How can I use Vim as a hex editor?

  • Is there a neat way I can view binary files as hex in Vim, and save it back to binary from the hex?

  • You can use the xxd command to transform a file in Vim to hex representation, doing


    : enters command-line mode, % matches whole file as a range, ! filters that range through an external command, xxd is that external shell command

    Giving an output like this, this is split into octet count/line (octets per line may be changed with parameter -c on xxd command), hex representation, and text representation:

    0000000: 5468 6973 2069 7320 6120 7465 7374 0a41  This is a test.A
    0000010: 6e6f 7468 6572 206c 696e 650a 416e 6420  nother line.And 
    0000020: 7965 7420 616e 6f74 6865 720a            yet another.

    Once you make the changes (in the hex part), you can go back to text with -r command on xxd, so

    :%!xxd -r

    This is a little rudimentary, though I like it in its simplicity and to keep in mind xxd, which is an interesting command line tool (I don't have to do a lot of work on hex, though). You can use some recipes to handle this transformation in a more automatic way like the one described in Improved hex editing.

    And rembember you can also use syntax highlighting for hex editing in vim with that command:

    :set ft=xxd

    It's an independent program that is run from the command line, and it's installed independently from vim (I've seen it in several Linux distributions that didn't install vim by default). That's a UNIX command tool for me :-P

    Rephrased it to "command line tool" ;-)

    I think it worths mentioning that after you make the changes you **must** go back to the normal mode before saving the changes.

    Is it possible to specify the byte order? big-endian or little-endian

    BTW. Where is `:h` for `:%!`? I could find only for `:!`. Using nvim.

  • Taken from :h hex-editing:

    If one has a particular extension that one uses for binary files (such as exe,
    bin, etc), you may find it helpful to automate the process with the following
    bit of autocmds for your <.vimrc>.  Change that "*.bin" to whatever
    comma-separated list of extension(s) you find yourself wanting to edit:
    " vim -b : edit binary using xxd-format!
    augroup Binary
      au BufReadPre  *.bin let &bin=1
      au BufReadPost *.bin if &bin | %!xxd
      au BufReadPost *.bin set ft=xxd | endif
      au BufWritePre *.bin if &bin | %!xxd -r
      au BufWritePre *.bin endif
      au BufWritePost *.bin if &bin | %!xxd
      au BufWritePost *.bin set nomod | endif
    augroup END

    You may want to look at: How do I navigate to topics in Vim's documentation?

    This is perfect - I added it to `~/.vim/plugin/binary.vim`

    Maybe this is must be in `~/.vim/ftdetect/` because this is about file type detection?

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM