Hex Editing – for data not magic curses

HexHave you ever cast an evil spell on someone that didn’t work out exactly as you had hoped?  Like when that guy called you a horse-face and you wanted to get back at him, but used the word Stud when you were trying to turn HIM into a horse?  Well then this won’t help you at all, because we’re talking about hexadecimal here!  Not that there isn’t any magic in hex… a 10 is magically turned into an ‘A’ up through 15 being turned into ‘F’.  So what is hexadecimal and why would you want to edit it using a hex editor?

 Well, as you probably know and don’t think about.. everything on your computer is just a whole bunch of 1s and 0s that are interpreted to show you numbers, letters, pictures, music, video, and minesweeper.  To make those 1s and 0s a little easier for programmers to deal with, we squish them into groups of 8 and represent the various 1 and 0 combinations in base-16 (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,A,B,C,D,E,F).  Boring huh?  Well I program in assembly so I get to look at data in that format all the time and a good Hex editor is a must for me and is handy even if you program in a higher level language, want to dig around in different file formats, or just want to hack your cell phone…

So where can I get one of these magic – non-magical hex editors?  I would highly recommend that you download a free copy of XVI32.  It’s small, fast, and has a great feature set.  I use it all the time and have ditched all the other editors I’ve tested.  The install is just unzipping.  XVI32 gives you a split screen view of the data, on the left is the actual hex data and on the right will be an interpretation of the data (usually ASCII text).  For more information on why you might need a hex editor, the author of XVI32 has written up a page that I suggest you check out.

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