Seven in a row

I am going to succumb for a few days to the overwhelming list of terminal applications I want to note. Ordinarily I try to space these out by a week or so at a time, but the list is growing faster than I can manage.

So here is day one of what will probably be two or three posts on console applications. Today: Hex editors and text editors.

I can think of exactly one occasion when I actually needed a proper hex editor, and unfortunately it was so long ago that I wasn’t even using Linux at the time.

Just the same, there is always the chance that something like this might come in handy, so here’s tweak, on the left, and beav.


Both work well and do the job as you would expect. beav gets a point for being easy to decipher, with on-screen help prompts and more interaction, but I couldn’t find an option to widen the screen display.

tweak is more or less the opposite, with a few options (like stretching the display over the width of the terminal 🙄 ), but fewer on-screen tips and commands are a little more cryptic.

Both tweak and beav are more aligned to the emacs style of doing things — I believe both use CTRL+X CTRL+C to quit, as an example. Here’s one for the vi camp: hexer.

Probably simpler and less functional than the other two, but if you know vi you’ll be quicker at the starting line with this one. hexer, I should mention, feels a little less complete; perhaps it’s still a work in progress.

Enough with hex editors though; let’s move on.

Of course, mentioning a text editor for Linux is like pointing out one particular grain of sand on entire beach. There are just too many, with each of them doing something special in its own right.

All the same, I think I should point out the lighter, more unusual ones I find — that, after all, is my gimmick. I’ve mentioned e3 in the past; here it is again along with mg, joe and jed.





e3 is amazing for fitting a fully functional editor into a 10kb sliver, along with the option to use different command sets that are closer to what you’re familiar with. So that whole emacs-vi thing can go away for once.

mg is likewise a teeny little thing, but this one, as I understand it, is much like zile in its attempt to be a (much) lighter emacs.

I suppose, in that sense, both e3 and mg are useful to people who are accustomed to the way one particular editor works, but want something much, much smaller.

I have a hard time separating jed and joe in my mind (no joke intended there), but you might know joe as one of the editor options in the Arch Linux installation sequence.

joe works well for being obvious and easy to manage. Help commands are listed in a drop-down box, which makes them quick to find while you’re learning it. And it feels like an editor, if that makes sense.

jed, on the other hand, might be the most replete and easy to manage of the editors listed here. jed feels like a graphical application, with drop-down menus, windowed documents, and so forth.

But like I said, these are just four grains of sand on a huge beach of text editors for Linux. I’d be mad to ever mention another text editor again, and probably will be, just for mentioning these four.

There we are though, seven more I can cross off my list. Seven steps forward, ten steps back. … 😐

10 thoughts on “Seven in a row

  1. IsaacG

    note: joe is no longer in the Archlinux repos.
    For hex editing, I’ve used vim + xxd. The following .vimrc lines has vim use xxd to convert a file to hex and back from hex to binary when you are done. It runs on *.bin files. (I think I got it from the vim :help)

    augroup Binary
    au BufReadPre *.bin let &bin=1
    au BufReadPost *.bin if &bin | %!xxd -g 1
    au BufReadPost *.bin set ft=xxd | endif
    au BufWritePre *.bin if &bin | %!xxd -r -g 1
    au BufWritePre *.bin endif
    au BufWritePost *.bin if &bin | %!xxd -g 1
    au BufWritePost *.bin set nomod | endif
    augroup END

  2. Chubby Checker

    xxd works just great for converting to/from binary files. you can use whatever editor you want inbetween. 😉

    BTW, I do use hex editors/viewers all the time. or my own bin to utf-8 filter…

  3. cwsnyder

    One of JOE’s main claims to fame for the old MS/PCDOS people (still surviving and with a good memory?) was that the keybindings could be matched to WordStar and WordPerfect. Remember DOS? Where an application would be written in 86Assembler and maybe clock in under 2K for a full screen editor?

  4. Kevin

    As for hex editors, there’s also biew (or beye as it has been renamed, but there have been no releases since the rename):

    It’s quite nice because it has multiple views: text, binary, hex, and disassembler. It’s menu driven and fairly easy to navigate. I rarely use a hex editor, but the built-in disassembler seems like it could be quite useful.

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  6. Dieter_be

    > you might know joe as one of the editor options in the Arch Linux installation sequence

    background story for those who care:
    I used to use joe (my boss at my first job was a big joe fan, I got it from him) for a while, so I included it in the Arch installer.
    However, I’ve switched to vim a while back and noone cared enough (or: it’s not popular enough) to keep maintaining joe, so we don’t include it anymore.

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