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Thursday·01·September·2011

Useful but Unknown Unix Tools: How wdiff and colordiff help to choose the right Swiss Army Knife //at 12:18 //by abe

from the colorful-diffs dept.

In light of the fact that it seems possible to fit the plastic caps of a Debian branded Swiss Army Knife (Last orders today!) on an existing Swiss Army Knife (German written howto as PDF), I started to think about which Victorinox Cybertool would be the best fitting for me.

And because the Victorinox comparison page doesn’t really show diffs, just columns with floating text which are not very helpful for generating diffs in your head, I used command line tools for that purpose:

wdiff

Because the floating texts are not line- but just whitespace-based, the tool of choice is not diff but wdiff, a word-based diff. It encloses additions and removals in {+…+} and [-…-] blocks. (No, those aren’t Japanese smileys although they look a lot like some. ^^).

The easiest and clearest way is to copy and paste the texts from Victorinox’ comparison page into some text files and compare them with wdiff:

$ wdiff cybertool34.txt cybertool41.txt
{+Schraubendreher 2.5mm,+} Pinzette, Nähahle mit Nadelöhr, {+Holzsäge,+} Bit-Schlüssel( 5 mm Innensechskant für die D-SUB Steckverbinder, 4 mm Innensechskant für Bits, Bit Phillips 0, Bit Phillips 1, Bit-Schlitzschrauben 4 mm, Bit Phillips 2, Bit Hex 4 mm, Bit Torx 8, Bit Torx 10, Bit Torx 15 ), Kombizange( Hülsenpresser, Drahtschneider ), Stech-Bohrahle, Kugelschreiber( auch zum DIP-Switch verstellen ), Mehrzweckhaken (Paketträger), {+Metallsäge( Metallfeile, Nagelfeile, Nagelreiniger ),+} Dosenöffner( kleiner Schraubendreher ), Kleine Klinge, Grosse Klinge, Ring, inox, Mini-Schraubendreher, Kapselheber( Schraubendreher, Drahtabisolierer ), {+Holzmeissel / Schaber,+} Bit-Halter, Stecknadel, inox, Schere, Korkenzieher, Zahnstocher

So this already extracted the information which are the seven tools which are in the Cybertool 41, but not in the Cybertool 34. Nevertheless the diff is still not easily recognizable on the first glance. There are several ways to help here.

First wdiff has an option --no-common (the according short option is -3) which just shows added and removed words:

$ wdiff -3 cybertool34.txt cybertool41.txt
======================================================================
{+Schraubendreher 2.5mm,+}
======================================================================
 {+Holzsäge,+}
======================================================================
 {+Metallsäge( Metallfeile, Nagelfeile, Nagelreiniger ),+}
======================================================================
 {+Holzmeissel / Schaber,+}
======================================================================

This is already way better to quickly recognize the actual differences.

But if you still also want to see the common tools of the two knifes you need some visual help:

One option is to use wdiff’s --terminal (or short -t) option. Added words are then displayed inverse and removed words are shown underlined (background and foreground colors hardcoded as there is no “invert colors” style in CSS or HTML):

$ wdiff -t cybertool34.txt cybertool41.txt
Schraubendreher 2.5mm, Pinzette, Nähahle mit Nadelöhr, Holzsäge, Bit-Schlüssel( 5 mm Innensechskant für die D-SUB Steckverbinder, 4 mm Innensechskant für Bits, Bit Phillips 0, Bit Phillips 1, Bit-Schlitzschrauben 4 mm, Bit Phillips 2, Bit Hex 4 mm, Bit Torx 8, Bit Torx 10, Bit Torx 15 ), Kombizange( Hülsenpresser, Drahtschneider ), Stech-Bohrahle, Kugelschreiber( auch zum DIP-Switch verstellen ), Mehrzweckhaken (Paketträger), Metallsäge( Metallfeile, Nagelfeile, Nagelreiniger ), Dosenöffner( kleiner Schraubendreher ), Kleine Klinge, Druckkugelschreiber, Grosse Klinge, Ring, inox, Mini-Schraubendreher, Kapselheber( Schraubendreher, Drahtabisolierer ), Holzmeissel / Schaber, Bit-Halter, Stecknadel, inox, Schere, Korkenzieher, Zahnstocher

But some still like to to use color instead of the contrast-rich inverse and the easily to oversee underlining. This is where colordiff comes into play:

colordiff

colordiff is like syntax highlighting for diffs on the command line. I works with classic and unified diffs as well as with wdiffs and debdiffs (the debdiff command is part of the devscripts package).

