Unix Power Tools
by Dale Dougherty
Comparing Three Different Versions with diff3
You can use the diff3 command to look at differences between three files. Here are three sample files:
For each set of differences, diff3 displays a row of equal signs (====) followed by 1, 2, or 3, indicating which file is different; if no number is specified, then all three files differ. Then, using ed-like notation, the differences are described for each file.
With the output of diff3, it is easy to keep track of which file is which; however, the prescription given is a little harder to decipher. To bring these files into agreement, the first range of text (after ====3) shows that you would have to add apples at the beginning of the third file (3:0a). The second range tells you to change line 3 of the second file to line 3 of the first file; and change lines 2 and 3 of the third file, effectively dropping the last line.
The diff3 command also has a -e option for creating an editing script for ed. It doesn't work quite the way you might think. Basically, it identifies the changes made to test2 to produce test3 and writes as a script to apply to test1.
If you reverse the second and third files, a different script is produced:
As you might guess, this is basically the same output as doing a diff on the first and second files.