WinMerge: Comparing Files Line By Line

WinMergeHere’s a common problem and a solution for comparing files line by line.

Let’s say you’re following someone’s research. You’ve got a cousin who has their own website and you trust what they’re doing but you don’t get to talk to them everyday and keep up on what’s happening. Or another cousin periodically sends you an updated chart by email. I’ve got a few cousins like that.

The only thing I know is that the “Last updated …” date on the chart has changed.

That’s fine … and exciting … except I have to go through hundreds and hundreds of names and dates with a fine-toothed comb wondering exactly what they updated. Unless you’re both using Legacy and Intellishare that’s designed for sharing research, here’s a cure.

Once you get this started by entering the initial data you can easily compare future updates. Copy and paste the chart into a plain text document. It doesn’t matter if you lose some of the formatting. Include the date in the file-name and keep it.

When there’s an updated chart, do the same thing with that one. Name it with a date. Then copy and paste it into a plain text document. Then, open your copy of WinMerge. (It also comes as WinMerge Portable.)



Then browse “Left” for the first file and “Right” for the second file. You’ll get a result something like this where you can see the changes highlighted.

Compare Files, WinMerge

If you have dual monitors this is a breeze. WinMerge on one monitor, your genealogy database on the other. If you don’t, you can split your screen.

This only works if both charts have been generated with the same program using the same coding. If the two files have a different layout you can have a heck of a time with a fancy text editor trying to get them matching, if it’s even possible at all.

If you take information from other people’s charts, at the very least, mark them as the primary source. And then contact your cousin for further detail.

This is obviously a method wide-open to abuse. Copying other people’s work without proper follow-up of your own research and confirmation of source material isn’t worth the time it will take you to do this.

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