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A simple tool for visually comparing two PDF files


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Note: this repository is provided as-is and the code is not being actively developed. If you wish to improve it, that's greatly appreciated: please make the changes and submit a pull request, I'll gladly merge it or help you out with finishing it. However, please do not expect any kind of support, including implementation of feature requests or fixes. If you're not a developer and/or willing to get your hands dirty, this tool is probably not for you.



diff-pdf is a tool for visually comparing two PDFs.

It takes two PDF files as arguments. By default, its only output is its return code, which is 0 if there are no differences and 1 if the two PDFs differ. If given the --output-diff option, it produces a PDF file with visually highlighted differences:

$ diff-pdf --output-diff=diff.pdf a.pdf b.pdf

Another option is to compare the two files visually in a simple GUI, using the --view argument:

$ diff-pdf --view a.pdf b.pdf

This opens a window that lets you view the files' pages and zoom in on details. It is also possible to shift the two pages relatively to each other using Ctrl-arrows (Cmd-arrows on MacOS). This is useful for identifying translation-only differences.

See the output of $ diff-pdf --help for complete list of options.

Obtaining the binaries

Precompiled version of the tool for Windows is available as part of the latest release as a ZIP archive, which contains everything you need to run diff-pdf. It will work from any place you unpack it to.

Alternatively, if you use Chocolatey, you can install diff-pdf on Windows with:

$ choco install diff-pdf

On Mac, if you use Homebrew, you can use it to install diff-pdf with it:

$ brew install diff-pdf

On Mac, if you use Macports, you can install diff-pdf with:

$ port install diff-pdf

On Fedora and CentOS 8:

$ sudo dnf install diff-pdf

Precompiled version for openSUSE can be downloaded from the openSUSE build service.

Compiling from sources

The build system uses Automake and so a Unix or Unix-like environment (Cygwin or MSYS) is required. Compilation is done in the usual way:

$ ./bootstrap
$ ./configure
$ make
$ make install

(Note that the first step, running the ./bootstrap script, is only required when building sources checked from version control system, i.e. when configure and files are missing.)

As for dependencies, diff-pdf requires the following libraries:

  • wxWidgets >= 3.0
  • Cairo >= 1.4
  • Poppler >= 0.10


$ sudo yum groupinstall "Development Tools"
$ sudo yum install wxGTK wxGTK-devel poppler-glib poppler-glib-devel

Ubuntu 24.04 / Debian 12 or newer:

$ sudo apt-get install make automake g++
$ sudo apt-get install libpoppler-glib-dev poppler-utils libwxgtk3.2-dev

Older versions of Ubuntu / Debian:

$ sudo apt-get install make automake g++
$ sudo apt-get install libpoppler-glib-dev poppler-utils libwxgtk3.0-gtk3-dev


Install Command Line Tools for Xcode:

$ xcode-select --install

and install Homebrew or MacPorts to manage dependencies, then:

$ brew install automake autoconf wxmac poppler cairo pkg-config


$ sudo port install automake autoconf wxWidgets-3.0 poppler cairo pkgconfig

Note that many more libraries are required on Windows, where none of the libraries Cairo and Poppler use are normally available. At the time of writing, transitive cover of the above dependencies included fontconfig, freetype, glib, libpng, pixman, gettext, libiconv, libjpeg and zlib.

Compiling on Windows using MSYS + MinGW

  1. First of all, you will need working MinGW installation with MSYS2 environment and C++ compiler. Install MSYS2 by following their instructions.

  2. Once installed, launch the MSYS2 MinGW shell. It will open a terminal window; type cd /c/directory/with/diff-pdf to go to the directory with diff-pdf sources.

  3. You will need to install additional MSYS components that are not normally included with MSYS, using these commands:

    $ pacman -Syu
    $ pacman -S automake autoconf pkg-config make zip pactoys
    $ pacboy -S gcc:p poppler:p wxWidgets:p
  4. Build diff-pdf in the same way as in the instructions for Unix above:

    $ ./bootstrap  # only if building from git repository
    $ ./configure
    $ make
  5. To build a ZIP archive will all DLLs, run

    $ make windows-dist


On Unix, the usual make install is sufficient.

On Windows, installation is not necessary, just copy the files somewhere. If you built it following the instructions above, all the necessary files will be in the created ZIP archive.