[xplorer˛] — Synchronization part I: Comparing
home » blog » 21 October 2007
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"I told you I was ill"Spike Milligan

Perhaps the best use of a dual pane file manager is comparing two similar folders. This is really easy in xplorer˛: browse one folder left, the other right and use the range of comparison commands in Mark menu. For example a simple <F9> will select all the files that either new or have been changed recently.

The usual scenario of synchronization is two folders containing almost identical files, both in names and content. Unlike a backup scenario where you only care to preserve the latest version, when you synchronize you seek details of changes. I have to do this many times in various programming assignments e.g. building xplorer˛ itself. What did I change in CrumbMenuHook.h and the breadcrumbs no longer work? Easy, pull up the previous version in a separate folder and use WinDiff or something similar to compare the source code (text) files line by line.

Two panes go a long way checking for modifications. With Goto | Mirror scrolling command you can see both versions of the same file left and right. As you scroll in the active folder the cursor automatically locates a same name file in the inactive folder, so you can check details like sizes and modification dates easily. If you are in detailed view mode you can align the two panes with Mark | Selection | Show for easier comparisons.

In more complex folder comparison cases you have to consider files in subfolders. xplorer˛ can assist this task in two ways. Activate Goto | Mirror browsing to have the inactive pane play follow the leader to the active one. E.g. when you enter a folder called level2 the inactive pane will dig into its level2, if such a folder is available. In this mode you can examine subfolder trees semi-automatically one folder at a time, browsing in and out in a mirror fashion.

Alternatively you can browse both folder hierarchies flat with Tools | Compare subfolders command. This special mode extracts all the files from all subfolders and presents them in a scrap view like as if they were in a single folder, organized in groups by folder — which helps identify the path structure. Then you can compare all contents in one stroke. Mirror browsing isn't required, but mirror scrolling is still valuable.

If all the above explanations are a bit hard to visualize, here's a demo explaining the various synchronization tips.

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