Easily Compare File Versions with Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope is an excellent little app from Made By Sofa that facilitates identifying changes that have been made in documents and images. It’s really pretty to boot.

The interface is remarkably innovative and the app works beautifully. Today we’ll go over specifically what Kaleidoscope does, how to use it, and how it performed during the review process. If you’ve ever needed to compare two files, this is a review not to be missed!

The Basic Premise


The Beautiful Kaleidoscope Website

Have you ever saved multiple versions of a file? Or perhaps you work with a team that passes around a file that everyone works on and you need a quick way to compare the last version you received to the newest one. Performing the comparison manually can be quite tedious and time consuming.

Kaleidoscope solves this problem by comparing two or more files for you. Kaledoscope can handle both text files and image files and supports a number of file types including PSD, TXT, HTML, JPG, and PNG.

The Main Window

When you open up Kaleidoscope you are presented with a simple window inviting you to drop in files to compare. To get started, just navigate to the files you want in Finder and drag them onto this window.


Kaleidoscope Main Window

One really nice feature here is the ability to open up multiple tabs to run multiple comparisons simultaneously. To open a new tab, just hit the little plus button on the right side of the window or type ⌘+T. You can rearrange the tabs just like in Safari by dragging them left or right.

Comparing Text Files

Once you drag in two or more text files you are taken into the “Text Scope.” As you can see in the image below, you are give two panes, A and B, and shown a side-by-side comparison of the two files.

Kaleidoscope instantly analyzes the text and highlights any discrepancies. Deleted sections are highlighted in red, added sections are highlighted in green, sections that contain changes are highlighted in purple and the specific changes within these sections are assigned a darker purple.


Comparing Text Files

The top of this window contains a button that allows you to quickly swap out the contents of the two panels. There’s also a breadcrumb navigation so you can easily see the path of the open files.

The bottom right of the window contains two arrows that let you quickly jump between the active changes so you don’t have to manually browse the document (you can also use the arrow keys for this). Next to the arrows is a counter that shows you how many differences there are and which one you have selected.

Finally, the buttons on the bottom left allow you to switch beaten three different viewing modes: blocks, fluid and unified.

View Modes

The Block view is shown above and attempts to align blocks of text from each document side by side. To accomplish the alignment it adjusts the visual spacing of your document, adding in gaps where necessary. This makes for an easy visual comparison, but can considerably lengthen the document.

The Fluid view displays both documents in their normal form but adds color-coded lines connecting equivalent sections. This view is a little more indirect than Block view but is more compact.


Fluid View

Finally, the Unified view takes both versions and combines then into a single pane. The sections that are the same are merged, the sections that are different are stacked and the two columns on the left side of the window indicate which section goes to which document.


Unified View

Comparing More than Two Files

When you drag three or more files into Kaleidoscope, a drawer opens up at the bottom of the window allowing you to select which two you’d like to compare (you can’t open more than two panes).


Comparing Three or More Files

As you can see, each file is represented by a little box. When you click on one of these boxes you are given the option to set the file as active in pane A or B. This system makes it quick and easy to jump between lots of file comparisons.

Comparing Image Files

Dragging images into Kaleidoscope will automatically activate “Image Scope.” Here you can compare images using a number of different views and tools.


Comparing Images

The tools available here are basic pan and zoom stuff: a hand tool, magnifying glass, zoom slider, zoom to fit and zoom to actual size.

You can choose to view the images in one of four modes: Two-Up, One-Up, Split and Difference. Two-Up is the mode you see above and places the images either side by side or stacked vertically.

In One-Up mode, you only see one of the images and can use the A/B buttons to switch back and forth between the two to compare. There’s also a Play button that will automatically cycle back and forth between the two images based on a time interval you set.


One-Up View

In Split mode the two images are merged into one area with a slice that separates them. You can move the two end points of the slice to position it in any way that you like.


Split View

Finally, Difference mode automatically highlights the areas that have been changed so you can immediately see where the differences lie. The little slider with the eye allows you to change the opacity of the difference overlay.


Difference View


Kaleidoscope features built-in integration with Versions, TextMate and Cornerstone. It also features a ksdiff Command-line tool that allows you to add integration with other applications.


Integration Options

Closing Thoughts

Kaleidoscope is a nearly flawless piece of software. Comparing different versions of both text and images is super fast and extremely easy. I found the text comparison to be particularly impressive. Here the developers have given you not one but three innovative interfaces for comparing files.

I always love apps that were built and designed exclusively for Macs and Kaleidoscope is a shining example. It looks, feels and operates exactly like you want it to with full Finder integration, tons of keyboard shortcuts and a quick, responsive UI.

My one feature request would be to beef up the text comparison in such a way that you could merge selective portions of different files into a single new file. This would really facilitate group work as it would allow you to combine changes made by separate team members and choose the best versions of similar sections. The application just feels like this functionality should be present, which leaves users frustrated and searching for a feature that doesn’t exist.

Go download the Kaleidoscope demo and leave a comment below telling us what you think of it.


Kaleidoscope provides a quick and easy way to compare two or more versions of a text or image file. The interface is excellently innovative and the app works beautifully. The only downside is the lack of a way to merge files or move sections from one file to another.