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.


  • 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
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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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Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

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