$ wdiff cybertool34.txt cybertool41.txt | colordiff
{+Schraubendreher 2.5mm,+} Pinzette, Nähahle mit Nadelöhr, {+Holzsäge,+} Bit-Schlüssel( 5 mm Innensechskant für die D-SUB Steckverbinder, 4 mm Innensechskant für Bits, Bit Phillips 0, Bit Phillips 1, Bit-Schlitzschrauben 4 mm, Bit Phillips 2, Bit Hex 4 mm, Bit Torx 8, Bit Torx 10, Bit Torx 15 ), Kombizange( Hülsenpresser, Drahtschneider ), Stech-Bohrahle, Kugelschreiber( auch zum DIP-Switch verstellen ), Mehrzweckhaken (Paketträger), {+Metallsäge( Metallfeile, Nagelfeile, Nagelreiniger ),+} Dosenöffner( kleiner Schraubendreher ), Kleine Klinge, Grosse Klinge, Ring, inox, Mini-Schraubendreher, Kapselheber( Schraubendreher, Drahtabisolierer ), {+Holzmeissel / Schaber,+} Bit-Halter, Stecknadel, inox, Schere, Korkenzieher, Zahnstocher

$ wdiff cybertool29.txt cybertool41.txt | colordiff
{+Schraubendreher 2.5mm,+} Pinzette, Nähahle mit Nadelöhr, {+Holzsäge,+} Bit-Schlüssel( 5 mm Innensechskant für die D-SUB Steckverbinder, 4 mm Innensechskant für Bits, Bit Phillips 0, Bit Phillips 1, Bit-Schlitzschrauben 4 mm, Bit Phillips 2, Bit Hex 4 mm, Bit Torx 8, Bit Torx 10, Bit Torx 15 ), {+Kombizange( Hülsenpresser, Drahtschneider ),+} Stech-Bohrahle, {+Kugelschreiber( auch zum DIP-Switch verstellen ), Mehrzweckhaken (Paketträger), Metallsäge( Metallfeile, Nagelfeile, Nagelreiniger ),+} Dosenöffner( kleiner Schraubendreher ), Kleine Klinge, [-Druckkugelschreiber,-] Grosse Klinge, Ring, inox, Mini-Schraubendreher, Kapselheber( Schraubendreher, Drahtabisolierer ), {+Holzmeissel / Schaber,+} Bit-Halter, Stecknadel, inox, {+Schere,+} Korkenzieher, Zahnstocher

(Coloured “Screenshots” done with ANSI HTML Adapter from the package aha.)

Some, especially those who are used to git, are probably confused by the default choice of diff colors. This is easily fixable by writing the following into you ~/.colordiffrc:

newtext=green
oldtext=red
diffstuff=darkblue
cvsstuff=darkyellow

(See also /etc/colordiff for the defaults and hints.)

colordiff has by the way two operating modes:

  • Without parameter it reads diffs from standard input as seen above.
  • With parameters it works as drop-in diff replacement including all diff options as shown below.

So now let us compare the Cybertool 29 with Cybertool 34 in a normal diff (by using the texts from above and replacing all commata with newline characters) with git-like colors:

$ colordiff cybertool29-lines.txt cybertool34-lines.txt
12a13,14
> Kombizange( Hülsenpresser
> Drahtschneider )
13a16,17
> Kugelschreiber( auch zum DIP-Switch verstellen )
> Mehrzweckhaken (Paketträger)
16d19
< Druckkugelschreiber
25a29
> Schere

Or as unifed diff with some context:

$ colordiff -u cybertool29-lines.txt cybertool34-lines.txt
--- cybertool29-lines.txt     2011-08-31 20:55:37.195546238 +0200
+++ cybertool34-lines.txt   2011-08-31 20:55:11.667710504 +0200
@@ -10,10 +10,13 @@
 Bit Torx 8
 Bit Torx 10
 Bit Torx 15 )
+Kombizange( Hülsenpresser
+Drahtschneider )
 Stech-Bohrahle
+Kugelschreiber( auch zum DIP-Switch verstellen )
+Mehrzweckhaken (Paketträger)
 Dosenöffner( kleiner Schraubendreher )
 Kleine Klinge
-Druckkugelschreiber
 Grosse Klinge
 Ring
 inox
@@ -23,5 +26,6 @@
 Bit-Halter
 Stecknadel
 inox
+Schere
 Korkenzieher
 Zahnstocher

So if you want nicely colored diffs with Subversion like you’re used to with git, you can use svn diff | colordiff.

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