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Harry's Windows Hex Editor Review

Newsflash [July 2002]

I have been promising for a long time to update this site and it will happen soon. I have been reviewing the latest offerings but have been mostly looking at the big 3 hex editors and ECS HexEdit is now clearly in the lead. Also the free version of ECS HexEdit (version 1) is my preferred free editor (sorry I didn't review it before but it was not then available or somehow it escaped my notice).



This is a review of hex editors for Windows [last updated November 26, 2000]. I have tested many different Win32 hex editors for evaluation and comparison. I haven't looked at MSDOS, and Win16 hex editors. The hex editors here are all for Windows 95/98/NT/2000, and have a user interface near to what most people would expect for this type of software. Two of the products reviewed are text editors that have a special hex edit mode.

To do my review I made a list of representative features covering lots of areas and rated each of the products against that list. There are many more features that could have been included but those chosen give a good sampling of the capabilities of each of the hex editors. Adding up the number of features for each of the products gives their features score.

I also give a score on user friendliness. This is very subjective so other peoples opinions may vary.

At the moment I only rate features and user friendliness and give a very brief review. In the future I will do a more in-depth review of the higher ranking products. I also have many notes on reliability of the hex editors but I do not think I have enough information yet to publish any scores. I may also do some benchmarks in the future and publish those here too. So it might be an idea to check back here in a few months to see what's been added.

Overview

There are many good editors out there, but most lack many of the features I find useful. The best editors are  HexEdit (ECS), Hex Workshop and WinHex.

The best value is Frhed, a free hex editor with source code, and Hackman (also free) which includes a disassembler.

The Hex Editors

What follows is a brief overview of all the hex editors reviewed here. There is a table in the next section that gives a user friendliness score and a link to the hex editor's web site etc.

Unfortunately, some authors do not try to distinguish their product with a unique name and give it a generic name like "hex editor" or "hex edit" or "hex ed". Even more confusing some use different names in different places (eg. in the installation and the help files), so be warned. To avoid confusion I have numbered them all and listed as much information as I could find to help differentiate between them.

1. AXE (Advanced Hex Editor) 2.0

by Kahei Co (Benjamin Peterson)

Quite a nice free program. Nice features include structure based editting and arithmetic operations. The hex/ASCII editting uses a spreadsheet metaphore and is a bit clumsy.

2. Cygnus Hex Editor 1.51

by Soft Circuits Programming

A reasonably good easy to use editor. Has all the basic features but nothing that really stands out.

3. Frhed 1.0.156

by Raihan Kibria

A very good free editor. Also includes source code! One major drawback is that it has no undo facility. Uses a weird clipboard text format to store binary that would use a lot of memory if cutting and pasting large blocks.

4. File Editor Professional 1.4.3

by J. M. Borcher

Adequate editor with clunky user interface. For example, there is no way to select bytes with the mouse. Allows easy changes to file times and attributes and includes a disassembler. It also has comprehensive search capabilities. It crashed on me several times when undoing changes.

5. [deleted]

6. FxEdit 3.1

by Software by Design (Gregory Braun)

Lacks basic features like mouse selection, cut/copy/paste, undo etc. I found it annoying to use - eg you can't resize the editor window.

7. Hackman 4.04

by TechnoLogismiki

Quite a nice free editor with many useful features. Includes encryption, a basic calculator and disassembler. Also allows 3rd party plug-ins. The user interface could be improved by using "standard" ways of doing things (e.g. to select you can't just click and drag to select) and improved help. It also misbehaves at times.

8. [deleted]

9. Hedit Pro 2.1.14

by Yuri Software

Another nice editor. It is the only editor using more than 32 bit file sizes - ie you can edit files over 4Gbytes. A major drawback is lack of an undo facility. It also crashed several times during testing.

10. HexEd 1.0

by Marcin Jastrzebski

Lacks basic features like mouse selection, cut/copy/paste, find, undo etc.

11. HexEdit (IVR) 1.0

by Iwan van Rienen

Good but very basic. For example, there is no search facility.

12. HexEdit (ECS) 1.2

by Expert Commercial Software (Andrew Phillips)

Nice set of features but surprisingly has no replace command. Easy to use with many nice touches, such as a very nice calculator and excellent help.

13. HHD Hex Editor 1.0

by wired Miners (Alexander Bessonov)

Basic editor. Not recommended since it added a registry entry that caused Windows Explorer to crash every time a (right click) context menu was used on a file.

14. [deleted]

15. Hex Pad

by ?

Very basic and buggy. Its only notable feature is its the only editor to do DBCS.

16. Hexpert 3.0

by Matthew Woolsey

Good editor, but a bit hard to use, eg no selection with the mouse. A major drawback is lack of undo facility.

