At a Glance
IDM Computer Solutions has found a good niche for itself producing feature-rich tools aimed primarily at programmers and network administrators. Powerful file and folder comparison tool UltraCompare 8.0 continues this tradition.
The basics one expects from any diff tool are there: Side-by-side comparison of files or folders, color-coded highlighting of how they are alike or not alike, showing items missing or matching from either. UltraCompare also has a variety of nice features; for example, you can move to next/previous difference with or without also selecting the text of the difference.
In UltraCompare's three-way compare/merge mode, you can compare two documents to a third. The middle pane shows the primary source; the left and right panes show the files being compared to it. If multiple people have edited copies of a file, this is a good way to compare copies to a single standard.
Folder comparison is very similar in nature. UltraCompare highlights files which exist or are different in each directory. One of the primary uses for this functionality is verifying "standard" directories, such as the files needed to make an installation disk, or to look for unusual activity that could be a sign of file corruption or a virus.
The most useful new function is the ability to compare the content of Microsoft Word documents (.doc and .docx). Although most coding is done in plain text, writers of technical and detailed documents (such as legal papers) often choose Word. Having a comparison tool that "speaks Word" is very useful, especially if looking for tiny changes buried on page 67 of a contract. When being viewed in this way, font styles and other formatting are not shown; only the underlying text is displayed.
Another function is duplicate file search. This goes through any directories you select and find files which are identical, based on name, size, or a binary scan of content, as the user chooses. Although it works quickly, the report is difficult to use, and there are some interface issues. When going through the results, I clicked each set of duplicates, and checked the ones I wanted deleted. However, UltraCompare did not preserve the check marks as I moved from item to item. To delete duplicates, you need to look at a set of items, click the ones you want to remove, click a delete button, then move to the next set. One extra button click doesn't seem like much, but if you've got hundreds of duplicates, it adds up. In those cases, it might be better to use a dedicated duplicate search and removal tool, such as the free Auslogics Duplicate File Finder.
One annoyance that shows up in almost every part of UltraCompare is truncated path names. That is, it displays long paths as "C:\First Directory\Second Directory\(...)\Last Directory". This is welcome if the window is small, but no matter how much I widened the windows, it would not show more of the path name. Very often, the part I most needed to know was buried in the "(...)". UltraCompare shows the full path if you hover the mouse, but in some cases even this path was truncated. This issue has been acknowledged and been sent to development for review.
These minor issues aside, UltraCompare 8.0 is a full-featured powerhouse. Almost all development environments have built-in file comparison tools that deliver the basics, so UltraCompare is a worthwhile purchase if tracking changes, performing merges, and rooting out discrepancies is something you do often and you need as much functionality as you can get. (The ability to do Word compares extends functionality outside of the coding sphere, however--it's much easier to use, ironically, than Word's own comparison system.) If comparing files is something you do at all regularly, though, UltraCompare is worth its price.