Web Development

Review: Beyond Compare file comparison tool

Beyond Compare is a file comparison tool that goes beyond the standard text comparison to include a variety of files such as images, MP3s, and more.

Beyond Compare is a file comparison tool that goes beyond the standard text comparison. It can compare a variety of files such as images, MP3s, and more, as well as supporting directory comparison, synchronization, and sports a scripting and plugin system.

Note: This review was performed with a publically available trial version of the application.

Specifications

  • Product: Beyond Compare
  • Company: Scooter Software
  • Cost: $50 for Pro license, $30 for Standard; volume discounts and site licenses available
  • Hardware Requirements: Pentium 200 MHz (or equivalent), 32MB RAM, 15MB disk space
  • Supported Operating Systems: Windows: 95, 98, NT 4, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 2003, 2008; Linux: RHEL 4, 5, Fedora 4 - 12, SLED 10, openSUSE 10.3 - 11.2, Ubuntu 6.06 - 10.04, Debian 5.04, Madriva 2010
  • Additional Information: Product Web site
  • TechRepublic Photo Gallery

Who's it for?

File comparison tools use usually the domain of software developers and perhaps systems administrators. Beyond Compare's features not only make it a good fit for these users, but expands its usefulness to people who work with files that are not plain text, such as graphic artists, spreadsheet users, authors, and more.

What problems does it solve?

Traditional file comparison tools only look at text content in files, or only look at plain text files. Beyond Compare handles these needs, of course, but allows all sorts of other file types to be compared. It also fills the shoes of other utilities by performing synchronization, folder comparison, and more.

Standout features

  • Specialized Viewers: Beyond Compare can compare images, MP3's, delimited data files, and more.
  • Folder Synchronization: You can use Beyond Compare to synchronize folders to perform backups, Web site updates, etc. with extremely powerful filtering capabilities.
  • Programmer Friendly: Beyond Compare is compatible with version control systems and ships with support for a variety of programming languages.
  • Flexibility: You can set up all sorts of rules, filters, etc. which control how the comparison is performed.

What's wrong?

None: There is no downside to Beyond Compare. It does everything that could be asked for, and even the truly advanced functionality is tucked away so that only the savviest of users have to deal with it, yet it is still accessible.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

Beyond Compare is an extremely powerful for developers. For example, when comparing source code, it is aware of an important difference such as a variable name difference, and an unimportant one such as whitespace or a comment. It hooks into source control applications, and is scriptable. Out of the box, it has rules for all of the most common programming languages, and you can add more with the grammar system. With the ability to treat FTP sites, directory structures, and ZIP files as equivalent, it is easy to synchronize Web sites to local copies or archives. Programmers of all types will be able to use Beyond Compare thanks to its cross-platform support.

System administrators will appreciate the directory comparison and folder synchronization. In addition, they will like the built-in grammar support for INI files, Windows Registry files, and XML files. Since Beyond Compare runs on both Windows and Linux, system administrators will be able to make use of it across the entire server room. Beyond Compare can be scripted, so system administrators will be able to automate it, perhaps to deploy applications or important data.

Information workers such as graphic artists, sound engineers, writers, and spreadsheet workers will also be able to get use out of Beyond Compare. Not only does it have specialized viewers for images, MP3s, and other data formats, there are plugins available on the Web site for free that add spreadsheet and word processor document support. The three-way merge feature is a boon for writers in a collaborative environment, where two versions of a document with a common ancestor can be compared.

Beyond Compare comes in two different versions, Standard and Pro. There are some feature differences between the two, so you will want to look at the comparison chart and decide which is best for you.

User rating

Have you encountered or used Beyond Compare? If so, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review.

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About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

15 comments
duke.url
duke.url

Very useful. Bug free. Works well in copying and comparing files to Windows and Linux hosts. Nice scripting language too.

aikimark
aikimark

I use DLSuperC for my file comparisons. If I needed some media format comparisons, I'll look at BC.

SDP2
SDP2

I have used this product for over a year, and I have found it EXTREMELY useful in working with databases, or file archiving and the maintenance of such. I would recommend this software to anyone with these tasks. Creator of the software is consistent (1-2 weeks) with patch upgrades too, 'a plus' in my book.

timothycs
timothycs

I've been using Beyond Compare for years and can't imagine being without it. I use it to compare source code files, directories, even whole drives. It is an excellent tool and easy to use.

bendict101
bendict101

I could not do my job without THIS utility. It even does a decent job with Word and PDF differences.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

How often do you find yourself comparing files or folders? Would a tool like Beyond Compare help you with this task? What tool do you use now?

Retired_USAF
Retired_USAF

I've looked at KDIFF and WINMERGE, and for serious comparisons, they both are jokes. Now, for a person that only wants to look at text file, maybe they are OK. I purchased BC several years ago, out of my own pocket, for the comparison of DDL, etc at my last job, because the company wouldn't put a crowbar in their wallet. But, BC was fantastic for the job; and well as Examine32 -- a proximity search tool.

apete
apete

Have been using Beyond Compare for years and wouldn't be without it. My favorite companion tool is Finders Keepers. Both work well with binaries.

