it for free for 30-days with limited functionality.
- Download and install Beyond Compare.
- Click on the File menu.
- Select Compare Files.
- A new dialog will open.
- Click on the Browse button to locate the files you want to compare. Alternatively, you can also drag & drop them in the dialog.
- Click on OK.
- Beyond Compare will compare your files and show the differences.
- Optionally, you can also merge the changes using the Merge menu. Don’t forget to save the changes by clicking on Save.
Method 4: Using KDiff3 (Free)
KDiff3 is another popular free and open-source file comparison program. It supports comparing up to 3 files at once. It supports both UTF-8 and Unicode. After file comparison, you will also have an option to merge the changes.
Warning: Since the year 2015, KDiff3 is no longer actively developed. Using obsolete software on modern operating systems can be risky and show inaccurate results.
- Download, install and run KDiff3.
- In the “A” (Base) textbox, specify the full path to the first file you want to compare. Alternatively, you can also click on the File button to manually browse and locate it.
- Similarly, specify the full paths to the second and third files in the “B” and “C” text boxes. (It’s up to you how many files you want to compare. If you want to compare only two files, leave the “C” textbox empty)
- Click on OK.
- KDiff3 will do its magic and highlight the differences.
- Optionally, you can also merge these differences.
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