Custom Merge and Diff Tool for Git

4 minute read

Overview

Using a VCS (Version Control System) is a common tool for source code management. It is very helpful not only for projects involving multiple team members but also for solo projects. Given that many members are involved, it is inevitable to encounter source conflicts or differences upon submitting changes to the repository.

Diff tools are available in order to help people view the source differences. It can show which files/lines of the source code are added, modified, and/or deleted. The output format of diff tools may vary but still, they address the issue on displaying source differences.

One example of a VCS that supports a diff tool is Git. It is a distributed VCS that provides a command, diff, for showing the changes between two source versions. May check its documentation for complete details.

Problem

Usually, output generated by diff tools are linear. An individual will have a hard time comparing source files especially if there are many conflicts involved. Is there an alternative display format for addressing this issue? What can be used that can be integrated with Git?

Solution

Many diff tools like WinMerge and P4Merge support a more visual output. Some of the core features are side-by-side comparison and text highlighting. May check the tools first and try them out to see if they can really be useful on your side.

Given that you liked the tools mentioned above, can they be integrated directly with Git? Fortunately, Git provided the commands difftool and mergetool for using external diff tools. Also, Git already provided a guide for customizations. Best to check the ā€œExternal Merge and Diff Toolsā€ā€ section for integrating P4Merge with Git.

Before, I usually use WinMerge for direct comparison of files but when I started using Git, I encountered P4Merge and Iā€™m very happy with its support for Three-Way Merging. I can easily understand the desired change as the origin file is included in comparison.

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