Git-diffing Excel files, part 2

Posted on Tue 02 January 2018 in Tools

I previously wrote about how to get a useful diff for binary Excel files that reside in a Git repository.

This post adds some details that are big enough to deserve a separate post. They are:

  • User-level configuration of Excel diffing.
  • How to get an Excel diff from git show.

User-level configuration

In the previous post, I outlined how to add a diff driver to the .git/config file in a repository. To make the diff driver available to all repositories for the current user, update the $HOME/.gitconfig file instead (that’s %HOME%\.gitconfig in Windows):

[diff "excel"]
  command = c:/apps/excelcompare/exceldiff.cmd

(See the previous post for path details and Excel Compare.)

To instruct Git to use the excel diff driver for *.xlsx files, edit $HOME/.config/git/attributes to contain the following:

*.xlsx diff=excel

Note that the location of the user-level gitattributes file can be configured via the core.attributesfile setting, so make sure you use the correct location if you have changed that setting.

git show

By default, git show won’t use a custom diff driver. Thus, if you show a commit you will see the standard “Binary files … differ” message. To get a proper diff, use the --ext-diff option:

$ git show --ext-diff <object>

It might be a good idea to define an alias for git show that includes this option, for example:

$ git config --global "show --ext-diff"

Final words

Feel free to leave a comment below if you found this post useful or if you have questions!