After you have installed WinMerge, step through the procedure and discussions in this topic to learn basic WinMerge operations and concepts. The methods shown are not the only ways to do things: there are usually several ways to do each task. When you are done, you can go on to learn other methods and more advanced skills, which are covered in other help topics.
Here are some of the methods you can use:
Double-click the WinMerge desktop shortcut.
Navigate to the WinMerge launcher in your Start menu.
In a Command Prompt window, cd to the WinMerge installation folder and enter WinMergeU.
In the WinMerge window use the following methods to open the Select Files or Folders dialog:
Click the Open tool bar button.
In the 1st and 2nd fields, specify the files and folders to compare. Use any of these methods:
Enter the path names directly into the fields.
Click thebutton to navigate to the desired path.
In the Open dialog, the text,
Selection, is initially displayed in the File
name field. Your selection depends on the type of
comparison you want to do:
If you are comparing files, select the target file. The
Folder Selection text is overwritten with
If you are comparing folders, open the target folder; do
not select a file. The
text remains in place.
Click 1st or 2nd field. If you specified folders, the field includes a backslash ( \ ) at end of the path.to dismiss the Open dialog and load your selection in the
Click the combo box and choose a previously-used path.
To make it easier to select frequently-used paths, consider enabling the Open-dialog Auto-completion option. With this option, WinMerge shows a list of paths available as you type in the fields. See Options and configuration for details.
Drag and drop a file or folder into the dialog or the 1st or 2nd field.
You can select only one pair of files or one pair of folders to compare. If you select a file and a folder or if one of the files or folders is not found, WinMerge disables thebutton in the dialog.
The status message at the bottom of the dialog also informs you if one of the paths is invalid.
If you are comparing folders, you can use the Filter field to eliminate some files from the operation. The field specifies a subset of files in the selected paths that are to be included; all unspecified files are excluded.
You can enter file masks to filter files with certain extensions. For example, this expression includes only C and C++ source files; all other file types are eliminated from your selection.
For more robust filtering, enter a filter file instead of file masks: click the Filters field to choose from a list of available filters. File filters contain any number of rules to either include or exclude files. WinMerge installs a set of filter files, which you can edit or augment with your own files.button next to the
See Using Filters for full details about file masks and filter files.
The Include Subfolders check box provides another way to control the scope of folder comparisons. If you check this option, WinMerge recursively compares subfolders, and shows all the files and folders it finds in one view. If you disable the option, only the current folder is compared, and subfolders are listed by name (without their contents), so you can browse into them.
The Select Files or Folders dialog is the main interface for opening files and folders. But you can use many other ways, too:
If you selected two folders in the Open dialog, the Folder Compare window is opened. The Folder Compare window is a tabular list of items found in the compared folders. Each row displays information about a found file, with the file name in the left column and additional information in the other columns:
WinMerge does not have a concept of original
and changed sides. Instead, it simply shows what is
different between two selected folders. A file or folder that is found only
on one side is simply shown as a unique item on that side, not as added or
removed. For example, in the Comparison result column
of the preceding figure,
Merge.rc.bak are each found in only one of the compared
You can manage files and folders in many ways using the
If a file or folder exists in both sides (and it is not a binary file) it can be opened for file comparison using one of these methods:
If you compare a subfolder, the new folder's comparison table is loaded in the current Folder Compare window . When you are done with that folder's comparison, you can navigate back to its parent folder by double-clicking the up arrow at the top of the Filename column.
If you compare a file, WinMerge opens the File Compare window, described in the next section. If you change a file in the File Compare window, and then return to the Folder Compare window, you will see the file's data is updated there.
The File Compare window shows the two selected files side by side, in separate File panes. Different lines are highlighted with a background color. One or more consecutive different lines form one difference (or diff). In the preceding example, a single difference is selected in the File panes and displayed by itself in the Diff Pane. WinMerge mainly works with these differences, not separate lines. When you merge a difference, you copy all of its lines from one side to the other.
Notice how WinMerge fills missing lines, so that similar lines are always aligned vertically, side by side. This is different from most other compare/merge programs, and can take a while to learn.
WinMerge has a simple integrated editor that features basic typing, copying, cutting and pasting of text. If Automatic rescan is enabled, WinMerge updates file differences while you edit a file. If Automatic rescan is disabled, you can update files by selecting → , clicking the toolbar button, or pressing F5.