A critical part of any coding workflow is being able to accurately identify the changes you’re making before submitting. And while most version control software are bundled with tools to help you identify what you are about to check-in, they fail to have the customization and flexibility of Beyond Compare. To be clear, I realize this isn’t the most exciting topic to talk about, but I think that it is a really critical one for productivity. I use Beyond Compare in my professional and personal development workflow and I think you should too. This is not an ad, rather an appreciation post of a solid tool.
Beyond just comparing two files, Beyond Compare ventures into a plethora of different areas that makes it a versatile tool. Especially in times when you are working with a big project structure with lots of different sub-folders, Beyond Compare is vital to being able to see what has changed at a high level. Amazingly enough, it is able to do this with good speed even on low-end hardware. They’ve clearly put a lot of time and effort into making this tool as optimized as possible. One of my most common use cases that I utilize is to sync another folder up across the network. Beyond Compare is able to add and delete files so that the two structures are in sync. This is way faster than deleting and re-copying the entire structure over a network. These speed updates are particularly vital in today’s age where people are working remote and network speeds might not always be the best.
Beyond Compare ships with a good amount of customization options that allow you to maximize your efficiency with the tool. The most efficient of these is right click options that are automatically enabled. You can right click on a file and select “Select Left File To Compare”, and then find a second file, and click “Compare Files” to launch a compare. You can do this with files or entire projects.
My other favorite customization is being able to save compares so that later you can launch the same comparer with a single click. This saves me so much time every day and takes a lot of the hassle out of my job. Especially since when I have multiple projects going on, it can be hard to remember all of the relevant folders and compares that I have for a project. Having Beyond Compare handle it all for you makes it especially useful.
Another useful customization is being able to see whitespace. If you are deep into coding standards, you probably have heard of the tabs versus white space debate and probably feel strongly one way or the other. Regardless of what side you are on, being able to see which is being used is vital. Visual Studio and Beyond Compare let you toggle an option so you can see space and tab characters. This has helped me catch many trailing whitespace and mismatched tabs and spaces before. My goal is always to have clean looking code that is easy to navigate and whitespace plays a big role in that process.
A compare tool might not seem like a big deal, but I promise that if you start using Beyond Compare you will see how vital it really is. Would I be writing an article about it if I didn’t feel that strongly about it?