Standard UNIX utility for file comparison / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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In computing, the utility diff is a data comparison tool that computes and displays the differences between the contents of files. Unlike edit distance notions used for other purposes, diff is line-oriented rather than character-oriented, but it is like Levenshtein distance in that it tries to determine the smallest set of deletions and insertions to create one file from the other. The utility displays the changes in one of several standard formats, such that both humans or computers can parse the changes, and use them for patching.

Quick facts: Original author(s), Developer(s), Initial rel...
Original author(s)Douglas McIlroy
(AT&T Bell Laboratories)
Developer(s)Various open-source and commercial developers
Initial releaseJune 1974; 49 years ago (1974-06)
Written inC
Operating systemUnix, Unix-like, V, Plan 9, Inferno
LicensePlan 9: MIT License

Typically, diff is used to show the changes between two versions of the same file. Modern implementations also support binary files.[1] The output is called a "diff", or a patch, since the output can be applied with the Unix program patch. The output of similar file comparison utilities is also called a "diff"; like the use of the word "grep" for describing the act of searching, the word diff became a generic term for calculating data difference and the results thereof.[2] The POSIX standard specifies the behavior of the "diff" and "patch" utilities and their file formats.[3]