Compare 2 Pdf Files For Differences
Compare 2 Pdf Files For Differences – There are a few basic tasks that we need to do with most, if not all, documents. One is to compare two versions of essentially the same document. These could be legal agreements or revisions to reports, which are now likely to arrive in PDF format. In this article you will learn how to compare the content of two PDF files or why it is not possible.
Comparing PDF files isn’t a feature you’re likely to find in applications that otherwise have extensive support for the document format. They offer more of a form of editing, but not the ability to compare two documents. Try Adobe Acrobat Reader and you’ll be offered the tool, but the only way to get it is to upgrade to the full version of Adobe Acrobat DC with a monthly subscription. It’s an offer most would wisely turn down.
Compare 2 Pdf Files For Differences
A free solution is to export each of the documents as text and use a powerful text editor like BBEdit to compare these text documents. If you have Apple’s free Xcode SDK installed, you can use the FileMerge app, which is hidden in the app bundle and accessible via the “Open Developer Tool” command in the Xcode menu, but I prefer the BBEdit Find Differences…- command in the Find menu.
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Then you will see how variable the text exported from PDF files can be. An experiment worth trying is to make a copy of a rich text PDF document and open and save it multiple times with different applications, but without changing the content. This allows parts of the text to be moved, although this doesn’t appear to have changed at all when viewing the PDF. While you should be able to find all of the content, you’re likely to get a lot of false positives where there are differences between the text exported but not what you see in the documents themselves.
As far as I can see, the only “serious” feature that can compare PDF files is in the paid version of Adobe Acrobat DC. I picked up my copy, went through it, and found that it was also of limited use for this task. Aside from Acrobat’s happily standard Martian interface, small differences between PDFs often trigger hundreds of differences being reported by Acrobat. If you have all day to go through each page, it might just be a chore, but if you want a clean and simple list of differences, you’re probably out of luck.
To test this, I took a text document with numbered lines, as is common with many legal documents, and printed it as a PDF. Then I made some small changes to it, converted it to a PDF and compared the two results.
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Because Acrobat was unaware of any underlying structure where minor changes in the text would cause lines to be renumbered, Acrobat marked each line as different. He also accounted for any page layout changes that did not involve a change in content: removing a single line on the first page of the document effectively made the rest of the document a long and tedious series of changes.
One strength, however, is that Acrobat reliably reports that documents have not changed, even if the structure of the text exported from them has changed. Also, I didn’t find much help for Acrobat because it was littered with trivial differences.
Given the popularity of PDF documents, you can imagine that there is a strong demand for something better to compare. However, any solution is doomed to failure unless it can overcome a fundamental design limitation of the PDF format: it does not store content in any form of semantic structure, only what is required to make each page look right. You can change this by manually concatenating each block of text, which is required, for example, for some PDF types that need to be compatible with text readers, but few people bother to do this and it’s rare for structured documents to be discovered this way.
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There are up to tens of thousands of objects in a PDF file, each containing code to generate part of a page. If you set a word in a paragraph and edit it with a different font and weight, the PDF tool may decide to split it up as another object to be placed on that page. However, there is no semantic connection between these objects, and individual PDF authors can even place each word independently as a separate object on the page. Working out how these words are assembled into text would then be a very difficult task even for “AI”.
Not only that, but because it’s such an old file format, it allows editors to pin objects to the end of the file so they don’t have to rewrite the entire file. Sometimes the PDF engine “flattens” all these added changes, which can completely change the structure of the objects.
Unfortunately, the PDF format was never designed to provide access to its content other than to display it properly on screen or in a printable page image. But the whole world is busy saving millions of its most important documents in PDF format every day. Does it sometimes seem a little crazy to you? Stack Exchange Software Recommendations is a question and answer site for people looking for specific software recommendations. Registration only takes a minute.
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I will mainly use it to compare new versions of license agreements (since I’m too lazy to read a 40+ page document for every minor change).
The app doesn’t need to be from the App Store nor official, I just need it to do what it’s designed to do (compare the PDF) very well.
DiffPDF is currently a paid software for Windows only, but previously it was free and available for OS X as well. You can still download such a previous version.
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” means “Page 4″…) This creates “Delta” documents where every pixel that differs between pages is colored red:
It should be noted that the comparison only works if the respective page sizes of the compared files are exactly identical.
Home now only offers a paid version of Windows, but previous versions were free. You can get the source code e.g. from Debian, contains compile instructions for OS X.
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While you may be looking for the first type of comparison, I wanted to provide you with a way to compare two PDF files side by side.
Since I’ve had this request regularly in the past and couldn’t find the necessary software for the comparison, I wrote my own and made it available on GitHub. It’s called pyPdfCompare and it’s available for free.
It works well on OS X and Windows, but requires Python 3, Ghostscript, and ImageMagick to be installed. Also, you need to run a
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Maybe this is a bit too technical and/or not exactly what you were looking for, but I wanted to offer this option anyway for the sake of completeness.
For your use case, matching the text and deleting all formatting and non-text elements would work well. You can run the pdftotext utility on each file and then run the text comparison tool on the result. On OS X you can install pdftotext from various freeware distribution channels like Brew or MacPorts, it is included
I think I should add one more option, which isn’t necessarily a tool or feature, but more of a trick to compare small PDFs (usually single pages like resumes).
How To Compare Two Pdf Documents
If your operating system makes the windows semi-transparent when you drag them, you can open both PDF files in a PDF viewer and then drag one PDF window over the other without letting go. This allows you to see through the first, semi-transparent window into the next PDF window below. When properly matched, the differences can be obvious.
I’ve often used this as a quick and dirty visual comparison to check if two one-page PDFs have the same content, but since it doesn’t require any software it should work on any operating system that has that semi-transparent effect when moving windows.
Comparing Pdfs; Diff Pdf, Pdftotext, Diff…
But if you’re looking for differences in document versions, you know how? Did you know that there are tools you can use to compare two PDF files side by side?
Today we will guide you through the best online platform to compare documents and PDFs side by side and make your life easier. is simply the best online document comparison tool. It’s easy to use, incredibly affordable, and fast.
Comparing the differences between two PDF files has never been easier. You can see all the differences just by dragging the files into the
Pdiff Express: Quickly Compare Pdf Documents
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