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Once you’re dealing with a codebase of even moderate size, code changes can be hard to spot across revisions. They can also be hard to remember. You know you updated a method in one of the files that updates the database, but which one was it? You could read through the files manually, but that could take a while.
Using “diffs,” either using the
diff command or tools built into IDEs or editors, can help you spot differences between revisions. But what if you’re looking to refactor your code to move similar snippets into a single function you can reuse? That’s where an advanced tool like Code Compare can come into play.
You don’t need to pay a dime to start using Code Compare. Many of the app’s features are available in a free version you can download from the Devart website.
That said, the features available in the Pro version may make it worthwhile for you to pay. If you decide to, Code Compare isn’t expensive compared to other coding tools. The app costs $49.95 for a single license. This includes a one-year subscription to Devart, which grants you free access to upgrades and product releases.
If you decide to stick with the free version, you’ll be glad to know that it isn’t crippled. You won’t find any nag screens or missing features. You simply don’t get access to the extra features included in the Pro version. We’ll explore the differences in features a little later in this article.
Code Compare has modest system requirements. When it comes to hardware, the only mention is that you’ll need 40 MB hard disk space in order to install the software. As for other requirements, the tool seems lightweight, so any computer you’re using should run it without trouble.
Software requirements aren’t steep either. Supported operating systems are Microsoft Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 / 8.1 and Windows 10. You’ll also need the .NET Framework, either version 4.0, 4.5, or 4.6, installed.
If you’ve ever used the diff command-line tool before, or the
diff command built into Git, you’ll have a rough idea of what Code Compare does. That said, comparing that command to this software is like comparing a Model T to a modern luxury sedan. They’re technically both the same thing, but one does a lot more, and you’ll probably enjoy using it more. You can visit the Devart website for an overview of Code Compare’s file comparison features.
One of the biggest niceties in Code Compare is the color-coding system. It’s simple: code that has been removed from one revision is highlighted in red, code that has been added is highlighted in green. Code that has been changed in some way is highlighted in blue. If this sounds familiar, it’s because this is the same convention used by GitHub.
Being able to use this on any files of your choosing is incredibly handy. As another plus, the fact that it uses the same conventions as GitHub and other services means that you don’t have to learn a new way of looking at your code.
No External Editor Needed
Most tools that offer file comparisons do just that. You can see the differences in two revisions, but to actually edit either file, you’ll need to open it in another editor. That isn’t the case with Code Compare.
Here you can just start editing text in either file, which is very handy. Obviously, this isn’t going to replace your text editor or IDE of choice, but for quick fixes, it’s very useful.
Compare More than Just Files
Comparing two files is handy, but sometimes you need more. Fortunately, Code Compare has you covered here, too, as it will handle directory comparisons in addition to file comparisons. This isn’t a feature everyone needs, but if you do, not having it is a deal-breaker.
As mentioned earlier, most Code Compare features, including everything mentioned above, are available in the free version. That said, you’ll find even more powerful features in the Pro version. One of these is the ability to detect similar lines.
Using the “Similar Lines” feature, Code Compare gets a lot smarter in its comparisons. Depending on whether you’re using Quick Mode or not, Code Compare can even detect similar lines where a variable has been renamed, which can be very useful if you’re in the middle of refactoring.
Another feature available in the Pro version is three-way comparison and merging. This lets you get a better idea of how different revisions have changed rather than comparing two side by side, and the merge functionality can be a lifesaver.
One major strength of Code Compare is how easily it integrates with both your operating system and other tools. When installing, you can choose to integrate it with Windows Explorer, letting you compare files more easily. Installation also gives you the option to integrate with Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server.
It also integrates with other version control systems like Git, Perforce, Mercurial, TortoiseSVN, etc.
If there’s a downside to Code Compare, it’s that it is only available on Windows. Making it available on macOS and Linux would be great for multi-platform developers. That said, sticking to Windows lets the developers focus on making Code Compare a powerful tool instead of chasing platform-specific bugs.
If you develop on Windows at all, it’s worth giving Code Compare a try. Chances are you’ll find a use for it in your bag of programming tools. If you make a living writing code on Windows, there’s no reason not to spring for the Pro version. It’s relatively cheap given how powerful it is, and chances are good it will make your life easier on more than one occasion.
When you download Code Compare, you get a free trial of the Pro features. After your time is up, the app reverts to free mode. This lets you decide which features of the tool are important to you and whether or not it’s worth it to you to pay for the Pro features.
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