How to compare two long documents in Scrivener

I was revising a long manuscript (about 213,000 words) in Scrivener and was saving a new version every week or two in case something got corrupted, but then I accidentally started adding things to a previous version (2.3) rather than the latest version (3.0), and then took a break for a month or so, and can’t remember what I added to that older version. In other words, my documents have branched off into two different limbs of the tree, and I wish to figure out what the differences between these two documents are and put all the changes in one document.

I had this crazy idea to compile each of the two files and put them both into Nisus Writer Pro and use a compare macro I found online that will highlight changes and then use those cues to put all the changes in one document, then import that back into Scrivener.

If I have to, I could just go line by line and compare them by hand, but at 400+ pages or so, that would take a very long time, and in this modern age of computers, I presume there must be an easier way.

Any suggestions would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance,


Honestly, I think your crazy idea would be the easiest. Include all identifying information (title, notes, synopsis). Then start whatever the equivalent of Track Changes is in NWP is, select all and paste the other version over the top of the first one. Then you should be able to easily and quickly compare the differences.

The only other option that makes any sense to me is to create a blank project, drag copies of both versions into the binder of the blank project, and then split the editor and compare your documents side-by-side.

You could do this in Scrivener:

  1. Take a snapshot of the older version of the document (Cmd-5).

  2. Copy the newer version and paste it over the older version of the document to replace it. (If you want to keep the older version in a separate document, then you could do all of this in a copy of the older document.) At this stage, you should have the newer version of the document in the main editor, and the older version of the document as a snapshot of that document, viewable in the inspector.

  3. Now just use the “Compare” feature in the Snapshots inspector. This will show you a comparison of the newer version of the document against the older version. If you want to see the comparison in a larger area than the inspector allows for, split the editor and drag the snapshot from the list of snapshots in the inspector onto the header bar of one of the editors, holding down the Option key throughout the drag and drop.

Scrivener’s snapshots “compare” feature uses exactly the same algorithms as the Nisus macro you mention (whose creator, Kino, is credited in Scrivener’s “About” box).

Hope that helps.

All the best,

Thanks for the ideas. Great to have some help with this.

The brute force approach may win out, as I can’t figure out how to take a snapshot of the manuscript itself, and instead get snapshots of just sections, of which there are about 140, so that would be a very long process going through and snapshotting and comparing each of those, which by that time is basically the brute force approach.

The side-by-side window idea really has merit, and I will try that if I can’t figure out how to get it to compare snapshots of the whole manuscript rather than just sections.

Ok, final solution was: copy and past both into Nisus Writer Pro, use the compare macro, then put that window side by side with the more complete one, adjust the text sizes to make the visuals easy, and then go through and manually adjust things.

Thanks for your thoughts and support.

As an aside, in case this should happen again, any way to take a snapshot of a whole manuscript with 140 sections and then compare those?

Thanks again,


Open all 140 document in Scrivenings mode, Select All, Copy. Paste into a new document. Save a snapshot. Then follow the advice of Keith with new, edited, version of the text.

Note that, since your corrupted version would have the same 140 documents as your uncorrupted version, I don’t see what the issue is with Keith’s approach. Personally, I’d much rather compare individual bit-sized documents than to try and do the entire manuscript.

Note also that Command-S will create a snapshot of all changed documents - you don’t need to manually select them all (although Select All would do this pretty quickly anyway, so still not sure what brute force is required).