How to Compare Two Microsoft Word Documents


1. Compare two Word documents with MS Word
2. Beyond Compare
3. Diffchecker Desktop
4. Diffchecker Online
5. Draftable Online
6. Compare Two Documents with Google Docs
7. Conclusion



How can you compare two Microsoft Word documents to see all the differences between them?


With the methods below, you can compare them side-by-side, easily seeing where they differ.


You can either use the built-in "Compare" function in Microsoft Word or dedicated comparison software, which can be desktop or web-based.



1. Compare two Word documents with MS Word


Microsoft Word has convenient features to compare two documents. It highlights all the changes, so any revisions are easily tracked.


Here is a brief guide on how to use it:


  1. Open one of the Word files that you want to compare.


  1. From the "Review" menu, select "Compare" -> "Compare…"



  1. Select the two documents from the "Original Document" and "Revised Document" sections.


  1. Click the "More" button to see the advanced options. There, you can choose whether you want changes to be shown at the word or character level.



  1. Press "OK."



A new window will open, containing the compared documents.


On the left side, you will see the "Revisions" pane, summarizing all changes made to the revised document.



By clicking the "Reviewing Pane" button, you can turn off the reviewing pane and make the documents full screen.



The initial view layout of the documents can be changed from the "Compare" menu. You can choose if you want to see the changes displayed in one document only or to track all three documents synchronously – the original, the revised, and the new copy:


  1. For single document view, go to the menu Compare -> Show Source Documents -> Hide Source Documents.



You can edit the document shown. By default, all changes are highlighted in red.



  1. If you want to display both the original and revised document on the right and the edited document on the left, go to the menu Compare -> Show Source Documents -> Show Both.



When you scroll, the three documents move in sync.



Each difference can be accepted or rejected from the "Changes" menu.



After you finish your edits, you can save the file. The saved document will be separate, so the original files remain untouched.


This method allows you to easily merge two documents, keeping only the differences you want.


Everything described so far applies to comparing two Word documents, but what if you have multiple versions? You can get a good idea of ​​how to compare text in multiple documents from the article How to Search Text in Multiple Word Files.



  • Convenient and fast review of any changes.
  • Preserves the original document layout.
  • Built into MS Word – no need to install additional software.



  • The "Compare" feature is missing in the free online version of MS Word 365.
  • There are no advanced options for the comparison.



2. Beyond Compare


Beyond Compare is one of the oldest and most feature-rich document comparison tools. The software was created in 1996 by the American company Scooter Software. Its convenience and wealth of capabilities make it perhaps the most popular desktop tool of its type. The program has versions for Windows, macOS, and Linux.


The program's trial period is 30 days, after which you can buy a permanent license for $35.


Here are the steps by which you can compare Word documents with Beyond Compare:


  1. Download the installation file for your operating system, install it, and run the application.


  1. Select "Text Compare."



  1. Drag and drop the first Word document into the left pane and the second into the right one.



  1. Scroll down to see all the differences between the two documents.


Beyond Compare cannot directly merge two Word documents. If you want to merge the text, the easiest option is, instead of dragging the files, to copy the text of the documents directly in the corresponding panes. You'll see the line-by-line comparison, with two arrows appearing for each line where there is a difference, allowing you to transfer the changes.


If you want to transfer changes in a row from the left to the right document, click the arrow to the left of the left pane:



And vice versa – to transfer the changes from the right to the left document, click the arrow to the left of the right pane:



Also, the program offers a set of options when comparing texts:



Beyond Compare also has many additional features, such as:

  • Comparison of entire folders.
  • Folder synchronization – both local and via FTP.
  • Comparison of tables.
  • Image comparison.
  • Comparison of .mp3 audio files.

And many others.


Overall, Beyond Compare is a perfect option for comparing two Word documents when you don't necessarily need to see the text formatting and layout of the documents.



  • Convenient line-by-line text comparison.
  • An extensive set of options for comparison.
  • Effortless merging of text documents.
  • Many additional options for comparing entire folders, images, audio files, etc.



