Quadrivio's General Edit 1.1 does a very good job of turning bad data into a usable file, and is an impressive tool for Macintosh developers of all kinds.
Help For Broken Files
General Edit displays file data in a window with four panes: the meta-data pane, which includes file type, creator, date and time information; the target data pane, which usually contains the data fork of the file (It can also switch back and forth between data fork and resource fork, but ResEdit is still the preferred resource editor.); the structure pane, for showing either the data fork or the resource fork; and the control pane, which lists structure elements you can select for transfer into the structure pane with a single click.
The program opens files without crashing itself, no matter how corrupted or big the files are because it uses its own automatic virtual memory. The file can then be edited back to usable form using standard text-modification methods, and opened again in the creator application.
In the General Edit data pane for this Microsoft Word file, far down in the middle of hundreds of hex zeroes, you finally find a tiny patch of actual text.
But That's Not All
Fixing mystery files is just part of General Edit's repertoire. The program is all the more attractive to programmers because it makes quick work of defining new types of file structures.
You can put together a new data-file structure definition in a matter of minutes with General Edit's tools, which follow standard C-language record structure rules. Quadrivio's Web site maintains a comprehensive set of links to definitions for all common file types, so you can download definitions and experiment with them as templates.
Basically, General Edit is a toolkit for writing the Import/Export commands under the File menu, and provides lots of help if you're new to this job. Access to Quadrivio's e-mail customer support is practically worth the price of the program -- there aren't many questions about files these people can't answer.
General Edit's thorough tutorial will display the numerous options for file structure within the same creator application.
Don't Try This at Home
With General Edit, you can also can inspect and modify memory handles, parameter RAM, the System heap and application heaps, or active memory. But keep in mind that this capability has the potential to cause awkward errors,. For the serious debugging that usually accompanies these last type of edits, General Edit gives you data in a form that's much more readable than the standard hex dump. Apple could have improved life for thousands of programmers by building something like General Edit into its own MPW years ago.
Macworld's Buying Advice
There's no better full-featured file editor than General Edit. You'll want to invest in the application if you are a programmer, tech support staffer, engineer, or data analyst who often comes across damaged Mac files.
RATING: PROS: Effectively helps with file repair; makes defining file-type definitions easy. CONS: None. COMPANY: Quadrivio (510/524-3246, http://www.quadrivio.com ). LIST PRICE: $229.