diff - differential file and directory comparator
diff [-C n] [-S name] [-lrs] [-bcefhintw] dir1 dir2
diff [-C n] [-S name] [-bcefhintw] file1 file2
diff [-D string] [-biw] file1 file2
If both arguments are directories, diff sorts the contents of the
directories by name, then runs the regular file diff algorithm
(described below) on text files that have the same name in each
directory but are different. Binary files that differ, common
subdirectories, and files that appear in only one directory are
listed. When comparing directories, the following options are
-l Long output format; each text file diff is piped
through pr to paginate it (see pr(1)). Other
differences are remembered and summarized after all
text file differences are reported.
-r Applies diff recursively to common subdirectories
-s diff reports files that are identical but otherwise
-S name Starts a directory diff in the middle of the sorted
directory, beginning with file name.
When run on regular files, and when comparing text files that differ
during directory comparison, diff tells what lines must be changed in
the files to bring them into agreement. diff usually finds a smallest
sufficient set of file differences. However, it can be misled by
lines containing very few characters or by other situations. If
neither file1 nor file2 is a directory, either can be specified as -,
in which case the standard input is used. If file1 is a directory, a
file in that directory whose filename is the same as the filename of
file2 is used (and vice versa).
There are several options for output format. The default output
format contains lines resembling the following:
n1 a n3,n4
n1,n2 d n3
n1,n2 c n3,n4
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These lines resemble ed commands to convert file1 into file2. The
numbers after the letters pertain to file2. In fact, by exchanging a
for d and reading backwards one may ascertain equally how to convert
file2 into file1. As in ed, identical pairs where n1=n2 or n3=n4 are
abbreviated as a single number.
Following each of these lines come all the lines that are affected in
the first file flagged by <<<<, then all the lines that are affected in
the second file flagged by >>>>.
Except for -b, -w, -i, or -t which can be given with any of the
others, the following options are mutually exclusive:
-e Produce a script of a, c, and d commands for the ed
editor suitable for recreating file2 from file1. Extra
commands are added to the output when comparing
directories with -e, so that the result is a shell
script for converting text files common to the two
directories from their state in dir1 to their state in
dir2 (see sh-bourne(1)
-f Produce a script similar to that of the -e option that
is not useful with ed but is more readable by humans.
-n Produce a script similar to that of -e, but in the
opposite order, and with a count of changed lines on
each insert or delete command. This is the form used by
rcsdiff (see rcsdiff(1)).
-c Produce a difference list with 3 lines of context. -c
modifies the output format slightly: the output begins
with identification of the files involved, followed by
their creation dates, then each change separated by a
line containing about twelve asterisks (*)s. Lines
removed from file1 are marked with -, and lines added to
file2 are marked +. Lines that change from one file to
the other are marked in both files with with !. Changes
that lie within 3 lines of each other in the file are
grouped together on output.
-C n Output format similar to -c but with n lines of context.
-h Do a fast, half-hearted job. This option works only
when changed stretches are short and well separated, but
can be used on files of unlimited length.
Create a merged version of file1 and file2 on the
standard output, with C preprocessor controls included
so that a compilation of the result without defining
string is equivalent to compiling file1, while compiling
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the result with string defined is equivalent to
-b Ignore trailing blanks (spaces and tabs) and treat other
strings of blanks as equal.
-w Ignore all whitespace (blanks and tabs). For example,
if ( a == b ) and if(a==b) are treated as equal.
-i Ignores uppercase/lowercase differences. Thus A is
treated the same as a.
-t Expand tabs in output lines. Normal or -c output adds
one or more characters to the front of each line.
Resulting misalignment of indentation in the original
source lines can make the output listing difficult to
interpret. This option preserves original source file
LANG determines the locale to use for the locale categories when both
LC_ALL and the corresponding environment variable (beginning with LC_)
do not specify a locale. If LANG is not set or is set to the empty
string, a default of "C" (see lang(5)) is used.
LC_CTYPE determines the space characters for the diff command, and the
interpretation of text within file as single- and/or multi-byte
LC_MESSAGES determines the language in which messages are displayed.
If any internationalization variable contains an invalid setting, diff
and diffh behave as if all internationalization variables are set to
"C". See environ(5).
International Code Set Support
Single- and multi-byte character code sets are supported with the
exception that diff and diffh do not recognize multi-byte alternative
Upon completion, diff returns with one of the following exit values:
0 No differences were found.
1 Differences were found.
>>>>1 An error occurred.
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The following command creates a script file script:
diff -e x1 x2 >>>>script
w is added to the end of the script in order to save the file:
echo w >>>>>>>> script
The script file can then be used to create the file x2 from the file
x1 using the editor ed in the following manner:
ed x1 <<<< script
The following command produces the difference output with 2 lines of
context information before and after the line that was different:
diff -C2 x1 x2
The following command ignores all blanks and tabs and ignores
diff -wi x1 x2
Editing scripts produced by the -e or -f option are naive about
creating lines consisting of a single dot (.).
When comparing directories with the -b, -w, or -i options specified,
diff first compares the files in the same manner as cmp, then runs the
diff algorithm if they are not equal. This may cause a small amount
of spurious output if the files are identical except for insignificant
blank strings or uppercase/lowercase differences.
The default algorithm requires memory allocation of roughly six times
the size of the file. If sufficient memory is not available for
handling large files, the -h option or bdiff can be used (see
With other options if sufficient memory is not available, then either
the swap or maxdsiz values can be increased.
When run on directories with the -r option, diff recursively descends
sub-trees. When comparing deep multi-level directories, more memory
may be required than is currently available on the system. The amount
of memory required depends on the depth of recursion and the size of
diff was developed by AT&T, the University of California, Berkeley,
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/usr/lbin/diffh used by -h option
bdiff(1), cmp(1), comm(1), diff3(1), diffmk(1), dircmp(1), ed(1),
more(1), nroff(1), rcsdiff(1), sccsdiff(1), sdiff(1), terminfo(4).
diff: SVID2, SVID3, XPG2, XPG3, XPG4, POSIX.2
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