As a long time Winmerge user and as a person with a passion for
cognitive psychology, I would like to make a recommendation for
improving the usability of Winmerge.
This was brought up in the past on the bug-tracker, but the issue is
now 6 years old:
I was just reviewing a project and was surprised to see that
directories that I expected to be different were identical. I
double-checked everything and verified my comparison filters, then
restarted the program and compared again...
Eventually I realized that I just didn't notice the difference - it
became evident when I went to the menu and unchecked 'show
The problem can be resolved by adding a colour highlight as an
additional cognitive aid:
Why the current implementation is not perfect:
- lengths of the texts are identical
- the icon contours are identical too
There is no visual clue that helps you see things better; one is
forced to parse the whole picture at the logical layer in order to
grasp the meaning of the displayed information - which takes more
At the bottom of the picture I showed a "normalized" version that
simulates what a person perceives at a cognitive level in the first
moments of seeing the picture. Once the text is blurred and the icon
content and colour are ignored - everything is absolutely identical.
Based on the above, I would recommend
- adding a colour highlight
- rewording the text to make it
- shorter: "text files are identical" -> "identical"
- different: "identical" -> "equal"
This way, when you look at a column like this, the length of the text
is an additional aid:
Yes, I acknowledge that the current solution works - go to 'View' and
uncheck 'show identical files', but this is an action that
- takes extra clicks
- still some people fall into the trap, even though they are long-time
I also have some recommendations for visualizing left/right-only
differences. If someone is willing to listen to me, I will happily
prepare some sketches to illustrate the point.
Looking forward to your feedback,