How to Compare Two Text Files on Mac

There are many instances when you need to compare two text files on your Mac — be it comparing versions of a document, checking changes in code files, or verifying data. macOS provides built-in utilities and additional software solutions for file comparison.

This guide will walk you through various methods to compare text files on your macOS device, discussing both the native options and third-party alternatives.

Method 1: Using the Terminal with ‘Diff’ Command

One of the simplest ways to compare text files on macOS is by using the built-in Terminal application with a command called diff.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Open the Terminal app (found in Applications -> Utilities, or use Spotlight Search).
  • Type diff -u followed by the paths of the two files you want to compare, separated by a space. For example:
    diff -u ~/Documents/File1.txt ~/Documents/File2.txt

This command compares the two files and outputs the differences. Lines beginning with a minus sign (-) are unique to the first file, and lines beginning with a plus sign (+) are unique to the second file.

compare two text files on mac

Method 2: Using Third-party Tools

There are also numerous third-party applications that can compare text files with additional features like merge conflicts resolution, syntax highlighting, and more. Examples include “Beyond Compare”, “Kaleidoscope”, and “Araxis Merge”. Some are free, while others require a purchase or subscription.

These tools typically provide a more user-friendly and feature-rich environment for file comparison. Check out their websites, compare features, and see which one suits your needs best.

Whether you’re comparing code for software development or documents for content editing, comparing text files on macOS is a breeze. The operating system’s built-in utilities such as Terminal provide quick and easy methods for comparison. Moreover, several third-party applications offer advanced functionalities that can be helpful for more complex comparisons.

While it may initially seem like a daunting task, with the right tools and know-how, comparing text files becomes a simple and efficient process.

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