Its primary use is as a human friendly representation of binary coded values, so it is often used in digital electronics and computer engineering. Since each hexadecimal digit represents four binary digits (bits)—also called a nibble—it is a compact and easily translated shorthand to express values in base two.

In URLs, all characters can be coded using hexadecimal. Each 2digit (1 byte) hexadecimal sequence is preceded by a percent sign. For example, the URL http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main%20Page
substitutes a space (which is not allowed in URLs) with the hex code for a space (%20
).
In linear text systems, such as those used in most computer programming environments, a variety of methods have arisen:
%
: http://www.example.com/name%20with%20spaces
where %20
is the space (blank) character, code 20 hex, or 32 decimal.
. Color references are expressed in hex prefixed with #
: #FFFFFF
which gives white.0x
: 0x5A3
Character and string constants may express character codes in hexadecimal with the prefix x
followed by two hex digits: 'x1B'
(specifies the Esc control character), "x1B[0mx1B[25;1H"
is a string containing 11 characters (not including an implied trailing NUL). To output a value as hexadecimal with the printf function family, the format conversion code %X
or %x
is used.U+ followed by the hex value: U+20AC
is the Euro sign (€).
 MIME (email extensions) quotedprintable characters by code inside a
text/plain MIMEpart
body prefix nonprintable ASCII characters with an equal to sign =
, as in Espa=D1a
to send "España" (Spain).
 In Intelderived assembly languages, hexadecimal is indicated with a suffixed H or h:
FFh
or 0A3CH
. Some implementations require a leading zero when the first character is not a digit: 0FFh
 Other assembly languages (6502, AT&T, Motorola), Pascal, and some versions of BASIC (Commodore) and Forth use
$
as a prefix: $5A3
.
 Some assembly languages (Microchip) use the notation
H'ABCD'
(for ABCD_{16}).
 *nix (UNIX and related) shells use an escape character form
x0FF
in expressions and 0xFF
for constants.
 Ada and VHDL enclose hexadecimal numerals in based "numeric quotes":
16#5A3#
 Verilog represents hexadecimal constants in the form
8'hFF
, where 8 is the number of bits in the value and FF is the hexadecimal constant.
 Modula 2 and some other languages use # as a prefix:
#01AF
 The Smalltalk programming language uses the prefix
16r
: 16r6EF7
 Postscript indicates hex with prefix
16#
: 16#ABCD
. Binary data (such as image pixels) can be expressed as unprefixed consecutive hexadecimal pairs: AA213FD51B3801043FBC
...
 Common Lisp use the prefixes
#x
and #16r
.
 QBasic and Visual Basic, prefix hexadecimal numerals with
&H
: &H5A3
 BBC BASIC and Locomotive_BASIC use
&
for hex.
 TI89 and 92 series uses
0h
: 0hA3
 Notations such as
X'5A3'
are sometimes seen, such as in PL/I. This is the most common format for hexadecimal on IBM mainframes (zSeries) and midrange computers (iSeries) running traditional OS's (zOS, zVSE, zVM, TPF, OS/400), and is used in Assembler, PL/1, Cobol, JCL, scripts, commands and other places. This format was common on other (and now obsolete) IBM systems as well.
 Donald Knuth introduced the use of particular typeface to represent a particular radix in his book The TeXbook. There, hexadecimal representations are written in a typewriter typeface: 5A3
There is no universal convention to use lowercase or uppercase for the letter digits, and each is prevalent or preferred by particular environments by community standards or convention.
The choice of the letters A through F to represent the digits above nine was not universal in the early history of computers. During the 1950s, some installations favored using the digits 0 through 5 with a macron character ("¯") to indicate the values 1015. Users of Bendix G15 computers used the letters U through Z. Bruce A. Martin of Brookhaven National Laboratory considered the choice of AF "ridiculous" and in 1968 proposed in a letter to the editor of the ACM an entirely new set of symbols based on the bit locations, which did not gain much acceptance.
