5 Unexpected Uses for Beyond Compare

March 26, 2012

I’ve got to known Beyond Compare about 13 years ago – in my early days at RADVISION. Hands down – this is the best text comparison tool out there. And the best part? Like wine, it got better with each passing year.

I’ve since moved to other areas of interest, and have done little or no development for long stretches of time. With such a life, you’d think that Beyond Compare would be… beyond me. But it hasn’t. I’ve always found ways to use and exploit it. To me, it is one of them power tools that you just must use.

So here are 5 unexpected things you can do with Beyond Compare:

1. Web Hosting File Manager

Beyond Compare has this neat trick of being able to compare folders through FTP.

This allows using it to copy files to and from web hosts – it is how I have set up this blog site among other domains I have.

As a developer, this allows for easier cross development – you can continue developing on Windows and then just copy the source files that got changed to the target Linux machine. Since it compares the files, you actually get to see and remember the work you’ve done since the last synchronization.

2. Archive Comparison Tool

Beyond Compare can also treat compress zip files as if they were regular folders – it also allows modifying the contents of the zip files in the same way. Heck – you can compare a local zip file with a remote FTP location.

This comes in handy when you want to compare different versions of source code, where the previous versions are archived in zip files.

3. Excel File Comparison Tool

Need to check the differences between two Excel files? Just save the files in CSV format (comma-separated-values) and use Beyond Compare.

You’ll get a nice table video comparison that makes finding differences between them a breeze.

Great for data sets or when people modify your Excel tables and email you back their work.

4. Poor Man’s Linux Editor

When you compare files in Beyond Compare, you can edit whatever you want in both sides of the comparison and save the changes.

When you do it over an FTP connection, you can actually treat it as a poor man’s editor. For me, this is sometimes a good replacement for a telnet/ssh session and vi – way easier to use and less fuss in setting it up on a Windows machine.

Works great for tweaking a Wordpress theme…

5. Bitstream Comparison Tool

I used to deal with binary bitstreams a lot in my time at RADVISION. Sometimes, being able to compare two bistream files was essential. And the best way of doing that is by using the built-in Hex comparison view.

It allows seeing everything in binary format – with the relevant changes highlighted beautifully.

I can continue praising Beyond Compare – it has a lot of other great features that are just so natural to use. If you have a Windows machine – don’t skip this one.

Have a tool I need to know about? Just send me a comment about it.

Want to know of more developer tools that I like? Check out my tools of the trade.

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  1. Hi, I am Karthik from India. I have a doubt in BC as i m new to it. Can we send the file path from excel sheet columns( Suppose there are 2 columns and one row in an excel sheet having path to different files in each column that is to be compared) to BC on clicking a button in excel sheet which i ll use to open BC application and send the file paths as parameters to the application for comparing. Hope u understood what i need to do. Can u help me with this? Any idea how i can do this. Any help will be appreciated..

    1. Karthik,

      I assume that what you are trying to achieve is use BC from command line. I’ve seen it integrated into version control systems, so it is possible – check out their documentation on their CLI interface for that.

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