Linux diff and patch

Crete a patch

The Linux diff program can be used to record differences between two directories, making it easy to update the old directory later with any of the changes created in the new version of the directory.

cd /var/tmp
cp -a old_wrk new_wrk
cd new_wrk
# create new files and modify existing ones
# ...
# now record all the changes we introduced
cd ${HOME}
diff -ruN /var/tmp/old_wrk /var/tmp/new_wrk > update.patch

Standard (usual) options:

-r –recursiveRecursively compare any subdirectories found
-u –unified[=NUM]Output NUM (default 3) lines of unified context
-N –new-fileTreat absent files as empty

Additional useful option(s):

-a –textTreat all files as text

Use the patch to apply updates

We can now use update.patch to update the old directory so its contents match all the changes introduced in new_wrk.

cd /var/tmp
patch -b -uN -d old_wrk -p 4 < ${HOME}/update.patch

Standard (usual) options:

-b –backupBack up the original contents of each file
-u –unifiedInterpret the patch as a unified difference
-N –forwardIgnore patches that appear to be reversed or already applied
-p NUM –strip=NUMStrip NUM leading components from file names
-d DIR –directory=DIRChange the working directory to DIR first

Additional useful option(s):

–dry-runDo not actually change any files; just print what would happen
-R –reverseAssume patches were created with old and new files swapped
–verboseOutput extra information about the work being done
-i PATCH–input=PATCRead patch from PATCH instead of stdin

Full list of options:

diff --help
Usage: diff [OPTION]... FILES
Compare files line by line.

  -i  --ignore-case  Ignore case differences in file contents.
  --ignore-file-name-case  Ignore case when comparing file names.
  --no-ignore-file-name-case  Consider case when comparing file names.
  -E  --ignore-tab-expansion  Ignore changes due to tab expansion.
  -b  --ignore-space-change  Ignore changes in the amount of white space.
  -w  --ignore-all-space  Ignore all white space.
  -B  --ignore-blank-lines  Ignore changes whose lines are all blank.
  -I RE  --ignore-matching-lines=RE  Ignore changes whose lines all match RE.
  --strip-trailing-cr  Strip trailing carriage return on input.
  -a  --text  Treat all files as text.

  -c  -C NUM  --context[=NUM]  Output NUM (default 3) lines of copied context.
  -u  -U NUM  --unified[=NUM]  Output NUM (default 3) lines of unified context.
    --label LABEL  Use LABEL instead of file name.
    -p  --show-c-function  Show which C function each change is in.
    -F RE  --show-function-line=RE  Show the most recent line matching RE.
  -q  --brief  Output only whether files differ.
  -e  --ed  Output an ed script.
  --normal  Output a normal diff.
  -n  --rcs  Output an RCS format diff.
  -y  --side-by-side  Output in two columns.
    -W NUM  --width=NUM  Output at most NUM (default 130) print columns.
    --left-column  Output only the left column of common lines.
    --suppress-common-lines  Do not output common lines.
  -D NAME  --ifdef=NAME  Output merged file to show `#ifdef NAME' diffs.
  --GTYPE-group-format=GFMT  Similar, but format GTYPE input groups with GFMT.
  --line-format=LFMT  Similar, but format all input lines with LFMT.
  --LTYPE-line-format=LFMT  Similar, but format LTYPE input lines with LFMT.
    LTYPE is `old', `new', or `unchanged'.  GTYPE is LTYPE or `changed'.
    GFMT may contain:
      %<  lines from FILE1
      %>  lines from FILE2
      %=  lines common to FILE1 and FILE2
      %[-][WIDTH][.[PREC]]{doxX}LETTER  printf-style spec for LETTER
        LETTERs are as follows for new group, lower case for old group:
          F  first line number
          L  last line number
          N  number of lines = L-F+1
          E  F-1
          M  L+1
    LFMT may contain:
      %L  contents of line
      %l  contents of line, excluding any trailing newline
      %[-][WIDTH][.[PREC]]{doxX}n  printf-style spec for input line number
    Either GFMT or LFMT may contain:
      %%  %
      %c'C'  the single character C
      %c'\OOO'  the character with octal code OOO

  -l  --paginate  Pass the output through `pr' to paginate it.
  -t  --expand-tabs  Expand tabs to spaces in output.
  -T  --initial-tab  Make tabs line up by prepending a tab.