Retired_USAF
Retired_USAF

I forgot to include these key points between BC and KDiff: 1. The individual (that wrote the software) is an idiot. Instead of doing a "left side" compare, and "right side" compare in the context menu, he puts a "KDiff" in the "send to" menu. 2. In BC, when I compare directories, it loads the list of 176,524 File(s) and 26,537 Dir(s) in about 10 seconds; where as "this" (trying not to use bad language KDiff never finished after 20 minutes. Both of these used the default settings of the program. 3. When I compared two 57MB+ files, it took BC about 5 seconds to load, compare and display the differences. With the same files in KDiff, it took about 90-120 seconds. 4. Instead of using common terms like "Next difference", this idiot (that wrote the software), used terms like "Next Delta", trying to impress people with this intelligence (or actually the lack thereof). 5. This idiot (that wrote the software), can't stay consistent with his terminology. At one point he uses "conflict" and in another he uses "delta". Get real, either they are the same, or different. So "conflict" and "delta" are the same...the comparisons don't match. 6. When you want to send multiple files to KDiff, using the "Send To" option, the program will not put the files in the proper order (this is just presuming the files are named for example "file1.txt" and "file2.txt". It put file2.txt in the left pane, and file1.txt in the right pane. I could find nothing about swaping sides, so if for instance you want file1.txt on the left and file2.txt on the right, you could swap sides. In my book the few bucks you spend on BC is far better than the lack of performance, and P**S poor programming of KDiff

trudig
trudig

I am a textile artist. I use the program to find duplicates of all forms of embroidery and sewing files of which I have thousands and they constantly change. It is a great program and user friendly even for techgrannies like me! Trudig

Retired_USAF
Retired_USAF

============ YOUR COMMENT: It took Windows Explorer about 97 seconds to load the Properties for the entire contents of my main drive, which is used software development and also has an extensive music library. Totals were 198,058 files in 15,430 folders. MY REPLY: The comparison of the folders/files I mentioned in my post [176,524 File(s) and 26,537 Dir(s)] was from an external USB (500MB) drive. My memory is maxed out. ============ YOUR COMMENT: What type of files? Just wondering if they were of a type KDiff3 was designed to compare. I did have it compare to 15Mb access databases, which are snapshots of the same database 24 hours apart, which it did in about 7 seconds. MY REPLY: They were all files that KDiff was suppose to be capable of handling. ============ YOUR COMMENT: Given that, I suspect that BC caches comparison results and it was not the first time you ran the comparison, or you have an extremely fast storage system. MY REPLY: As stated above it was on a USB drive, and I don't cache things. So this put KDiff and BC on the same level, in that it is direct disk reads. ============ YOUR COMMENT: I don't know how many users will find themselves comparing 100K+ files, and would agree that KDiff3 may not be the program for that task. MY REPLY: Most of the files I have to compare (except when I used BC at work), are 200K or less (on the average). But by using a 50+MB file, and large directories, it properly stress tests the program. Thus, based on this, I stand by my original comments. ============ YOUR COMMENT: Delta is a very common term used for a difference between to things. The program has navigation for both Delta and Conflict, which I believe function differently when merging or otherwise resolving conflicts. MY REPLY: I believe that this is semantics. Either they match or they don't. ============ YOUR COMMENT: Being retired as well as having serviced in the US Armed Forces will get you some respect from me; though is not a valid reason for your behavior. Your attitude not only belittles the contributors to this 7 year open source project, but also the member who recognizes the program as being valid and competitive to BC. MY REPLY: With my time in the service, I strove for perfection, as well as jobs I had since I got out. I worked for major long distance companies, major insurance companies and commercial aircraft company (as well as them having military contracts). I have high standards that others might not share. You would think that after 7 years, this program would be better. Take a program I wrote. Long story short, it took a job that usually took 240 hours to prepare for (checking configs, preparing scripts, etc) down to about 60 minutes to generate the files (on the mainframe), 3 minutes to download, and 2 minutes to load, compare and generate the scripts with my program. Less than 1/2 of 1 percent (0.45139%) of what it was. The first test run, the total time just for my program was 17+ hours. After a partial rewrite, I got it down to about 120 seconds.

Realvdude
Realvdude

I'll probably still look at Beyond Compare, but thought I would install KDiff3 and give it a look. 1) Context menu function is great! It has it's own menu in the context menu, as well as being in the Send To; so perhaps it's been awhile since you've looked at this program. I was able to select three files and choose to perform a 3-way comparison. I was also able to mark a file or directory for later use in a comparision. This is great, in that I often compare output from development, testing, and release versions of our applications; which can be on different servers. 2)It took Windows Explorer about 97 seconds to load the Properties for the entire contents of my main drive, which is used software development and also has an extensive music library. Totals were 198,058 files in 15,430 folders. Given that, I suspect that BC caches comparison results and it was not the first time you ran the comparison, or you have an extremely fast storage system. I don't know how many users will find themselves comparing 100K+ files, and would agree that KDiff3 may not be the program for that task. 3)What type of files? Just wondering if they were of a type KDiff3 was designed to compare. I did have it compare to 15Mb access databases, which are snapshots of the same database 24 hours apart, which it did in about 7 seconds. 4)Delta is a very common term used for a difference between to things. The program has navigation for both Delta and Conflict, which I believe function differently when merging or otherwise resolving conflicts. 5)See 4 for reasoning. I think we can all be a little inconsistent sometimes, like using Directory versus Folder when talking about a Windows interface as compared to the command line. 6)I believe the ordering is a Windows issue, which I have noticed with other programs. I found the ability to swap files in the File\Open dialog. Being retired as well as having serviced in the US Armed Forces will get you some respect from me; though is not a valid reason for your behavior. Your attitude not only belittles the contributors to this 7 year open source project, but also the member who recognizes the program as being valid and competitive to BC. Thank you for the inspiration to perform my own evaluation of KDiff3 and to report it to my fellow TR members. I look forward to evaluating BC also.