Verbal representations
Not only are there no digits to represent the quantities from ten to fifteen—so letters are used as a substitute—but most Western European languages also lack a nomenclature to name hexadecimal numbers. "Thirteen" and "fourteen" are decimalbased, and even though English has names for several nondecimal powers: pair for the first binary power; score for the first vigesimal power; dozen, gross, and great gross for the first three duodecimal powers. However, no English name describes the hexadecimal powers (corresponding to the decimal values 16, 256, 4096, 65536, ...). Some people read hexadecimal numbers digit by digit like a phone number: 4DA is "fourdeeaye". However, the letter 'A' sounds similar to eight, 'C' sounds similar to three, and 'D' can easily be mistaken for the 'ty' suffix: Is it 4D or forty? Other people avoid confusion by using the NATO phonetic alphabet: 4DA is "fourdeltaalpha". Similarly, some use the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet ("fourdogable"), or a similar ad hoc system.
Signs
The hexadecimal system can express negative numbers the same way as in decimal: –2A to represent –42 and so on.However, some prefer instead to express the exact bit patterns used in the processor and consider hexadecimal values best handled as unsigned values. This way, the negative number –42 can be written as FFFF FFD6 in a 32bit CPU register, as C228 0000 in a 32bit FPU register or C045 0000 0000 0000 in a 64bit FPU register.
Fractions
As with other numeral systems, the hexadecimal system can be used to represent rational numbers, although recurring digits are common since sixteen (10h) has only a single prime factor (two):
=
0.8
=
0.2AAAAAAAA...
=
0.1999999999...
=
0.1249249249...
=
0.5555555555...
=
0.2492492492...
=
0.1745D1745D...
=
0.1111111111...
=
0.4
=
0.2
=
0.1555555555...
=
0.1
=
0.3333333333...
=
0.1C71C71C71...
=
0.13B13B13B1...
=
0.0F0F0F0F0F...
For any base, 0.1 (or "1/10") is always equivalent to one divided by the representation of that base value in its own number system: Counting in base 3 is 0, 1, 2, 10 (three). Thus, whether dividing one by two for binary or dividing one by sixteen for hexadecimal, both of these fractions are written as 0.1
. Because the radix 16 is a perfect square (4²), fractions expressed in hexadecimal have an odd period much more often than decimal ones, and there are no cyclic numbers (other than trivial single digits). Recurring digits are exhibited when the denominator in lowest terms has a prime factor not found in the radix; thus, when using hexadecimal notation, all fractions with denominators that are not a power of two result in an infinite string of recurring digits (such as thirds and fifths). This makes hexadecimal (and binary) less convenient than decimal for representing rational numbers since a larger proportion lie outside its range of finite representation.
All rational numbers finitely representable in hexadecimal are also finitely representable in decimal, duodecimal and sexagesimal: that is, any hexadecimal number with a finite number of digits has a finite number of digits when expressed in those other bases. Conversely, only a fraction of those finitely representable in the latter bases are finitely representable in hexadecimal: That is, decimal 0.1 corresponds to the infinite recurring representation 0.199999999999... in hexadecimal. However, hexadecimal is more efficient than bases 12 and 60 for representing fractions with powers of two in the denominator (e.g., decimal one sixteenth is 0.1 in hexadecimal, 0.09 in duodecimal, 0;3,45 in sexagesimal and 0.0625 in decimal).
Binary translation
Most computers manipulate binary data, but it is difficult for humans to work with the large number of digits for even a relatively small binary number. Although most humans are familiar with the base 10 system, it is much easier to map binary to hexadecimal than to decimal because each hexadecimal digit maps to a whole number of bits (4_{10}).
