Ever had two sets of the same files and folders and couldn’t decide which one to retain? It may take a long time to actually open each to verify the one that’s recent or the one you need; while dates associated with the files may help, they won’t all the time as they don’t tell you anything about the actual content.
This is where file comparison tools can be time-savers. Meld is an open source file comparison tool for Windows and Linux for exactly that purpose.
Tip: check out our overview of file comparison tools for Windows here.
Meld file comparison review
Meld’s interface isn’t complex in the slightest. It has a menu bar, a toolbar, a tab bar and a selector to load plain text files.
It is your standard menu bar for the most part. You find a link to the preferences there, may start a new comparison or save an existing one, and use other standard options such as find or copy & replace.
One thing I like about Meld is the ability to open multiple comparisons. The comparison pairs are displayed in their own tab which you can access from the tab bar.
To start a new comparison just hit the icon with the + on it. The up arrow jumps to the next change while the down arrow jumps to the previous. The red button stops the current action.
The program has two comparison options: File comparison and Directory comparison.
You can compare up to three files at a time. Text files are displayed using Meld’s built-in viewer. If the files are identical, the program will display a message to indicate that directly.
If however, they are different, the program highlights the differences. You have a few options on this comparison screen. Right-clicking at a specific line allows you to mark synchronization points which can be used for merging data. Arrow icons can be clicked upon and will move the content towards the direction thy are pointing at. The Changes menu has a lot more options including jumping to the next or previous change or conflict. You can also use the push, pull, copy and merge options from this menu.
Don’t worry, there is an undo option in case you make a mistake. You can use the built-in editor to make changes to your document or code and save it quickly.
Tip: The encoding drop-down menu can be useful if you want to view text that is saved in different formats like Unicode UTF, Western ISO, etc.
Folder comparison is another area where Meld excels in and my favorite feature in the program.
If you compare two folders, the program will display two lists of files similarly to how TreeCompare does it but with more options. The ones which were found in the other folder will be indicated with their file-names crossed out. You can quickly find out which files are missing or edited in that folder.
Right-click on a file to copy it to the other folder, or to open it using an external program. The toolbar has similar options and some other useful ones like displaying same or new files only.
To compare two files or folders, select the drop-down menus which appear. To select a folder you need to choose “other” which opens a pop-up Explorer window that you can use to navigate to the folder. The comparison window will display the file names, size and modified time which you can use to manage the data.
Comparisons can be saved, so you can resume where you left off instead of starting from scratch. There are file filters and text filters for regular expressions, that you can use to optimize the comparison process. Meld has a handful of dependencies on Linux including Python.
The visual difference indicators that Meld displays can be very helpful for developers, writers, bloggers, etc. I found it to be an excellent tool when comparing multiple folders that I was organizing on my storage drives. WinMerge , kdiff3 are good alternatives for Meld.
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