diff provides several ways to adjust the appearance of its output.
These adjustments can be applied to any output format.
The lines of text in some of the
diff output formats are preceded
by one or two characters that indicate whether the text is inserted,
deleted, or changed. The addition of those characters can cause tabs to
move to the next tabstop, throwing off the alignment of columns in the
diff provides two ways to make tab-aligned columns
line up correctly.
The first way is to have
diff convert all tabs into the correct
number of spaces before outputting them; select this method with the
`-t' or `--expand-tabs' option.
diff assumes that
tabstops are set every 8 columns. To use this form of output with
patch, you must give
patch the `-l' or
`--ignore-white-space' option (see section Applying Patches with Changed White Space, for more
The other method for making tabs line up correctly is to add a tab character instead of a space after the indicator character at the beginning of the line. This ensures that all following tab characters are in the same position relative to tabstops that they were in the original files, so that the output is aligned correctly. Its disadvantage is that it can make long lines too long to fit on one line of the screen or the paper. It also does not work with the unified output format, which does not have a space character after the change type indicator character. Select this method with the `-T' or `--initial-tab' option.
It can be convenient to have long output page-numbered and time-stamped.
The `-l' and `--paginate' options do this by sending the
diff output through the
pr program. Here is what the page
header might look like for `diff -lc lao tzu':
Mar 11 13:37 1991 diff -lc lao tzu Page 1