In this never-ending quest for quality freeware to introduce to the freeware review, my dad asked me to find him something that did one specific thing. He needed a program that would compare the differences between two documents.
Take, for example, transcription. If you want to ensure the accuracy of a transcript, you can have two people transcribe the recording of a speech or interview to separate documents. Then, you run a program to compare the two. Maybe one transcriber heard “He hurt the baby” instead of “He burped the baby.” One word can make a world of difference!
Another example of using a comparison program is when you email your friend a document so that he or she can proofread it. Your friend edits the document and emails it back to you. Instead of going through the entire document line-by-line to see changes, you can just run the comparison program to point you to the changes.
So, I set out looking for a program similar to what my dad described. I rationalized, “Maybe this could be useful to me as well. I can compare changes in a programming syntax.” I found the program in a very unlikely place. It’s an application found in nearly every computer in the world, Microsoft Word. I felt so stupid! This whole time, I had the answer right under my nose! I remember learning about the “Compare and Merge” feature in my Computer Applications 101 high school class. People, they teach these things for a reason! Take advantage of learning the “ins and outs” of Microsoft Office applications in school. It will do you some good!
For those Linux geeks who feel animosity towards anything Microsoft-related, there is good news for you too. OpenOffice also comes with a comparison function similar to Microsoft Office. It’s not quite as robust or pretty but it does a decent job for being free and all.
Operation is pretty much the same with both office suites.
- Open one of the documents. If comparing a revision or proofreading notes, you would open the original file, which is the one with the earliest modification date.
- Open the second document through the comparison function.
- Microsoft Word – Click “Tools” then “Compare and Merge Documents.”
- OpenOffice – Click “Edit” then “Compare Document.”
- Then you will see the changes in red and/or in another dialog box.
As you can see, the results in Microsoft Word are much more pretty and understandable than OpenOffice.
Leave a comment or email me if you have any suggestions of questions!