This example converts 1111_{2} to base ten. Since each position in a binary numeral can contain either a 1 or 0, its value may be easily determined by its position from the right: 0001_{2} = 1_{10}
 0010_{2} = 2_{10}
 0100_{2} = 4_{10}
 1000_{2} = 8_{10}
Therefore:
1111_{2}
= 8_{10} + 4_{10} + 2_{10} + 1_{10}
= 15_{10}
With surprisingly little practice, mapping 1111_{2} to F_{16} in one step becomes easy: see table in Uses. The advantage of using hexadecimal rather than decimal increases rapidly with the size of the number. When the number becomes large, conversion to decimal is very tedious. However, when mapping to hexadecimal, it is trivial to regard the binary string as 4 digit groups and map each to a single hexadecimal digit.This example shows the conversion of a binary number to decimal, mapping each digit to the decimal value, and adding the results.
01011110101101010010_{2}
= 262144_{10} + 65536_{10} + 32768_{10} + 16384_{10} + 8192_{10} + 2048_{10} + 512_{10} + 256_{10} + 64_{10} + 16_{10} + 2_{10}
= 387922_{10}
Compare this to the conversion to hexadecimal, where each group of four digits can be considered independently, and converted directly:
01011110101101010010_{2}
=
0101_{ }
1110_{ }
1011_{ }
0101_{ }
0010_{2}
=
5
E
B
5
2_{16}
=
5EB52_{16}
The conversion from hexadecimal to binary is equally direct.The octal system can also be useful as a tool for people who need to deal directly with binary computer data. Octal represents data as three bits per character, rather than four.
Converting from other bases
Divisionremainder in source base
As with all bases there is a simple algorithm for converting a representation of a number to hexadecimal by doing integer division and remainder operations in the source base. Theoretically this is possible from any base but for most humans only decimal and for most computers only binary (which can be converted by far more efficient methods) can be easily handled with this method.Let d be the number to represent in hexadecimal, and the series h_{i}h_{i1}...h_{2}h_{1} be the hexadecimal digits representing the number.
 i := 1
 h_{i} := d mod 16
 d := (dh_{i}) / 16
 If d = 0 (return series h_{i}) else increment i and go to step 2
"16" may be replaced with any other base that may be desired.
The following is a JavaScript implementation of the above algorithm for converting any number to a hexadecimal in String representation. Its purpose is to illustrate the above algorithm. To work with data seriously however, it is much more advisable to work with bitwise operators.
var r = d % 16;
var result;
if (dr == 0)
result = toChar(r);
else
result = toHex((dr)/16 ) + toChar(r);
return result;
}function toChar(n) {
const alpha = "0123456789ABCDEF";
return alpha.charAt(n);
}
Addition and multiplication
It is also possible to make the conversion by assigning each place in the source base the hexadecimal representation of its place value and then performing multiplication and addition to get the final representation.
I.e. to convert the number B3AD to decimal one can split the conversion into D (13_{10}), A (10_{10}), 3 (3_{10}) and B (11_{10}) then get the final result by
multiplying each decimal representation by 16^{p}, where 'p' is the corresponding position from right to left, beginning with 0. In this case we have 13*(16^{0}) + 10*(16^{1}) + 3*(16^{2}) + 11*(16^{3}), which is equal 45997 in the decimal system.
Conversion via binary
As most computers work in binary, the normal way for a computer to make such a conversion would be to convert to binary first (by doing multiplication and addition in binary) and then make use of the direct mapping from binary to hexadecimal.
Tools for conversion
Most modern computer systems with graphical user interfaces provide a builtin calculator utility, capable of performing conversions between various radixes, generally including hexadecimal.In Microsoft Windows, the Calculator utility can be set to scientific calculator mode, which allows conversions between radix 16 (hexadecimal), 10 (decimal), 8 (octal) and 2 (binary); the bases most commonly used by programmers. In Scientific Mode, the on screen numeric keypad includes the hexadecimal digits A through F which are active when "Hex" is selected. The Windows Calculator however only supports integers.