  • You cannot directly merge Word documents.
  • You cannot see the formatting and layout when comparing.
  • There is no completely free version.



3. Diffchecker Desktop


With Diffchecker Desktop you can easily see the differences between two documents. The free trial is 14 days, after which it costs $15 per month. There is no permanent license available.


Here is how to compare two Word files with it:


  1. Download, install, and run the application.


  1. Create an account by following the link in the application. You will automatically receive a 14-day free trial.


  1. Open the program, click the "Documents" button, and select the files to compare.


  1. Click on the "Find difference" button.



The program highlights all words that differ.



The program also offers some additional options. For example, the "Sort lines" option makes all lines of the two documents side-by-side for easier tracking.



There are several types of views:

  • Rich Text – shows original documents side-by-side
  • Redline – a single document view
  • And others.



Besides MS Word files, Diffchecker Desktop can compare plain text documents, images, spreadsheets and entire directories.



  • Easy to use with an intuitive design.
  • Multiple comparison views, such as redline, side-by-side, and merged views.
  • Fast comparisons of large files and complex documents.



  • Document layout not preserved in the side-by-side comparison.
  • No free version available.



4. Diffchecker Online


Diffchecker Online is a free web-based comparison tool. It has most of the desktop version's features but misses out the redline comparison, which is available only on the desktop application.


Here is a quick guide on how to use it:


  1. Open the tool, select the two documents, and click the "Find difference" button.



  1. The colors make it easy to see what is different at a glance.



In the left pane, you will see plenty of features – for example, you can switch between word or character highlighting.




  • Free online tool.
  • User-friendly interface.
  • Lots of advanced features and tools.



  • Cannot perform a synchronous side-by-side comparison while preserving the original document layout.
  • Redline (single document view) comparison is unavailable in the online version.
  • Slow initial document upload.



5. Draftable Online


Draftable Online lets you compare documents for free and it even preserves the original formatting so you can see precisely how the documents differ.


Follow these steps to use the tool:


  1. Go to the document comparison page, load the two documents and click the "Compare" button.



  1. The documents are compared side-by-side, with the "Changes" pane on the right showing all the differences.



  1. Click on the magnifier icon to search through the document.



There is also a single-document view, where you can track all the changes within one document.



The inserted symbols are underlined in blue.




  • Completely free.
  • Side-by-side comparison showing the original document layout.
  • Intuitive interface.
  • Lots of additional comparison features.



  • Changes can be harder to spot compared to other tools.
  • Lacks some features, such as a document map in the search bar.



6. Compare Two Documents with Google Docs


Google Docs is a free web-based document management tool. It has some of the functionalities of MS Word and allows you to edit your documents with a complete set of tools, including a compare function.


Here is how to compare two documents:


  1. Open Google Docs and log in with your Google account.


  1. Click on the folder icon to upload the first document.



  1. Choose Upload -> Browse.



  1. Click the menu File -> Open to upload the second document.



  1. Go to the first file for comparison.


  1. Click on the menu Tools -> Compare documents.



  1. Click the "My Drive" button and select the second document.



  1. Click the "Compare" button.



  1. Click the "Open" button.


The comparison view is a single document with all the changes highlighted. The added text is colored in purple, while the deleted text is struck out.



In the right pane, you will see all the changes one by one. You can accept or reject them, as well as add comments.




  • Free online tool.
  • Easy to share the work in a team.



  • You cannot view the two documents side by side.
  • Slow upload of the documents.
  • Too few comparison features (e.g., changes can be shown only at the word level).



7. Conclusion


In this guide, I’ve tried to show you the most productive ways to compare two Word documents. Each method presented has its pros and cons.


What is your experience? Leave a comment below – which method worked best for you?


And don’t hesitate to ask me if you have any questions, I will be glad to answer them.



About the author
Borets Stamenov
Borets is a specialist in electronics and software technologies from Sofia, Bulgaria. In his articles, he tries to explain as synthesized as possible the most helpful things in using software tools.

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