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Lifehacker: The Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, and Better, Third Edition by Gina Trapani, Adam Pash

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Hack 107: Compare and Merge Files and Folders with WinMerge

Level Medium

Platform Windows

Cost Free

When several people work on the same set of files — making changes and copies — multiple versions can blossom out of control. Figuring out what’s been updated on which version and merging it all back together can be a gargantuan task, but it doesn’t have to be. If your kids download images from the digital camera repeatedly to different locations on the computer, or you and your co-worker lost track of who made the latest changes to that PowerPoint presentation, you need the free, open-source Windows utility WinMerge. WinMerge can compare and merge documents and folders on your computer.

Download WinMerge (available at http://winmerge.org) and install it on your PC. During installation, select the Windows Explorer integration option, which comes in handy later.

At first glance, WinMerge is a little intimidating — especially to users who haven’t worked with file diff utilities before — but it’s quite helpful after you make it your friend.

Compare and Merge Folders

You have two directories of photos downloaded from the camera. Some were cropped and had the red-eye removed, some weren’t; new photos were taken and old ones redownloaded. Here’s how WinMerge can help.

First, in Windows Explorer, select the two directories of photos (in this example, C:\photos\ and C:\pics\) by Ctrl+Clicking each directory, then choose WinMerge from the right-click context menu. You get a file listing ...

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