What’s the Difference? – Compare the Changes in Two Documents

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.


compare_menu.jpgSo, 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Open the second document through the comparison function.
    • Microsoft Word – Click “Tools” then “Compare and Merge Documents.”
    • OpenOffice – Click “Edit” then “Compare Document.”


  3. 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.



Microsoft Office


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3 Responses to “What’s the Difference? – Compare the Changes in Two Documents”

  1. Mackenzie Says:

    Why not use the “diff” command?

  2. blogger Says:

    Great idea! I don’t really use Linux too often to know all of the commands. If you’re in Windows, you can probably use DiffUtils or the native “comp” command.

  3. Open Office Downloads Says:

    We have found the Open Office tools to be far faster when comparing and tracking revisions in large documents. Many of our clients are using Open Office in large financial/trading and medical environments and as most these docs are complex and shared by many, speed is a BIG consideration.


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