A modern diff utility

Information Options

For those not installing from a distribution, diffoscope includes --list-tools DISTRO, which lists dependencies, and --list-missing-tools DISTRO, which lists the external tools not currently installed on a system. You can get a sense of which distributions are contributing to diffoscope from some of the information options. In both commands, the distro must be specified as either Arch, Debian, or FreeBSD. For Debian, the option --list-debian-substvars displays dependencies that are required or simply recommended. All three options list what is required for full functionality. Depending on how you use diffoscope, it may function without all the packages listed (Figure 3).

Figure 3: For those building diffoscope from scratch, the command includes lists of packages needed for full functionality.

A Work in Progress

As I write, diffoscope is still in rapid development. As a result, some features are missing. Unlike diff, diffoscope has yet to support a two-column view, a feature that makes comparison handy. Moreover, while the list of supported formats is already impressive, it would be useful to support all the LibreOffice modules.

However, it seems clear that diffoscope has quickly expanded beyond its original purpose. In particular, as a writer, I was pleased to find that diffoscope is well-suited to comparing drafts, something that I do regularly when writing fiction or long non-fiction. After using it for a couple of weeks, already I wonder how I got along without it. It has become a tool that I use daily and have come to depend on.

The Author

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 (http://brucebyfield.wordpress.com). He is also co-founder of Prentice Pieces, a blog about writing and fantasy at https://prenticepieces.com/.

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