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The 5 best Mac file comparison and diff tools

Eve Vosloo

Eve Vosloo

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File comparison or diff tools are very much the same things. They compare similar files quickly to find out exactly what the differences are and show them to you by placing them side-by-side for you to look at easily. They even highlight the differences in Mac files for you. 

Comparing Mac files can be necessary for many reasons, including ensuring that academic work is accurate and not plagiarised and looking for legal issues and mistakes or duplications in statements or other types of files. It takes the tedious manual work out of comparing files. Different software can compare text, images, symbols, video, or audio files. 

The 5 best Mac file comparison and diff tools

What can be compared in Mac files?

You can only make comparisons between the same file types. For instance, you cannot compare a text file to a picture with text unless the text has been extracted by an OCR (optical character recognition) process. Text also cannot be compared to spoken words unless the words have been transcribed into text so that they are the same type. 

Text in different languages also cannot be compared unless one of them has been translated so that they are in the same language. You can also compare whole directories or folders. 

Top 5 Mac file comparison and diff tools

Here is a list of 5 of the best comparison or Diff tools, some paid and some free, with free trials available.


Meld is a free diff and merge tool that makes file and folder comparisons on a Mac quick and easy. The software displays the files you want to compare side-by-side and conveniently highlights the differences between them. Meld does a three-way comparison of files and folders and updates any changes you make in real-time. 

This means you can see exactly what the effects are of any changes you might find necessary to make. You can also merge the files you compare once you have eliminated all the duplications. 

Meld for Mac DOWNLOAD
The 5 best Mac file comparison and diff tools

Kaleidoscope for Mac

Kaleidoscope compares text documents (including source code) as well as images. It can read a large variety of files including .psd, .txt, .png, .jpg, and .html. It’s paid software available for Mac OS but you can get a 15-day free trial. Kaleidoscope 3 has been redesigned completely. The app now supports Silicon-based Macs. 

It has a new darker appearance, and there’s a new reader view that hides everything apart from the text so that you can look at the content without any interference. The comparison engine is designed to give you the clearest view possible.

Kaleidoscope for Mac DOWNLOAD
The 5 best Mac file comparison and diff tools

Beyond Compare

Beyond Compare is paid software originally designed for Microsoft Windows. Now it’s available on the Mac platform and can be used with Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and S3. A free trial is available. You can include/exclude file types, apply filters during comparison, and compare file/folder structures. It goes further than merely comparing simple text and allows diffing of Word and PDF files. 

It has an easy-to-use interface and colorful buttons to make your tasks more fun. Beyond Compare places the files you are comparing side-by-side and then uses red text for highlighting significant differences and blue for minor ones. You can adjust the colors to suit your taste. 

Beyond Compare for Mac DOWNLOAD
The 5 best Mac file comparison and diff tools

Helix Visual Client (P4V)

Helix Visual Client (P4V) is free for up to five users and 20 workspaces. It works differently from other tools of this type because it’s enterprise software. P4V is the client for the Helix core server that hosts your data in a depot. You open the files in your workspace and edit them, and put them back in the depot when you’re done. 

P4V integrates with the P4 Diff and merge tool that compares and merges source files, images (PNG, JPEG, GIF), web pages, OS code, manuals, etc. It highlights areas that are identical in gray and those that are different in yellow.

Helix Visual Client (P4V) DOWNLOAD
The 5 best Mac file comparison and diff tools

Araxis Merge

This Diff tool works across macOS and Windows platforms, and a single license is valid for both platforms, which is a plus. It also works with more than text and image files. The app lets you compare office documents (like MS Word, Excel, Powerpoint, or ODF). It comes in standard and professional editions. 

Araxis Merge uses formatting tools and text extraction filters to help you see changes more clearly. You can see a summary of changes in the status bar. There are vertical and horizontal layout options to suit your preferences. It has a two- or three-way file comparison.

Araxis Merge DOWNLOAD
The 5 best Mac file comparison and diff tools

Compare, change, merge, or discard Mac files

Comparison and Diff tools are very useful. Many are available, but some have earned a good reputation for ease of use and reliability. Those are the ones we have featured here to guide you on what they can do and how to use them. Some are free. Some are paid, and some have the option of free trials. Take your pick and see what they can do for you.

Eve Vosloo

Eve Vosloo

I worked as a journalist for many years where I learned about computer software and how to research and write about almost anything under the sun. I became a copy editor, production editor, and book editor and used Adobe and Office software extensively. I learned about Mobile software by using phones, tablets and laptops. I love learning and writing about new trends and innovations.

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