diff-highlight is a contrib script that ships with git. It’s a better way to visualise a diff when the changes are small words, not entire lines/paragraphs. It’s hard to explain, so here’s an example (
diff-highlight is the script):
Standard git diff
git diff as we know it.
$ git diff
diff-highlight. This makes it easier to see the changes, but we’ve lost our colours. This is because
git disables colours when output is piped to another command.
$ git diff | diff-highlight
diff-highlight and colours
To get the colours back, we add the
--color flag to
git diff to force colour output.
$ git diff --color | diff-highlight
If you’re looking at quite a large diff, you might want to pipe it into
less. By default,
less doesn’t support colours. Fortunately this is easy to enable by adding the
$ git diff --color | diff-highlight | less -r
To install diff-highlight, you’ll need to get a copy of the script and put it somewhere in your
$PATH. You’ll also need to make the script executable.
If you have
~/bin in your path, here’s a one liner to install:
$ curl https://raw.githubusercontent.com/git/git/master/contrib/diff-highlight/diff-highlight > ~/bin/diff-highlight && chmod +x ~/bin/diff-highlight
If you like this behaviour and want to use it frequently, it may be worth configuring your
git installation for easy access. All of these changes are made in
The easiest way to do it is to enable it for everything by changing your pager setting so that all output is piped through
diff-highlight before being passed to your pager. This is what it looks like for me.
[core] pager = diff-highlight | less -r
If you’d rather just enable it for certain actions, it’s easy to add as an alias. I’ve added the following to my
.gitconfig and use it with
[alias] worddiff = !git diff --color | diff-highlight | less -r
Michael is a polyglot software engineer, committed to reducing complexity in systems and making them more predictable. Working with a variety of languages and tools, he shares his technical expertise to audiences all around the world at user groups and conferences. You can follow @mheap on Twitter