  -r  --recursive  Recursively compare any subdirectories found.
  -N  --new-file  Treat absent files as empty.
  --unidirectional-new-file  Treat absent first files as empty.
  -s  --report-identical-files  Report when two files are the same.
  -x PAT  --exclude=PAT  Exclude files that match PAT.
  -X FILE  --exclude-from=FILE  Exclude files that match any pattern in FILE.
  -S FILE  --starting-file=FILE  Start with FILE when comparing directories.
  --from-file=FILE1  Compare FILE1 to all operands.  FILE1 can be a directory.
  --to-file=FILE2  Compare all operands to FILE2.  FILE2 can be a directory.

  --horizon-lines=NUM  Keep NUM lines of the common prefix and suffix.
  -d  --minimal  Try hard to find a smaller set of changes.
  --speed-large-files  Assume large files and many scattered small changes.

  -v  --version  Output version info.
  --help  Output this help.

FILES are `FILE1 FILE2' or `DIR1 DIR2' or `DIR FILE...' or `FILE... DIR'.
If --from-file or --to-file is given, there are no restrictions on FILES.
If a FILE is `-', read standard input.

Report bugs to <bug-gnu-utils@gnu.org>.

patch --help
Usage: patch [OPTION]... [ORIGFILE [PATCHFILE]]

Input options:

  -p NUM  --strip=NUM  Strip NUM leading components from file names.
  -F LINES  --fuzz LINES  Set the fuzz factor to LINES for inexact matching.
  -l  --ignore-whitespace  Ignore white space changes between patch and input.

  -c  --context  Interpret the patch as a context difference.
  -e  --ed  Interpret the patch as an ed script.
  -n  --normal  Interpret the patch as a normal difference.
  -u  --unified  Interpret the patch as a unified difference.

  -N  --forward  Ignore patches that appear to be reversed or already applied.
  -R  --reverse  Assume patches were created with old and new files swapped.

  -i PATCHFILE  --input=PATCHFILE  Read patch from PATCHFILE instead of stdin.

Output options:

  -o FILE  --output=FILE  Output patched files to FILE.
  -r FILE  --reject-file=FILE  Output rejects to FILE.

  -D NAME  --ifdef=NAME  Make merged if-then-else output using NAME.
  -m  --merge  Merge using conflict markers instead of creating reject files.
  -E  --remove-empty-files  Remove output files that are empty after patching.

  -Z  --set-utc  Set times of patched files, assuming diff uses UTC (GMT).
  -T  --set-time  Likewise, assuming local time.

  --quoting-style=WORD   output file names using quoting style WORD.
    Valid WORDs are: literal, shell, shell-always, c, escape.
    Default is taken from QUOTING_STYLE env variable, or 'shell' if unset.

Backup and version control options:

  -b  --backup  Back up the original contents of each file.
  --backup-if-mismatch  Back up if the patch does not match exactly.
  --no-backup-if-mismatch  Back up mismatches only if otherwise requested.

  -V STYLE  --version-control=STYLE  Use STYLE version control.
	STYLE is either 'simple', 'numbered', or 'existing'.
  -B PREFIX  --prefix=PREFIX  Prepend PREFIX to backup file names.
  -Y PREFIX  --basename-prefix=PREFIX  Prepend PREFIX to backup file basenames.
  -z SUFFIX  --suffix=SUFFIX  Append SUFFIX to backup file names.

  -g NUM  --get=NUM  Get files from RCS etc. if positive; ask if negative.

Miscellaneous options:

  -t  --batch  Ask no questions; skip bad-Prereq patches; assume reversed.
  -f  --force  Like -t, but ignore bad-Prereq patches, and assume unreversed.
  -s  --quiet  --silent  Work silently unless an error occurs.
  --verbose  Output extra information about the work being done.
  --dry-run  Do not actually change any files; just print what would happen.
  --posix  Conform to the POSIX standard.

  -d DIR  --directory=DIR  Change the working directory to DIR first.
  --reject-format=FORMAT  Create 'context' or 'unified' rejects.
  --binary  Read and write data in binary mode.

  -v  --version  Output version info.
  --help  Output this help.

Report bugs to <bug-patch@gnu.org>.

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