diff and merge

Repurposing Tools

diff, diff3, and merge are not the only programming tools that can be borrowed by writers. For example, multiple text files, including HTML, can be edited all at once by placing them in the same directory and using sed. I can't help thinking, as well, that my friend would have had less trouble sorting her files in the first place if she had been using a form of version control like Git; in fact, browsing GitHub shows that online help and manuals are already being stored there.

In the case of diff, diff3, and merge, the tools are even friendlier than they are for development, because perhaps a quarter of the options can be ignored. The major barrier for using them is that they require a different workflow than most writers have. Yet once the idea that these tools save time is understood, they can be as useful to writers as they are to programmers.

Bruce Byfield

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist and a freelance writer and editor specializing in free and open source software. In addition to his writing projects, he also teaches live and e-learning courses. In his spare time, Bruce writes about Northwest coast art. You can read more of his work at http://brucebyfield.wordpress.com

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