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There’s a hidden merge option in the Finder, but it only works sometimes.

This problem occurs when you try to move a folder into a location where there’s already another folder with the same name. On Windows and Linux, file managers try to handle this intelligently. They’ll combine the files in the two folders into a single folder with the same name.

The Finder on Mac OS X isn’t so smart. By default, it just offers two options — Stop or Replace. Stop doesn’t do anything, while Replace replaces the old folder with the new folder. Replacing the old folder actually deletes all files in the old folder. The Finder doesn’t offer to merge the folders.

Merge Files on Mac


How to Merge Folders in the Finder

The Finder does actually have a folder-merging feature, but it doesn’t offer it when you might want it. Instead, you need to use some simple magic to access it.

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion — released in 2011 — added a hidden Merge option. To access it, you have to hold down the Option key as you drag-and-drop a folder into the same location. If you do this, you’ll see a dialog with a Merge button and you can click it to merge folders like you would on Windows or Linux.

Merge Files OSX

You can of course do this from the Terminal (Applications/Utilities), or purchase something like Kaleidoscope that has all sort of merging options.

Even if you’ve installed Xcode, you may not use it much unless you create software for a living. But it’s worth exploring the Developer folder, as it holds some very useful tools. Consider FileMerge, which you’ll find in /Developer -> Applications -> Utilities. This program is typically used to compare two text files—drag files to the Left and Right drop zones in the Compare Files window, and FileMerge will put up a comparison page that shows the differences between the two files.

You can also use FileMerge to compare two folders. For example, say you have two folders of images, and you’d like them to be identical. Launch it, then drag one folder into each drop zone in the Compare Files window:

FileMerge OSX

FileMerge OSX

Compare Versions of a Word Document with Microsoft Word

Do you have two Word doc files that you need to see the differences between, and compare the two easily side-by-side to review changes? You can do that easily with the Microsoft Word app in Mac OS X and Windows, which is part of the Microsoft Office Suite.

To quickly compare two versions of a Word document using Microsoft Word, follow these steps:

  1. Launch the two documents you want to compare within the Microsoft Word app
  2. Go to the Tools Menu
  3. Select “Track Changes”
  4. Select “Compare Documents”
  5. Select the two documents you want to compare and continue

You’ll be shown a side by side comparison of the selected files, and the changes will be highlighted onscreen and easy to spot.

If you’re a writer, researcher, educator, or editor, you’ll certainly find this feature very useful!

You can then make changes as necessary to the word docs and save them, or just use the comparison tool to review the differences between the documents without saving any adjustments to them.


If you need something a bit more heavy duty that can compare 3 files, or compare directories… Look at Kdiff3