What's Different about this File?

May 24, 2006 - 2:00am ||| 0 Comments | Add new

The other day I was looking at a custom keyboard shortcut set I had made in Illustrator (Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts) and trying to remember what changes I had made to the default keyboard shortcuts that caused me to save this custom set in the first place. What was different about this keyboard shortcut set? Which commands had I thought important enough to change?

Like the CS2 versions of InDesign and Photoshop, Illustrator lets you create text files of your keyboard shortcut sets — the custom ones you create as well as the default ones that come with the program. But the sheer size of the files made it impossible to compare them by eye and detect the differences.

Then that word "compare" stuck in my brain … compare, compare, where had I recently seen that command? After a bit of noodling around I remembered that it was in Microsoft Word. If you go to Word's Tools > Track Changes fly-out menu, you'll see the command for Compare Documents. Adobe Acrobat and Barebones Software's BBEdit (Mac only) also have Compare Documents features, but I remembered I thought Word's was cool because of how it noted differences with the same Track Changes mark-up I was used to. They really stick out in a document, easy to find.

Make the Text Files
Word's Compare Documents feature works with any two files that Word can understand. But I wanted to compare keyboard shortcut sets, which Word doesn't recognize as text files.

No problem. To make a text file of a keyboard shortcut set in Illustrator CS2, open the dialog box (Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts), select the shortcut set you want from the drop-down menu, and click the Export Text button at the right. You're prompted for a name and location of the text file it will create. To compare two sets of keyboard shortcuts in MS Word, you'll need to make two text files of course — one of the Illustrator Defaults set, and one from your custom set.

The instructions are roughly the same for comparing keyboard shortcuts sets in InDesign and Photoshop. In InDesign, the button is called "Show Set." Photoshop will create a web page (a local .htm file) listing all the keyboard shortcuts in the selected set when you click the Summarize button in the same dialog box. Word recognizes .htm files with no problem, but you could copy and paste the text shown in the browser window to an actual text file if you want.

Find the Differences
In Microsoft Word, open the text or .htm file containing the "original" text .. .the default keyboard shortcuts in this example. While it really doesn't make a difference which file is opened first, I think it's easier to understand the Track Changes mark-up on the modified set ("here's what's different from the original"). Word applies the changed text mark-up to the second file you open, which we'll do in the next step.

From the Word menu bar, choose Tools > Track Changes > Compare Documents. You'll immediately be prompted to locate and open the file you want to compare to the current document. If your file is inaccessible, try choosing "All Readable Documents" (instead of the default "All Word Documents") from the Enable drop-down menu at the top of the dialog box. Select the text or .htm file of your custom keyboard shortcut set and click the Open button.

Word opens the file you selected and automatically adds brightly-colored markup to the file indicating everything that's different from the first document you opened. The marked-up changes are quite easy to find just by scrolling through the document, but if you like, you can use the Next and Previous buttons in the Reviewing toolbar (View > Toolbars > Reviewing) to jump the cursor to each marked-up change.

Compare Page Layout Stories Too
If you have a situation where you're not sure if the text in an article is exactly the same as the text in the same article in a previous version of a project (or you want to confirm that requested changes to a story were made) you can use the same technique to compare them. Both QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign allow you to export individual stories as stand-alone text files. If you export them as RTF (rich text format, includes most formatting information), Word will detect and mark-up *changes in formatting* as well!

To export a story from Adobe InDesign: For each version of the layout that you want to compare, click inside the target story and choose Export from the File menu. Be sure to choose either Rich Text Format or Text Only from the Format drop-down menu at the bottom of the Export dialog box, then name and save the file in a location you'll remember. Proceed with the steps explained above to compare the two files in Word.

In QuarkXPress, you export text from a story via the File > Save Text command. Choose either ASCII Text or Rich Text Format as the file format in the Save Text dialog box. You could choose a Microsoft Word format if you want, but there's no reason to in this case. Do the same for both versions of a story, then compare them as described above.

Who knew Word would come in so handy?

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