Diff two buffers/ranges with external diff tool in Emacs

rtags: emacs

This function is based on built-in ediff in Emacs. I noticed that in some complex situations meld gives better results so here is a function based on ediff-buffers that let user choose two buffers and then run meld on the selection. Note that buffers must be saved to files for this to work, and of course meld must be installed.

(defun diff-buffers-external (buffer-A buffer-B)
  "Based on ediff-buffers. Run meld on a pair of buffers, BUFFER-A and BUFFER-B."
  (interactive
   (let (bf)
     (list (setq bf (read-buffer "Buffer A to compare: "
                 (ediff-other-buffer "") t))
       (read-buffer "Buffer B to compare: "
            (progn
              ;; realign buffers so that two visible bufs will be
              ;; at the top
              (save-window-excursion (other-window 1))
              (ediff-other-buffer bf))
            t))))
  (call-process "meld" nil 0 nil
                (buffer-file-name (get-buffer buffer-A))
                (buffer-file-name (get-buffer buffer-B))))

And here is a function that diffs two ranges in two buffers. It will create temporary buffers, save them to temporary files and call meld. First, two buffers are selected and then a range starting from current location (you can select the same buffer twice). Then, in each buffer a region is selected and confirmed with C-M-c.

(defun diff-regions-external (buffer-A buffer-B)
  "Based on ediff-regions-linewise. Run meld on a pair of regions in specified buffers.
BUFFER-A and BUFFER-B are the buffers to be compared.
Regions (i.e., point and mark) can be set in advance or marked
interactively."
  (interactive
   (let (bf)
     (list (setq bf (read-buffer "Region A's buffer: "
                 (ediff-other-buffer "") t))
       (read-buffer "Region B's buffer: "
            (progn
              ;; realign buffers so that two visible bufs will be
              ;; at the top
              (save-window-excursion (other-window 1))
              (ediff-other-buffer bf))
            t))))
  (if (not (ediff-buffer-live-p buffer-A))
      (user-error "Buffer %S doesn't exist" buffer-A))
  (if (not (ediff-buffer-live-p buffer-B))
      (user-error "Buffer %S doesn't exist" buffer-B))


  (let ((buffer-A
         (ediff-clone-buffer-for-region-comparison buffer-A "-Region.A-"))
    (buffer-B
         (ediff-clone-buffer-for-region-comparison buffer-B "-Region.B-"))
        reg-A-beg reg-A-end reg-B-beg reg-B-end)
    (with-current-buffer buffer-A
      (setq reg-A-beg (region-beginning)
        reg-A-end (region-end))
      (write-region reg-A-beg reg-A-end "/tmp/meld-left")
      (kill-buffer buffer-A)
      (set-buffer buffer-B)
      (setq reg-B-beg (region-beginning)
        reg-B-end (region-end))
      (write-region reg-B-beg reg-B-end "/tmp/meld-right")
      (kill-buffer buffer-B))

  (call-process "meld" nil 0 nil "/tmp/meld-left" "/tmp/meld-right")))