Mastering Linux Commands: Comparing Files and Folders in Linux

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced professional in IT, understanding the functionality of the Linux operating system can significantly enhance your efficiency. This article introduces the use of the diff command in Linux. Additionally, it provides a guide on how to compare files and folders using this command.

The content in this article is based on a systematic video tutorial which you can watch for visual learning and better experience.

Key Concepts Explanation

The primary goal of this section is to delve into the most basic and yet highly useful feature of Linux i.e., ‘diff’ command. Diff stands for difference. As its name suggests, it helps to find the difference between two text files. This command is very beneficial when you have to compare codes or documents, line by line.

The diff Command

Linux’s diff command compares files line by line. It produces a list of changes made from one file (file1) to another (file2). The output is presented in such a way that it is both human-readable and machine-readable. For example; if you have two files file1.txt and file2.txt, you can use following command to see how they differ:

diff file1.txt file2.txt

Preparing a Dataset to Explore the diff Command

Before exploring the diff command, it’s essential to prepare a dataset. This process includes creating several files and adding identical and varying data in those files. Once your dataset is ready, you can start comparing files using the diff command.

Hands-On Tasks

To understand the diff command better, you can perform the following tasks:

  1. Create two text files and add some content. Then, compare these files using the diff command. Understand how the changes are presented in the output.
  2. Modify one of the two files and again use the diff command to notice the differences.
  3. Ignore cases or white spaces during the comparison by using options with the diff command i.e., ‘-i’ for ignoring cases and ‘-w’ for ignoring all white spaces.
  4. Try unified (‘-u’) or side by side (‘-y’) comparison using diff in Linux.


Understanding Linux commands like diff can significantly enhance your efficiency in system administration tasks, software development, or DevOps roles. Diff command is a powerful tool to find differences between text files, understand changes over time, and rectify errors. Continue practicing the different options of the ‘diff’ command for refined line by line comparison, and don’t forget to experiment with comparing folders as well. Happy Learning!

Remember, practice is key to mastering Linux commands. Don’t hesitate to try out these commands and explore their options to deepen your understanding.

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