Beyond Compare

I have used this essential diff tool for as long as I can remember, starting with its original Windows version. I still have both versions, and found Beyond Compare (henceforth BC) to be better on Windows. There are a few annoying problems on Mac.




Quick verdict: 4 stars

That said, BC is a time-saver for interpreters, especially when we get several updates of last-minute scripts for a conference. For example,

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as the Word file name suggests, this is the 6/4 update (second update) to the scripts of speeches to be used on 6/5. The first version was provided a couple of days before. Sense of duty urged me to start preparing for the speeches based on the earlier version of scripts, but it'll be a great time sink if I have to go through the same iterations of preparation based on each newer update of script with unknown amount of textual changes in it. What is worse, the host promises yet another (final?) document update the day of the conference, probably only hours if not minutes before the event!

This is where BC comes in. You first convert the script to plain text, and use BC to diff two versions to quickly find out exactly what text got changed. Major changes can be as significant as reordering of paragraphs; minor changes are additions or deletions of sentences or part thereof, or updates to factual things like figures or names. Tiny changes would be corrections to typos and the like. Whatever they are, BC finds them all. I then update my target-language notes based on the changes I observe.

Without a tool like BC, it will take many times the time for me to visually and manually read and compare both documents. This is unreasonable especially when all this prep time leading to interpreting in the actual conference is rarely compensated for.

An interesting idea is worth watching out for: will the now ubiquitous GPT-based services produce a list of diffs on command and on textual input of both documents? #gpt




I upgraded my Beyond Compare 3 to version 4 Standard for Mac, because I saw no reason for the Pro license. I started using it on Windows long ago, but now I use MacOS almost exclusively. On the Mac, BC is buggy in at least one place: the show left/right side newer or orphan view doesn't seem to work, so I have to use the more general "show change" view instead. That said, this is a must-have tool for keeping one's mind sane. Anyone who has duplicated data would agree, and that means everyone. :-)