It’s little surprise that most hackers have a favorite text editor, since we tend to spend quite a bit of time staring at the thing. From writing code to reading config files, the hacker’s world is filled with seemingly infinite lines of ASCII. Comparatively, while a hex editor is a critical tool to have in your arsenal, many of us don’t use one often enough to have a clear favorite.
But we think that might change once you’ve taken ImHex for a spin. Developer [WerWolv] bills it specifically as the hex editor of choice for reverse engineering, it’s released under the GPL v2, and runs on Windows, Linux, and macOS. Oh, and did we mention it defaults to a slick dark theme designed to be easy on the eyes during those late night hacking sessions — just like your favorite website?
ImHex is packed with all sorts of useful tools and functions, such as an entropy visualizer and an integrated front-end for the Capstone disassembler. But arguably its most powerful feature is the custom C++ and Rust inspired pattern language used to define structures and data types, which allows for automatic file parsing and annotation. The language is expansive enough to have its own documentation, and there’s a whole second GitHub repository that contains community-developed patterns for file types ranging from Microsoft’s USB Flashing Format (UF2) to DOOM WAD files.
Admittedly, all this capability comes with a certain degree of heft — especially if you’re used to poking around in
hexedit. The documentation says you’ll need at least 500 MB of RAM and hardware accelerated graphics just to get into the party, and it only goes up from there depending on the complexity of the analysis you’re doing. But while ImHex is a thoroughly modern piece of software in terms of scope and size (the source code alone weighs in at 30 MB), in our testing it always felt responsive — no sign of that “heavy” feel you sometimes get when running something like an Electron app.
Is it a far more complex program than you need to just flip a few bytes around? Absolutely. In fact, we’d wager the average user will never even use half of the capabilities offered up by ImHex, and could probably make do with something much simpler for day to day use. But for that one time you need to get your hands dirty and really dig into a file, you’ll be glad those capabilities are there — and that’s a good enough reason to keep it installed and at the ready in our book.