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Learn Git / Difference Tools

This lesson provides information about difference/comparison tools available to use with Git.

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It is important to be able to compare versions of files, including different repository branch/commits, and working files. Other Git tools such as git blame and git log are useful for understanding changes, but a visual comparison across multiple files is often needed. Git includes a git diff command that provides basic functionality and the difference feature can also utilize third-party comparison tool such as KDiff3. KDiff3 is a very useful tool because it allows comparing large folders, for example full copies of two different software or dataset versions.

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Comparing Full Versions

It may be helpful to compare two full folder structures for source code or a dataset. It may be cumbersome to do this with Git tools. Therefore, one approach is:

  1. One copy of the files is the working files for the current branch, as usual.
  2. Clone a second copy of the repository into another folder, clearly named as a temporary version. Check out the branch/tag/commit that is relevant.
  3. Use KDiff3 or other tools to do the comparison.

A similar approach was used to load StateCU and StateMod code into the repository, where one copy of files was the repository files and the other was a date-stamped folder. A comparison of files guided cleanup as files were moved to the repository as versions.