Can you recommend a free console hex/ASCII editor with a decent cut function (which would allow to cut blocks e.g. from the middle of a file)? Something which wouldn't be blue all over the place like Norton Commander

  • So you want something other than vim/emacs/nano? Why?
    – gardenhead
    Jan 5, 2016 at 0:58
  • Since this was migrated from unix.stackexchange.com, could you please tag it appropriately as Unix or Linux, or some particular distro or packaging system? Also, please tag gratis or state a budget. Is "cut" the only feature which you require? If more, please state.them. The more information that you give us, the better we will be able to help you. Ans, since I am quite thick - what do you mean by console? Truly command line only? No Gui? (If Gui, pelsae tag Gnome, Kde, etc) Jan 5, 2016 at 9:41
  • @gardenhead: vim and emacs are a bit heavy (AFAIK nano isn't a hex editor and Emacs has a GUI). As said, I want a console application
    – jaam
    Jan 9, 2016 at 18:51
  • @Mawg: the cut function seems to be the only thing what I missed in hexedit, which I'm using now. "Command line only" is vague. I want ASCII graphics, as in hexedit, norton commander or (net)hack
    – jaam
    Jan 9, 2016 at 23:02

1 Answer 1


Emacs + nhexl-mode

Emacs is a text editor with a lot of features and enormous extensibility.

Emacs has a built-in mode to edit binary file called Hexl mode. However, it only supports overwriting, which is the limitation you want to overcome.

There's a package (plugin) called nhexl-mode which solves this problem. You can install it through Emacs's package manager (menu “Options” → “Manage Emacs Packages”). Nhexl-mode starts in overwrite mode by default, but you can switch to insert mode by running M-x binary-overwrite-mode RET. Even in overwrite mode, deleting works.

You can put the following code snippet in your init file (~/.emacs) to bind the Insert key to toggling overwrite mode in nhexl-mode. (It's a bit more complex than ordinary key bindings because unlike most other modes, nhexl-mode doesn't have a specific keymap by default.)

(unless (boundp 'nhexl-mode-map)
  (defvar nhexl-mode-map (make-sparse-keymap)
    "Keymap used when `nhexl-mode' is active."))
(define-key nhexl-mode-map [insert] 'binary-overwrite-mode)

This may also be of interest if you use nhexl-mode.

  • While not what I asked for (Emacs has a GUI), it's good to know this too
    – jaam
    Feb 11, 2016 at 20:21
  • @jaam How is it not what you asked for? (Emacs has a GUI, so what? Your question asks for something that works in a terminal, and Emacs does work in a terminal. It'll start in terminal mode if X isn't available, and you can force it to run in a terminal even if X is available with emacs -nw) Feb 11, 2016 at 20:26
  • If so, apologies (I don't use Emacs, and assumed it's a GUI-only program). Learning Emacs to be able to cut text from the middle of a file seems a bit of an overkill (but I may be forced to it in the end)
    – jaam
    Feb 11, 2016 at 20:36

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