Replace diff/merge tool in Visual Studio Team System with WinMerge

I have been using Visual Studio Team System 2008 for a while now and am really starting to like the tightly integrated source control and work item functionality. One thing I cannot get used to is the basic diff/merge tool.

Where is the detail ?

The screenshot below demonstrates the basic nature of the diff tool built into Visual Studio Team System. There is no indication of the number of differences between the files being diff’ed or even the actual differences on a particular line …Visual Studio Team System Default Diff Tool

WinMerge

There is an alternative and it is both open source and free ! From the WinMerge site:

WinMerge is an Open Source differencing and merging tool for Windows. WinMerge can compare both folders and files, presenting differences in a visual text format that is easy to understand and handle.

Download WinMerge and install it.

Configure Visual Studio

Open Source Control > Visual Studio Team Foundation under the Tools > Options menu in Visual Studio.

Tools > Options > Source Control > Visual Studio Team Foundation

Click on Configure User Tools … and the Configure User Tools dialog will become available.

Configure User Tools ...

Add the WinMerge details for the Compare Tool. Click on the Add … button on the Configure User Tools dialog and configure as per the screenshot below. The arrow button next to the arguments text box exposes details about the information that Visual Studio can provide the tool being configured.

The configured arguments below are:
/e /u /wl /wr /dl %6 /dr %7 %1 %2

Configure Tool for Compare Operation

Add the WinMerge details for the Merge Tool. Click on the Add … button on the Configure User Tools dialog and configure as per the screenshot below. The arrow button next to the arguments text box exposes details about the information that Visual Studio can provide the tool being configured.

The configured arguments below are:
/e /u /wl /dl %6 /dr %7 %1 %2 %4

Configure Tool for Merge Operation

The Compare and Merge Operations should now be configured to use WinMerge.

Configured User Tools

WinMerge Command Line Options

WinMerge contains a number of command line options. The following are the ones used in the configuration above.

/e Enables WinMerge to be closed with a single Esc key press.
/u Prevents WinMerge from adding either the left or right hand side  file path to the Most Recently Used (MRU) list.
/wl Opens left hand side as read-only.
/wr Opens right hand side as read-only.
/dl Description for left hand side title bar.
/dr Description for right hand side title bar.

Finally a decent diff !

Now a Compare in Visual Studio is more meaningful, It shows the number of differences, their positions within the compared files and actual differences per line. WinMerge supports custom syntax colouring and diff colouring.

Visual Studio Team System with WinMerge

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Quick Guide: Replace diff/merge tool in Visual Studio Team System with WinMerge

I have been using Visual Studio Team System 2008 for a while now and am really starting to like the tightly integrated source control and work item functionality. One thing I cannot get used to is the basic diff/merge tool.

Quick Guide

This quick guide offers a no frills/get things done approach to replacing the diff/merge tool in Visual Studio Team System with WinMerge. There is a detailed guide for those that want to have a little more detail.

Quick Steps

  1. Download and install WinMerge.
  2. Open the Configure User Tools dialog for Team Foundation based source control in Visual Studio. Tools > Options > Source Control > Visual Studio Team Foundation > Configure User Tools
  3. Add the details for the Compare (diff) Tool by clicking on the Add… button. Extension: .* Operation: Compare Command: C:\Program Files\WinMerge\WinMergeU.exe Arguments: /e /u /wl /wr /dl %6 /dr %7 %1 %2
  4. Add the details for the Merge Tool by clicking on the Add… button. Extension: .* Operation: Merge Command: C:\Program Files\WinMerge\WinMergeU.exe Arguments: /e /u /wl /dl %6 /dr %7 %1 %2 %4