17. [deleted]

18. Hex Workshop 3.1

by Breakpoint Software

A nice editor with lots of features including a calculator. Oddly there are no facilities for displaying ANSI and OEM characters. Many nice features such as copying to the clipboard as RTF.

19. HView 2000 1.0.0

by Bartolome Oliver Gonalons

Very basic editor. For example, there are no jump, search or undo facilities.

20. [deleted]

21. UltraEdit 7.00a

by IDM Computer Systems (Ian D. Mead)

This is a text editor that has a special hex mode, hence it lacks some of the more advanced hex editor features such as monitoring and editting different types of values, but has some other advanced features like macros, bookmarks and fully configurable keyboard.

22. Vedit Plus 5.16.5

by Greenview Data, Inc

Like Ultraedit this is a text editor that has a special hex mode. It lacks some of the more advanced hex editors features, but makes up for that with features like macros and bookmarks. Unfortunately it does not handle cutting and pasting all binary values correctly.

23. WinHex 9.52

by Stefan Fleischmann

A very nice editor with lots of features. Its template and search facilities are very powerful. There are also many conversion options including encryption. EBCDIC is supported though I found it confusing that searches were done in ASCII even when in EBCDIC mode. Also includes disk and memory editors.

24. WinYAHE 1.03

by Winsor Computing

Good editor that is a conversion of the DOS program YAHE (yet another hex editor). Major drawbacks are lack of undo and copy and paste facilities.

25. XVI32 1.4

by Christian Maas

Good editor but I personally did not like the user interface. Has no mouse selection or undo facilities.

The Scores

 

User Friendliness

Features

1. AXE

----5-----

---4------

2. Cygnus

-------8--

---4------

3. Frhed

-----6----

----5-----

4. File Editor Pro

--3-------

--3-------

6. FxEdit

-2--------

-2--------

7. Hackman

----5-----

-----6----

9. Hedit Pro

------7---

---4------

10. HexEd

--3-------

1---------

11. HexEdit (IVR)

---4------

1---------

12. Hex Edit (ECS)

--------9-

------7---

13. HHD Hex Editor

---4------

-2-------

15. Hex Pad

-2--------

-2-------

16. Hexpert

----5-----

---4------

18. Hex Workshop

-------8--

------7---

19. HView 2000

---4------

1---------

21. UltraEdit

-----6----

-----6----

22. VEdit Plus

----5-----

----5-----

23. WinHex

------7---

-------8--

24. WinYAHE

-----6----

---4------

25. XVI32

---4------

---4------

Features

0. Size of download file in Kbytes.

1. Install/uninstall support.  Some of the hex editors did not provide an installation facility, but instead you had to copy a few files.  I far prefer a professional installation facility particularly if I need to uninstall so I can make sure all files, registry entries etc are removed.

2. Is it free?  The editors that are not free are shareware with a free trial period.

3. Does it include source code?

4. Multiple document interface.  I prefer editors that let you work on more than one file at a time.

5. Normal mouse/keyboard selection.  Can you select a block of bytes with the mouse and using shifted cursor keys?  Surprisingly many editors do not support what should be a basic facility.

6. Is cut/copy/paste supported for binary data?  Some editors support cut and paste but lose some byte values such as zero.

7. Insert mode: can you insert bytes into a file?  Some editors only allow overtype mode.

8. Read only mode: can you open a file read only?  You may want to make sure you don't accidentally change a file.

9. Can you write the selection to a file and insert a file?

10. Backups: can you easily/automatically create backup files?  It is important to create a backup before making experimental changes.

11. Monitors: this is the number of different types of values you can view/change.   For example, 8, 16 and 32 bit decimal values etc.

Editting

12. Large files: can you easily edit files more than 1 Gbyte in size? (The test involved opening a 1 Gbyte file and waiting for 1 minute.)

13. Very large files: can you edit files more than 4 Gbytes (ie. does it support 64 bit file sizes).  (The test involved opening a 5 Gbyte file.)

14. Can you edit in decimal (not just hex)?

15. Can you edit IEEE (32 and 64 bit) floating point numbers?

16. Can you edit individual bits?  You may want to toggle a single bit without worrying about affecting any others.

17. Can you edit a file using some sort of template (such as a C structure)?  This can make viewing, understanding and modifying binary files much easier.

Display

18. ANSI: can you view ANSI characters?  These are characters 128-255 (above ASCII) often used in Windows software.

19. EBCDIC: can you view EBCDIC characters?  Many file formats use EBCDIC (a character set invented by IBM for mainframes/minis).

