Hex Fiend Templates

Hex Fiend Templates

The latest version of Hex Fiend v2.9.0 brings a good list of features, and one that I have been expecting for quite some time: Binary Templates. One of the reasons of why I usually prefer Synalysis for reverse engineering binary file formats is because the program provides an API to highlight portions of the file to facilitate the analysis. I have always preferred HexFiend though, mostly because it is open-source, but this specific feature forced me to use other tools.

Binary Templates are a new feature in Hex Fiend that allow you to visualize the structure of a binary file. They are implemented in Tcl since this language is easy to embed, easy to write, has a ton of features, and already ships with macOS.

Getting Started

  1. Open a file in Hex Fiend
  2. Select from the Views menu Binary Templates
  3. On the right-side of the window the template view will show. Here you can select a template from the templates folder. Templates are stored at ~/Library/Application Support/com.ridiculousfish.HexFiend/Templates/. Each template must have the .tcl file extension.

Writing your First Template

Now that you’re familiar with the templates user interface, let’s write your first template. As stated before, templates are written using Tcl. If you’re already familiar with a programming language, scan through the tutorial to get a feel for the language.

  1. With your favorite text editor, create a new file and save it to ~/Library/Application Support/com.ridiculousfish.HexFiend/Templates/First.tcl.
  2. Enter the code below and save: uint32 "UInt32"
  3. Go back to Hex Fiend and select Refresh from the Templates drop-down. You should see your template listed as First if everything was correct so far.
  4. Open any file and change the selection cursor to new locations. You’ll see the “UInt32” field update.
  5. Congrats, you’ve written the most basic and simplest template that actually does something!


Hex Fiend extends Tcl with additional commands for interacting with the opened file. Many of these commands were heavily inspired by WinHex.

Command Description Example
uint64 label Reads an unsigned 64-bit integer uint64 "Label"
int64 label Reads a signed 64-bit integer int64 "Label"
uint32 label Reads an unsigned 32-bit integer uint32 "Label"
int32 label Reads a signed 32-bit integer int32 "Label"
uint16 label Reads an unsigned 16-bit integer uint16 "Label"
int16 label Reads a signed 16-bit integer int16 "Label"
uint8 label Reads an unsigned 8-bit integer uint8 "Label"
int8 label Reads a signed 8-bit integer int8 "Label"
float label Reads a 32-bit floating point float "Label"
double label Reads a 64-bit floating point double "Label"
big_endian Sets the endian mode to big big_endian
little_endian Sets the endian mode back to little (default) little_endian
hex len label Reads len bytes as hexadecimal hex 16 "UUID"
ascii len label Reads len bytes as ASCII ascii 32 "Name"
move len Moves the file pointer len bytes, can be negative move -4
end Returns true if the file is eof while {![end]} { ... }

Example - PNG Binary Template

requires 0 "89 50 4E 47 0D 0A 1A 0A"
hex 8 "Signature"
while {![end]} {
    set chunk_len [uint32 "Chunk Length"]
    set chunk_type [ascii 4 "Chunk Type"]
    if {$chunk_type == "IHDR"} {
        uint32 "Width"
        uint32 "Height"
        uint8 "Bit Depth"
        uint8 "Color Type"
        uint8 "Compression Method"
        uint8 "Filter Method"
        uint8 "Interlace Method"
    } else {
        move $chunk_len
    hex 4 "CRC"
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