Comparing files using Visual Studio Code

  • Gérald Barré

In the previous post, I showed you how to use Visual Studio to compare 2 files. I also use Visual Studio Code from time to time. And, as every great IDE, Visual Studio Code also has a great diff tool. As with Visual Studio, you can use it to compare 2 versions of the same file if you use a source control. But you can also compare 2 files from your file system.

There are multiple ways to use the Visual Studio Code diff tool:

#Comparing files using the User Interface

  1. Open the 2 files in Visual Studio Code

  2. Right-click on one file and click "Select for compare"

  3. Right-click on the other file and click "Compare file file1 with file2"

You should see the result:

#Comparing files using the command line

  • Using Visual Studio Code

    code --diff file1.cs file2.cs

    Or, using the full path if code is not in the PATH:

    "%LOCALAPPDATA%\Programs\Microsoft VS Code\code.exe" --diff file1.cs file2.cs
  • Using Visual Studio Code Insiders

    "%LOCALAPPDATA%\Programs\Microsoft VS Code Insiders\Code - Insiders.exe" --diff file1.cs file2.cs

#Using Visual Studio Code as a git difftool

git difftool is a Git command that allows you to compare and edit files between revisions using common diff tools. You can use any editor that supports diff such as VS Code. Open a command prompt and use the following commands:

  • From CMD (Windows)

    git config --global diff.tool vscode
    git config --global difftool.vscode.cmd "code --wait --diff \"$LOCAL\" \"$REMOTE\""
  • From PowerShell (Windows or Linux)

    git config --global diff.tool vscode
    git config --global difftool.vscode.cmd "code --wait --diff ""`$LOCAL"" ""`$REMOTE"""
  • From Bash (Linux)

    git config --global diff.tool vscode
    git config --global difftool.vscode.cmd 'code --wait --diff "$LOCAL" "$REMOTE"'
  • Manually, open ~/.gitconfig or %USERPROFILE%\.gitconfig in a text editor and add the following content:

        tool = vscode
    [difftool "vscode"]
        cmd = code --wait --diff \"$LOCAL\" \"$REMOTE\"

You can validate the configuration by executing git config --global --list.

By the way, you can also use Visual Studio Code as your git editor:

git config --global core.editor "code --wait"

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