(or emacs irrelevant)

Quickly ediff files from dired

ediff.el --- a comprehensive visual interface to diff & patch

I wrote about ediff years ago. Today, I'll just reference a useful ediff snippet from my config that I've added some time ago and refined only recently.

The premise is quite simple: press e in dired-mode to immediately ediff two marked files, no questions asked:

(define-key dired-mode-map "e" 'ora-ediff-files)

And here's the code, with a few bells and whistles:

;; -*- lexical-binding: t -*-
(defun ora-ediff-files ()
  (let ((files (dired-get-marked-files))
        (wnd (current-window-configuration)))
    (if (<= (length files) 2)
        (let ((file1 (car files))
              (file2 (if (cdr files)
                         (cadr files)
                        "file: "
          (if (file-newer-than-file-p file1 file2)
              (ediff-files file2 file1)
            (ediff-files file1 file2))
          (add-hook 'ediff-after-quit-hook-internal
                    (lambda ()
                      (setq ediff-after-quit-hook-internal nil)
                      (set-window-configuration wnd))))
      (error "no more than 2 files should be marked"))))

Some notes on how the extra code adds convenience:

  1. In case no files are marked, the file at point is used as the first file, and read-file-name is used for the second file. Since I have the magic (setq dired-dwim-target t) in my config, in case a second dired buffer is open, dired-dwim-target-directory will offer it as the starting directory during completion. Very useful to compare two files in two different directories.

  2. Depending on the order of the arguments to ediff-files, the changes will appear either as added or removed; file-newer-than-file-p tries to put the arguments in a logical order by looking at the files' last change times.

  3. ediff-after-quit-hook-internal is used to restore the previous window configuration after I quit ediff with q.

That's about it. Hopefully, it's useful. Happy hacking.