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Xcode for the Rest of Us, Part II

by Shelley Weiner
05/02/2006

You were just about to get up from a hard day's work--editing application documentation, or was it the final essay questions for your computer science class or, perhaps, the last-minute ReadMes for your company's next 20 beta releases. Your boss, resembling that pointy-haired rat fink of Dilbert fame, stops you in your path: The uber-boss wants to change at least 10 of those ReadMe files--for delivery tomorrow morning. Put the coat back on the rack, and resign yourself to another missed dinner with the loved one(s)? Not a chance. FileMerge to the rescue!

Xcode Tools for the Rest of Us

In my last article, I talked in brief about those Xcode 2.2 applications from the Developer tools package (available from your Tiger Install Disc I, or free from http://developer.apple.com when you sign up as an online member), and at some length about PackageMaker as an automated means to install applications, text files, and other items to your users' machines, preferably from the comfort of your own desk.

The other applications that might come in handy for you, the non-programmer, are:

  • FileMerge
  • Property List Editor
  • Interface Builder
  • Quartz Composer

In this edition of "Xcode for Non-Programmers," we extoll the virtues of FileMerge.

What is FileMerge (and Why Should I Care)?

No, that isn't a typo or smart-aleck spelling in this article's title. FileMerge goes way back to Unix's diff command.

If you man diff at the command line, here is its definition, according to the GNU pundits:

figure 1

Figure 1. man diff

What does this mean? It says that you can do a line-by-line comparison of output from one text file against another. Please note: we're talking about flat files only. None of what we discuss below will work on Word, Excel, or other types of formatted files.

So far, though diff sounds great, right? Well, perhaps you are the kind of person who likes to watch paint dry, too.

What about that other command you may have heard about: opendiff? Let's man opendiff and see what the diff (heh) is.

figure 2

Figure 2. man opendiff

If you scroll down the man page (using your space bar), you'll see that both opendiff and FileMerge are included as part of the Mac OS X Developer Tools, opendiff being a binary and FileMerge being an application. Does that mean you can use either the command line or the GUI tool to do your work? Yes.

Let's start with opendiff. If you try to search for opendiff in the Finder, you will come up empty-handed. As Mary Norbury-Glaser explained in her excellent series about Terminal, you can either navigate your way at the command line to the /usr/bin/ directory and run the opendiff command from there:

figure 3

Figure 3. Go to folder

Or you can go to the folder from the Finder's Go menu:

figure 4

Figure 4. opendiff in /usr/bin

Let's face it: if you are like most Mac OS X users, it's GUI, baby, all the way. Let's go and find FileMerge.

Running Mac OS X Tiger

Related Reading

Running Mac OS X Tiger
A No-Compromise Power User's Guide to the Mac
By Jason Deraleau, James Duncan Davidson

Pages: 1, 2, 3

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