May 10, 2008 · General · Email This Post

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colordiff is a wrapper for diff and produces the same output as diff but with coloured syntax highlighting at the command line to improve readability. The output is similar to how a diff-generated patch might appear in Vim or Emacs with the appropriate syntax highlighting options enabled. The colour schemes can be read from a central configuration file or from a local user ~/.colordiffrc file.

colordiff makes use of ANSI colours and as such will only work when ANSI colours can be used -- typical examples are xterms and Eterms, as well as console sessions.

colordiff has been tested on various flavours of Linux and under OpenBSD, but should be broadly portable to other systems.

Install colordiff in Ubuntu

sudo aptitude install colordiff

This will complete the installation.

Using colordiff

colordiff Syntax

colordiff [diff options] {file1} {file2}

colordiff Examples

Use colordiff wherever you would normally use diff, or pipe output to colordiff:

$ colordiff file1 file2
$ diff -u file1 file2 | colordiff

You can pipe the output to ‘less', using the ‘-R' option (some systems or terminal types may get better results using ‘-r' instead), which keeps the colour escape sequences, otherwise displayed incorrectly or discarded by ‘less':

$ diff -u file1 file2 | colordiff | less -R

If you have wdiff installed, colordiff will correctly colourise the added and removed text, provided that the ‘-n' option is given to wdiff:

$ wdiff -n file1 file2 | colordiff

You may find it useful to make diff automatically call colordiff. Add the following line to ~/.bashrc (or equivalent):

alias diff=colordiff

Any options passed to colordiff are passed through to diff.

Alternatively, a construct such as ‘cvs diff SOMETHING | colordiff' can be included in ~/.bashrc as follows:

function cvsdiff () { cvs diff $@ | colordiff; }

Or, combining the idea above using ‘less':

function cvsdiff () { cvs diff $@ | colordiff |less -R; }

Note that the function name, cvsdiff, can be customized.

Configuration files

/etc/colordiffrc -- Central configuration file. User-specific settings can be enabled by copying this file to ~/.colordiffrc and making the appropriate changes.

colordiffrc-lightbg -- Alternate configuration template for use with terminals having light backgrounds. Copy this to /etc/colordiffrc or ~/.colordiffrc and customize.

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