20. OEM: can you view OEM characters?  These are characters 128-255 often used in many MSDOS programs.

21. DBCS: can you view DBCS (International) characters?  ASCII/ANSI is sufficient for Western European languages.  For other languages DBCS (or Unicode) is necessary.

Jumps

22. Hex: can you jump to a (hex) address?

23. Decimal: can you jump to a decimal address?

24. Relative: can you jump to an address relative to the current address?

Searches

25. Hex search: are searches for bytes (specified in hex) supported?

26. String: are ASCII searches supported?

27. EBCDIC: are EBCDIC searches supported?

28. Unicode: are Unicode searches supported?  Executeable files (.EXE and .DLL) often store strings as Unicode.

29. Wildcards: are wildcards or regular expressions supported in searches?

30. Replace: is there a search and replace facility?

31. History: is there a history of previous searches that can be reused?

Undo

32. Undo: is some sort of undo provided?

33. Multiple undo: can multiple changes be undone?

34. Are cursor movements (or only file changes) undoable?

35. Redo: can changes that are undone be redone?

Printing

36. Printing: is some sort of printing provided?

37. Print preview: is print preview provided?

38. Can printing be customized, for example, margin sizes, header, footers etc.

Export

39. Hex: can you export or cut to the clipboard converting to hex text?

40. C source: can you export or cut to the clipboard as C source code?

41. Motorola S: can you export in Motorola S-record format?

42. Intel hex: can you export as Intel hex format?

43. RTF: can you cut to the clipboard as RTF?  (This is useful to paste in a Word document complete with formatting etc.)

Bookmarks

44. Can you set at least one mark/bookmark?

45. Can you have multiple bookmarks?

46. Are bookmarks saved and restored?

47. Can you name bookmarks?

Configuration

48. Keyboard: can you reconfigure the keyboard?

49. Toolbars: can you reconfigure the toolbars?

Misc. Tools

50. Compare: can you compare files?

51. Calculator: is a hex calculator included?

52. Split/join: is a file split and join facility provided?

53. Macros: is some sort of programmability or macros provided?

54. Checksums: can you calculates checksums/CRCs.

55. Disk editing: can you do disk editting?  You can use disk editting to repair damaged disks.

Feature Table

Feature: Size  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 10 M 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55
1. AXE  281   *   * * *       *  9           * *       * *   * *   *       * *   * *               * *   *                
2. Cygnus  396       * * * * *     12             *   *   * *   *         *   * *   * * *                                    
3. Fhred  286   * *   * * * * *    9     *   * * *   *   * * * * *     * *                 *   *     * *   *     *          
4. FileEditorPro 1232 *         * *     *  4     *   *   *       * *   * *           *                                              
6. FxEdit  135               *      2             *       * *   * *                   *     *                   *            
7. Hackman 3540 * *     * * *     *  9             *       * * * * *   *   * * * *     * *   * *     * * *         * *   *    
9. HeditPro  426 *     * * * *       10 * *         * *     * * * * * *     *           * *                                    
10. HexEd  301   *                 -             *       * *                                                                
11. HexEdit-IVR 1320       * * * *       -                     *                           * *                                    
12. HexEdit-ECS 1670 *     * * * * * * * 52 *   * * *   * * *   * * * * * * *     * * * *   * *   * *       *   *       * *   *    
13. HHD Hex Edr   *     * * * *   *   -                       * * * *           *                                   *          
15. Hex Pad  169   *   *   * *       -                   *         *       *           * *                                    
16. Hexpert  241           * * *     12     *   *   * * *   * * * * * * *   *           *     * *                           *  
18. HexWorkshop 1782 *     * * * * * * * 25     * * *           * * * * *   *   * * * *     * * * * * * * *           * * *     * *
19. HView2000  391 * *   * * *         -                             *       *                                                  
21. UltraEdit 1000 *     * * * * * * * -             * * * * * *   * *     * * * * *   * * * *           * *     * * *     *    
22. VeditPlus 1307 *     * *   * * * * -             * * *     *   * * *   * * * * * *   *   *           * *         *     *    
23. WinHex  228 *     * * * * * * * 16 *         * * * *     * * * *   * * * * * *     *     * * * *   * * * *     *   *   * *
24. WinYAHE 2608 *     * *       *    6 *       *   * *     * * * * * *     * *         *               * *   *                
25. XVI32  357   *       * *   *    5         *   *   *   * * * * *     * * *         * * * *         *                      
  Size  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 10 M 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55

Feedback

If you want to report a bad link or clarify some errror I have made, or you want me to review a new editor or a new version, you can contact me at HarryMNielsen@hotmail.com.  (Free activation codes are gratefully accepted :-)

Bye for now, and happy hex editting!

Harry.