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OS X and Visual Diffs

Posted on 29 April 2008 by Demian Turner

What are people using as a visual diff tool on OS X?  Since my move to the Mac just over 1 year ago this is the one tool I have been unable to replace.

On the linux desktop I used meld for years and miss it greatly.  It’s simple and effective and doesn’t do any more than is required.  I also spent a record amount of time trying to get this package to compile on OS X, something like 2 days once.  Would love to see a screenshot of someone who has it running 🙂  Current solution is to launch Parallels and run meld in Fedora, very painful ..

And please don’t suggest, this program is really anemic compared to meld.

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25 Comments For This Post

  1. Rudo Says:

    I recommend DiffMerge:



  2. Mathieu Kooiman Says:

    Suffering from the same problem, mostly when using subversion, but here’s a few I found:



    There’s some promise in VersionsApp ( ) but, well, it still isn’t available.

    I never quite got used to any of these, so now I’m just using TextMate’s SVN support.

  3. Thijs Says:

    I use Zend studio for eclipse. But the free version (PDT) also has a visual diff tool integrated. It’s nice to have all at hand. and no need to switch between applications.

  4. Ingo Says:

    I’m using kdiff3 from KDE, don’t remember though whether I compiled it myself (macports) or just downloaded it…

  5. bs Says:

    Install macports(.org), it has a meld package
    $ port search meld
    py-meld3 python/py-meld3 0.6.3 SGML template system
    meld textproc/meld 1.1.4 Visual diff and merge tool.

  6. Demian Turner Says:

    Don’t u think that’s the first thing I tried? Try it yourself and you’ll see what I mean about install probs.

    @Rudo + @Mathieu
    DiffMerge seems pretty good, thanks for the suggestion, way better than the 5 or so google results I tried

  7. kyle Says:

    I like TextWrangler (formerly bbedit lite). , I think.

  8. Ren Says:

  9. Jace Says:

    I use FileMerge that is part of the Apple XCode Developer Tools. You have to have a Developer account (free) and download the entire package, but I’ve found it to be the best /visual/ diff program so far.
    MacOSXHints review:

  10. Jace Says:

    D@mmit. See what happens when you hastily post a comment after only reading the first portion of the post from the RSS feed. I humbly apologize for posting my FileMerge suggestion after being explicitly asked not to. My Bad.

  11. Dennis Says:

    Like Kyle, I’ve been using BBEdit’s GUI diff (paid version of TextWrangler, but diff tool is same). I’ve been pretty happy with it, although I don’t know how it compares to meld.

    Changes ( also looks slick but I haven’t tried it myself.

  12. Brad Says:

    Along the eclipse route, I enjoy Subclipse along with the phpEclipse plugin. Great visual diffs, and a good php IDE.

  13. truman Says:

    Ok, I cant find where to download filemerge from the developers site.

    where is Filemerge.


  14. Demian Turner Says:

    /Developer/Applications/Utilities/, or just use spotlight, it’s a default app in OS X

  15. Регистрация товарного знака Says:

    I’m using kdiff3 from KDE, don’t remember though whether I compiled it myself (macports) or just downloaded it…

  16. Devon Says:

    I am a big fan of Meld as well and use it at work/home on Linux, and use Araxis at work on Windows. When I switched to a mac at home a year ago, finding a diff/merge tool was really tough for some reason (I pretty much tried all the free ones..and wasn’t going to pay for Araxis at home). Anyways, after a lot of time and pain, I did get Meld working on my Mac with macports and the following (some of which will fail and throw errors, but in the end this combination worked):

    $sudo port install meld
    $sudo port -f install p5-getopt-long
    $sudo port -f install meld

  17. Demian Turner Says:

    Hi Devon

    Your comment got me excited initially, am still dying to be able to run Meld on my mbp, but alas …

    Following your advice I get this (also uninstalled meld in an second attemtp, same results).

    Demian-Turners-Laptop:trunk root# port install meld
    —> Installing meld 1.1.4_0
    —> Activating meld 1.1.4_0
    Error: Target org.macports.activate returned: Image error: /opt/local/lib/meld/paths.pyc already exists and does not belong to a registered port. Unable to activate port meld.
    Error: Status 1 encountered during processing.

    Demian-Turners-Laptop:trunk root# port -f install p5-getopt-long
    —> Installing p5-getopt-long 2.37_0
    Error: Target org.macports.install returned: Registry error: p5-getopt-long @2.37_0 already registered as installed. Please uninstall it first.
    Error: Status 1 encountered during processing.

    Demian-Turners-Laptop:trunk root# port -f install meld
    —> Installing meld 1.1.4_0
    Error: Target org.macports.install returned: Registry error: meld @1.1.4_0 already registered as installed. Please uninstall it first.
    Error: Status 1 encountered during processing.
    Demian-Turners-Laptop:trunk root# meld
    No module named pygtk
    Meld requires pygtk2.6.0 or higher.

  18. Devon Says:

    I’m pretty new to macports, so debugging is a little tough. It looks like it’s trying to install Meld 1.1.4 though. When I installed it the other day, it found the latest 1.2. What version does “port search meld” return? When is the last time you synced macports?

  19. dan Says:

    I’m also dying to get meld working on my mac. but I get the same error. it’s pretty frustrating.

  20. dan Says:

    scratch that. I just got it working. had to change the first line of the meld executable to be this: #! /opt/local/bin/python2.5

    it was: #! /usr/bin/env python2.5

    looks like it was finding another python on my system which was not the one from macports/darwinports

  21. Jérôme Jaglale Says:

    A script shell to use FileMerge as a quick graphical diff tool for Subversion:

  22. Mike Gifford Says:

    Very good dan. That seemed to do the trick for me. Still get a warming:
    /opt/local/lib/meld/ GtkWarning: Unable to find default local directory monitor type

    but that seems pretty trivial as the rest of it pops up fine.

    I’m looking forward to using this again!

  23. Pat Niemeyer Says:

    FileMerge was a great find. I had no idea it existed. I was pleased to see that it will compare directories as well as individual files. Note that you can drop files onto the “left” and “right” drop targets, which may be faster than navigating to them via the finder.

  24. Demian Turner Says:

    yes the ‘drop file target’ feature is great, i always use this

  25. diego Says:

    Daniel E. Macks has made a meld fink package:

    KDiff3 for Mac OS X:

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