The Anatomy of A Great Hex Editor
Editing binary files can be a tricky operation, but with the right hex editor, we can easily edit any individual bytes and character encodings. We can edit anything from binary files to base address to ASCII text, no matter the file format.
This article will help you make a comparison between UltraEdit, Intel Hex, Hex Editor Neo, Motorola S-record, etc.
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What is a Hex Editor?
What are the Key Features of a Great Hex Editor?
- Advanced Data Search Capabilities
- Clipboard Operation for Selected Hex View
- Version Control Capability
- Configurable Quantity of Hex Values for Each Line
- Hex Structure Viewer Mode
- Go To Specific Pattern Occurrence
- Large Size Files Editing Capability
- Easy-to-Use Interface
- Display Mode
- Line Editing Capability
- Delete and Insert Hex Bytes
What is a Hex Editor?
A hex editor is a program that can be used to edit hex files on your computer. Hexadecimal refers to the base 16 number system used by computers.
A hex editor can be used to edit the source code in computer programs. The code is read by a computer in hexadecimal form, but when it is written back to the computer, it must be converted back into the binary data structures that a computer understands.
For developers, a hex editor or binary file editor is an advanced binary data editing solution they definitely need.
Besides the binary data processing features, it can also be used to edit regular files, such as text files, and also different file formats, such as Unicode and UTF-8 files, XML, HTML, and many others.
What are the Key Features of a Great Hex Editor?
There are many hex editors out there, but different software usually has different features. To earn a reputation as a great hex editor, a hex editor should have all these powerful editing features below:
1. Advanced Data Search Capabilities
This is a very useful built-in function. With the find function, or its keyboard shortcut, you can search for a specific character distribution in a program and replace them with different bytes. You can also change specific bytes in a file with your chosen replacement patterns.
2. Clipboard Operation for Selected Hex View
This method of copying and pasting allows you to duplicate the selected active file structure into a new window. This is useful when you want to copy or move your hex editor windows and not disturb the current file.
3. Version Control Capability
This is the ability to save and load different versions of the actual file, as they are able to look at and change memory from processes.
With version control capability, it is easy for users of your hex editor to apply the undo and redo mechanism in your file.
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By doing so, you can simply revert back to an earlier version of the source file before making the changes. That way, no matter how many times you want to make a change, your original file will always remain intact in your disk device, each presented as a tree element.
You can also save the change history as a file on your removable drives, such as hard disks, USB flash drives, or floppy disks.
4. Configurable Quantity of Hex Values for Each Line
When working with hex files, it is sometimes necessary to change the number of values displayed on each byte pattern. This can be very tedious if you have to scroll through all the byte occurrences to find the correct one.
With one of these additional file editing options, you can configure the hex editor to display different numbers of values on each line.
5. Hex Structure Viewer Mode
This advanced data analysis allows you to select between viewing the binary data in raw form or viewing it as a human-readable hexadecimal number. This hex viewer setting is stored with your configuration file so you can quickly change between the two modes.
6. Go To Specific Pattern Occurrence
This feature allows you to select a hex editor window and then move to a specific hex number. This feature is useful when you want to find a specific hex value or if you want to move your hex editor windows quickly.
7. Large Size Files Editing Capability
Not all standard hex editors can handle a huge file, but the great ones certainly do. It is possible to edit large files using hex editors, because they can be set up to handle large amounts of data and block devices.
It is possible to edit large files, as the program tends to load a portion of the byte-level data while editing it, instead of opening the entire file at once.
8. Easy-to-Use Hex Editor Interface
Great hex editors should have simple background color schemes and an easy-to-use layout. Providing a user-friendly interface makes the program easier to operate than other similar programs.
In fact, they come with more features than you need when editing the file of one person in one instance, but also offer you some special features if you need them later on, or if someone else needs them as well.
9. Display Mode
The display mode of a hex editor is a very important feature. The display mode refers to how the file is displayed on the screen. There are two basic types of display modes: block and character.
A block display mode displays data in a grid format, where each row of data contains one byte and each column contains eight bytes (also known as octal).
In a character display mode, all characters are displayed in columns instead of rows, and each column displays one character (also known as decimal).
A good hex editor will allow you to change between the block and character display modes so that you can get the best type of output for your work.
10. Hex Editor Line Editing Capability
One of the most important features of any hex editor is its line editing capability. This means that it allows you to edit lines instead of individual characters in files, which makes editing large files much easier and faster.
The complex editing operations become easier and it allows you to see multiple pieces of data at once, instead of having to scroll through individual characters all day long, which can be tedious.
Most hex editors also provide color syntax highlighting, which is even more useful when you’re editing large files or are in need of comparison mode.
11. Delete and Insert Hex Bytes
Another important commands feature of a hex editor is its ability to insert and delete hexadecimal bytes. This is useful because it allows you to make changes to a file that are easy to see, and if you need to remove something from the file you can simply remove the bytes you don’t want.
You will feel its significance when a program does not have the ability to remove a particular item from a file, such as when you have made changes in an editor that will not allow you to remove anything from the file. You can simply delete those bytes with a hex editor’s executable commands instead of deleting them in the program where they are saved.
The insert feature is also helpful in scenarios when you want to write a binary from scratch. Many hex editors offer a basic binary template set for this specific purpose.
UltraEdit has many advanced features. As the top hex editor, it is one of the best binary file editing softwares for Windows, macOS, and Linux computers. If you are determined to have a tool that will make hex editing easier than ever, use UltraEdit now!