Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I want to see, recursively, files that are different in two directories. Diff can do this, but it shows me the line-by-line differences, which I don't want. Is there a tool that does this, or a way to do this with Diff ( I read the man page, I didn't see anything ) ?

share|improve this question
Just following up; did diff -rq work for you, or did you need something else? – rob Oct 23 '09 at 23:12
up vote 27 down vote accepted

What about

diff -rq DIR1 DIR2


diff -rqb DIR1 DIR2

-r is recursive

-q is for brief, and will just tell you if the files are different (i.e., it won't show the line-by-line differences)

-b ignores whitespace

share|improve this answer
-b ignores white space changes. Use -q or --brief for the brief option. – Doug Harris Oct 9 '09 at 18:59
And I've just upvoted this. I just tried the brief option for the first time. It's very nice output -- shows not just which files are different but identifies which files exist in one directory and not the other. – Doug Harris Oct 9 '09 at 19:02
Thanks Doug; I guess I originally had my option rotated 180 degrees. ;) Fixed now. – rob Oct 9 '09 at 21:18

You're looking for the -q option:

dlamblin$ diff -r a b
diff -r a/a b/a
Only in b: b
dlamblin$ diff -qr a b
Files a/a and b/a differ
Only in b: b
share|improve this answer

One way to do this is to do

diff dir1 dir1| grep "diff "

It will still do a line-by-line comparison, but each file comparison begins with "diff dir1/file dir2/file", so grepping "diff " will show only those lines ( i.e. the files that are different ).

share|improve this answer

If you're an emacs user, check out ediff-directories. You can see the file differences and then drill down into line-by-line differences if you need to see why they're different.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.