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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » comparing story versions

   
Author Topic: comparing story versions
wetwilly
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It's not really important, but I'm curious how much I've actually changed my novel between drafts 1 and 2. Does anyone know of a program that will compare two documents and tell you a percentage of how much is the same/different between the two? Not that it matters, just mildly curious.
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extrinsic
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I don't know of an app that does what I think you want. WordPerfect's Compare Documents will compare two document versions and display differences between the two but not report how substantive the differences are. The document properties displays how many words, sentences, characters (glyphs), etc., any document contains. You could take the properties of the two documents and calculate the percentage difference between the two. For example, one has 70,000 characters, the other has 70,700 characters; the percentage difference is 1 percent.

A blink comparator, the Hinman collator, not the astronomy device invented by Carl Pulfrich, is a device invented in 1940 for comparing documents for similarities and differences.

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wetwilly
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Eh. No big deal. Thanks, though.
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Dirk Hairychest
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Microsoft Word does the same thing with Compare and Contrast. Though it also doesn't show statistics in percentages. I often use it to compare drafts.
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rcmann
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Linux has several. I recommend google for a listing. None are user friendly.
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Reziac
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Export both versions as plain text and open them both in WinMerge (free/open source). It will produce a graphic indicating roughly how much and where the documents don't match, and line-by-line. It does a fair job of this, tho can become confused if there are large rearrangements.

http://winmerge.org/

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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In the much-lamented and missed (by me, at least) DOS operating system, there was something called "file compare" in which you could ask it to compare the actual contents of two text files and list the differences.

I don't know if the winmerge.org option is comparable, but it sounds like it might be.

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Robert Nowall
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The Word program I downloaded to this new computer says it can compare changes to documents, but I have yet to avail myself of the feature...
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Reziac
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WinMerge works rather like the File Compare utility that came with XTreeGold (yep, another old DOShead here [Big Grin] ) -- not quite as good at the compare job, but is more flexible and will handle much bigger files. It will compare any filetype (and directories, for that matter), but you get spurious diffs if your document-compare is for anything other than plaintext. Even RTF, which is just glorified text markup, makes things messy.

Speaking therewhich, I believe it will also export or merge diffs, but I don't use it for that.

WordPerfect-DOS has a very good document compare function; dunno how good it is in the Win versions. I haven't used the function in Word.

DOS file compare works, but it's meant for checking whether a copied file got corrupted, from back in the ancient day when some hard disks had a habit of losing bytes. It can be used to see document diffs, but it's real ugly, and you kinda need to pipe the output to something that can scroll thru it, like Vern Buerg's LIST. Or dump the output to a file and look at that.

C:\> comp file1 file2 | list /s

(Assuming it does STDOUT. I forget.)

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RyanB
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I've used jEdit with the jDiff plugin before (http://plugins.jedit.org/plugins/?JDiffPlugin)

You can get two windows side by side with the differences highlighted in yellow. There's also a vertical bar that visually shows changes throughout the whole file(s).

It's a line by line comparison, so if you made small changes on most lines it won't help you much.

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rcmann
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@Kathleen & Reziac

FYI, You can download DosBox and use it to run DOS programs. Including XTree and old WordPerfect. Just in case you weren't already aware. I prefer Linux and modern Open Source, but FreeDOS is also alive and well and works surprisingly slick on modern hardware. Not everyone is GUI dependent.

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Reziac
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I've had worse luck with DosBox than with the XP console! DosBox didn't behave well at all for me. Conversely the console ran everything I wanted (except DOS stuff that uses an external DPMI engine) albeit with some initial arguing about screen fonts (tho they seem to have fixed that as of SP1).

ZTreeWin is a fair replacement for XTreeGold, but lacks Jeff's File Compare, the old util I mentioned (and sadly, the source for JFC has been lost). Well, maybe he's added something since I last looked.

On that note, a very clever website:
http://www.xtreefanpage.org/lowres/x10dirnj.htm

I keep a dedicated DOS machine anyway, if only for DOOM. [Big Grin]

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enigmaticuser
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That sounds interesting. I do sometimes run the summary tool on Word, but I'd never run it on different versions to see comparisons. Last time it was just a string of names though.
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