First latexdiff will be introduced, and then instructions for its installation will be given.

Introduction to latexdiff

Before using Git, I often used the latexdiff Perl script to highlight the differences between different versions of my LaTeX documents. For those of you not familiar with this tool, the following line in a terminal:

latexdiff version1.tex version2.tex > diff2.tex

will compare version1.tex to version2.tex and create a new file diff2.tex showing the differences.


For a simple example, suppose version 1 of our LaTeX document is the following:

latexdiff version 1

We notice a few errors, so we fix them in version 2 below:

latexdiff version 2

If we want to easily see the differences between the two versions, latexdiff will produce the following:

latexdiff diff

The tex and pdf files for these three versions are below:


Recently, while using Git for version control for some LaTeX files, I thought it would be great if one could somehow use latexdiff to see the differences between commits. A quick search on Stackoverflow revealed that someone awesome had already created a way to do this!

The tool is called git-latexdiff, and instructions on how to install it and use it are below.

Check latexdiff is installed

Before installing git-latexdiff, first check that latexdiff is properly installed on your system, by entering the following in a terminal:

latexdiff -V

If you see something like:

This is LATEXDIFF 1.1.1  (Algorithm::Diff 1.15 so, Perl v5.18.2)

then it is installed correctly and you can move on to installing git-latexdiff.

If you do not see this, or see a strange error message (Oct 2016: which might happen in the latest version of Ubuntu), then check out this post.

Installation of git-latexdiff:

Step 1: Create a temporary folder

In a terminal, create a temporary folder to which you can download the git-latexdiff installation files, and then move there e.g.

mkdir -p ~/build
cd ~/build

(The -p is very useful - it allows one to create intermediate directories, and will not return an error if the folder already exists.)

Step 2: clone the git-latexdiff repo

In your temp folder, download the installation files using:

git clone

This will create a ~/build/git-latexdiff subfolder.

Step 3: Move to the subfolder

In the terminal:

cd ~/build/git-latexdiff

Step 4: Run the installation script

In the terminal:

sudo make install

(you will probably need to enter your password)

Step 5: Add the folder to your PATH

In your ~/.bashrc (Linux) or ~/.bash_profile (OSX) file, add the following:

# gitlatex path:
export PATH=~/build:$PATH

This allows the terminal to find the git latexdiff command (below).

Installation over!

How to use git-latexdiff:

Suppose you are working on a LaTeX document main.tex, and that you have created several commits using Git.

To see the difference between the current (HEAD) version of main.tex and the previous commit's version, in a terminal (in the folder containing main.tex) simply type:

git latexdiff HEAD~1 --main main.tex

and a PDF showing the changes (like diff.pdf) should pop up.

Note 1:

If you have only one tex file in the folder, you do not need use the --main flag, and can simply use:

git latexdiff HEAD~1

In fact, even if you have multiple tex files (perhaps you are using \input{} or \include{} in your main.tex), git-latexdiff is quite smart and will probably guess the main file correctly.

Note 2:

Suppose you want to compare the current commit to the version two commits back. You then use:

git latexdiff HEAD~2

rather than HEAD~1. If you want to compare to the N commits back, then use HEAD~N:

git latexdiff HEAD~N

Finally, if you want to compare an older commit to a previous commit, then first do a checkout before using git-latexdiff.

Note 3:

If your git repo has different folders, e.g. your

  • main.tex is in /myproject/tex/, but
  • references.bib is in /myproject/formatting/

then you need to run latexdiff in myproject using the --main flag and a path to your main.tex:

cd ../myproject
git latexdiff HEAD~1 --main ./tex/main.tex

Note 4:

The Perl script latexdiff does not indicate differences between figures in LaTeX versions. Only the figures that are in the latest commit will be in the diff.pdf.

Note 5:

If you play around with the ~/.gitconfig file and git-latexdiff stops working, simply re-install.

Note 6:

In case you want access to the generated diff.pdf files, on OSX they are stored in the /private/tmp/ folder in subfolders git-latexdiff.12345/ (with different random numbers instead of 12345).


Credit goes to Matthieu Moy for creating git-latexdiff. The following post pointed me to this solution (which in my opinion is the best of the posted solutions).

According to this page and this page, the main author of latexdiff is Frederik Tilmann.

Both these guys are absolutely awesome.