Definition of Binhex

Binhex, short for Binary-to-Hexadecimal, is a file conversion method primarily associated with the Apple Macintosh platform. It is used to convert binary files, such as images or executables, into text files containing ASCII characters. This conversion facilitates the transfer of binary data via text-based protocols like email without compromising the original file’s integrity.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Binhex” is:/ˈbɪnˌhɛks/

Key Takeaways

  1. Binhex is a binary-to-text encoding method used primarily for converting binary files to a format that can be easily transmitted over email and Usenet.
  2. Originally developed for the Apple Macintosh, Binhex encodes both data and resource forks of Macintosh files, allowing them to be accurately reconstructed after transmission.
  3. Though less commonly used today, Binhex remains a helpful tool for preserving file integrity during transmission over systems that may not support binary data or have limitations on character encoding.

Importance of Binhex

Binhex, short for “binary-to-hexadecimal,” is an important technology term because it represents a method of converting binary files (composed of 0s and 1s) into a hexadecimal representation that can be easily transferred, stored, or processed in a variety of systems and protocols.

This conversion ensures that non-text and special characters can be safely transmitted and decoded without loss or corruption.

Binhex plays a crucial role in various computing and networking applications, such as encoding email attachments, preserving file integrity during transfer, and facilitating data compression and error detection.

By providing a universal format for binaries, Binhex promotes greater interoperability and efficiency among different computer systems.


BinHex, short for Binary-to-Hexadecimal, is a system developed with the purpose of encoding binary data, such as images, audio files, or applications, into a text format that can be easily shared and transferred across platforms and communication mediums. The BinHex encoding system plays a crucial role in situations where binary data might not be correctly interpreted or might be damaged during the transfer.

By converting the data into a text format using characters from a limited set (usually 64 ASCII characters), BinHex ensures that the encoded information can be safely transmitted over systems that might struggle to handle raw binary data, such as email and other messaging platforms. BinHex is particularly associated with its popularity in the Apple Macintosh community during the late 80s and early 90s.

Mac users often relied on BinHex to encode and share files, as it enabled them to overcome compatibility limitations with other platforms and simplified the process of transferring files through networks and modems. While usage has dipped with the advent of more advanced encoding technologies, it still plays a role in maintaining the integrity and readability of information during cross-platform transfers.

By encoding data in a universally interpretable format, BinHex remains a valuable tool in ensuring the seamless and secure exchange of critical files between users and systems.

Examples of Binhex

BinHex (short for “binary-to-hexadecimal”) is a file format that was widely used on the Apple Macintosh platform during the 1980s and 1990s to encode binary files, such as images or programs, into plain text files for easier transmission or storage. Here are three real-world examples of the technology:

File Transmission via Email: In the early days of email, certain email systems and protocols did not support binary attachments or had size limitations. Users would often encode files using BinHex, which converted the binary data into a text-based format that could be sent as an ordinary email message. The recipient could then decode the BinHex message back into its original binary format.

BBS (Bulletin Board System): Bulletin Board Systems were popular online communication platforms in the late 1980s and early 1990s, where users could dial in over a phone line to exchange files and text messages. Since many BBS systems were limited to text-only communication, users would employ BinHex to encode their files into a text format suitable for uploading and downloading on the BBS. Other users could download these messages and convert them back into their original binary format.

Usenet Newsgroups: Usenet was an early, pre-web network that created discussion groups focused around various topics. Users could post messages, which were then propagated across the network using the NNTP protocol. Due to the text-based nature of Usenet, people frequently used BinHex to share files like images, software, or music. Users could download these BinHex-encoded posts, and then decode them on their own computers to access the original binary file.While BinHex is no longer in widespread use, it played a crucial role in facilitating file transfers during the early days of the internet and electronic communication systems, particularly for the Apple Macintosh community.

Binhex FAQs

What is Binhex?

Binhex, short for Binary-to-Hexadecimal, is a file format that converts binary data into hexadecimal (ASCII) representation. It was primarily used on the Macintosh platform to send binary files through e-mail systems or Usenet newsgroups that only supported ASCII text.

Why is Binhex used?

Binhex was created to facilitate the transfer of binary files over networks and systems that only allow ASCII text. Binhex encoding helps to ensure that binary files, such as images or executables, are not corrupted during transmission and can be successfully decoded by the recipient.

How do I create a Binhex file?

To create a Binhex file, you’ll need a Binhex utility or software that supports Binhex encoding. Popular file compression utilities, like WinZip and StuffIt, can create Binhex files in a few simple steps. Just open the utility, select the file you want to encode, and choose Binhex format for output.

How do I decode a Binhex file?

To decode a Binhex file, you’ll need a compatible utility or software, such as WinZip, StuffIt, or a dedicated Binhex decoding tool. Simply open the utility, select the Binhex file you want to decode, and the software will convert it into its original binary format. You can then extract or use the file as needed.

Are there any limitations or disadvantages to using Binhex?

While Binhex is a useful format for transferring binary files across text-only systems, it has some limitations. The process of converting binary data into ASCII text makes the encoded file larger, increasing its size by about 30-40%. Additionally, modern file transferring protocols, like FTP and HTTP, can easily handle binary files, reducing the need for Binhex encoding and making it less popular than it once was.

Related Technology Terms

  • File Conversion
  • ASCII Text
  • Binary-to-Text Encoding
  • Macintosh File Format
  • Data Compression

Sources for More Information


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