Understanding the Folder Compare Display

Previous Up Next

The Folder Compare display uses color cues to highlight the differences between the two base folders.  By default, the color meanings are:



Unknown or older






Orphan (does not exist on other side)



Newer or different

Pick View > Legend to display a guide to the various folder icon color combinations.

To change the default colors, pick Tools > Options , switch to the Colors, Fonts > Folder Views page, and find the Compare colors settings.

You can click on a column header to sort by that column, or right-click the header to pick different columns to display.

Files in the display

In the following example, the file on the right side is colored red to show that it is newer.  The icon in the center column shows that a content comparison has found differences.

The color spot to the left of a filename shows the difference color cue, even when a selection obscures the coloring of the other elements on the line.

The center column shows the results of a content comparison, if one has been performed.

The content comparison results can override the file colors.  For example, the above line would change to all black if the content comparison determines the files match.  To disable this behavior, pick Session > Session Settings , switch to the Comparison tab, and unmark the Override quick test results checkbox.

On Windows file systems, the filename may be followed by letters in parenthesis that represent the DOS attributes of read-only (r), hidden (h), archive (a), and system (s).

Some file types, such as zip archive files, can be a container for other files.  Beyond Compare can handle these like regular folders.  The following example shows our compiled help file with a newer version on the right side.  Notice the special "zipper" icon.

You can double-click the file to expand it and compare each of the contained files.

Folders in the display

Folders are colored to give you hints about their contents.  For instance, the comparison below lets you know that the folders contain at least one file that is newer on the right (red), and that both sides have at least one orphaned file (purple).

Folders may appear hollow when you first start the comparison.  This happens when the background scanning process has not yet completed those folders.  They will change color when the process is finished.

A folder will be yellow if auto-scan is turned off and you haven't opened the folder yet.  Once you manually open the folder (and possibly its subfolders) it will be colored appropriately.

Folder icons will include a small arrow glyph if the folder is a junction point or symbolic link.  Folder icons will include a small red "X" glyph if there was an error trying to open the folder.  The following example shows a folder with both conditions.