Cultural
Etymology
The word "hexadecimal" is strange in that hexa is derived from the Greek έξ (hex) for "six" and decimal is derived from the Latin for "tenth". It may have been derived from the Latin root, but Greek deka is so similar to the Latin decem that some would not consider this nomenclature inconsistent. However, the word "sexagesimal" (base 60) retains the Latin prefix. The earlier Bendix documentation used the term "sexadecimal". Donald Knuth has pointed out that the etymologically correct term is "senidenary", from the Latin term for "grouped by 16". (The terms "binary", "ternary" and "quaternary" are from the same Latin construction, and the etymologically correct term for "decimal" arithmetic is "denary".) Schwartzman notes that the pure expectation from the form of usual Latintype phrasing would be "sexadecimal", but then computer hackers would be tempted to shorten the word to "sex". Incidentally, the etymologically proper Greek term would be hexadecadic (although in Modern Greek decahexadic (δεκαεξαδικός) is more commonly used).
Common patterns and humor
Hexadecimal is sometimes used in programmer jokes because certain words can be formed using only hexadecimal digits. Some of these words are "dead", "beef", "babe", and with appropriate substitutions "c0ffee". Since these are quickly recognizable by programmers, debugging setups sometimes initialize memory to them to help programmers see when something has not been initialized.
Some people add an H after a number if they want to show that it is written in hexadecimal. In older Intel assembly syntax, this is sometimes the case.
"Hexspeak" may be the forerunner of the modern web parlance of "1337speak"An example is the magic number in FAT MachO files and java class file structure, which is "CAFEBABE
". Singlearchitecture MachO files have the magic number "FEEDFACE
" at their beginning. "DEADBEEF
" is sometimes put into uninitialized memory. Microsoft Windows XP clears its locked index.dat files with the hex codes: "0BADF00D
".
Two common bit patterns often employed to test hardware are 01010101
and 10101010
(their corresponding hex values are 55h and AAh, respectively). The reason for their use is to alternate between off ('0') to on ('1') or vice versa when switching between these two patterns. These two values are often used together as signatures in critical PC system sectors (e.g., the hex word, 0xAA55
which on littleendian systems is 55h followed by AAh, must be at the end of a valid Master Boot Record).
The following table shows a joke in hexadecimal:
3x12=36
2x12=24
1x12=12
0x12=18
The first three are interpreted as multiplication, but in the last, "0x" signals Hexadecimal interpretation of 12, which is 18.
Another joke based on the use of a word containing only letters from the first six in the alphabet (and thus those used in hexadecimal) is...
 If only DEAD people understand hexadecimal, how many people understand hexadecimal?
In this case, DEAD refers to a hexadecimal number (57005 base 10), not the state of being no longer alive. Obviously, DEAD normally should not be written in allcaps (as in the preceding) as it makes it stand out, thus ruining the riddle. A Knuth reward check is one hexadecimal dollar, or $2.56.
Primary numeral system
There have been occasional attempts to promote hexadecimal as the preferred numeral system. These attempts usually
propose pronunciation and/or symbology. Sometimes the proposal unifies standard
measures so that they are multiples of 16.An example of unifying standard measures is Hexadecimal time which subdivides a day by 16 so that there are 16 "hexhours" in a day.
See also
 Base 32
 Base 64
 Base32
 Base64
 Web colours
 Hex editor
 Hexadecimal time
 Hexspeak
 Nibble — one hexadecimal digit can exactly represent one "nibble"
 Numeral system — a list of other base systems
 Binary numeral system
 HTML
 Bubble Babble
References
External links
Hex conversion utilities or pages
 Online Converter for Decimal/Hexadecimal Numerals (JavaScript, GPL)
 Online ASCII/Hexadecimal converter (PHP)
 Hex/ASCII 'translation' service
 Leet Key, a Firefox extension that supports ASCII/Hex conversions and typing
 Hexday, a web based social network built around hex color choices
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Last updated on Saturday October 11, 2008 at 02:05:21 PDT (GMT 0700)
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