Product Reviews

PE Explorer

Poke around in the dangerous world of Portable EXEs.

"PE" in this context is "Portable Executable"—the file format used by EXEs, DLLs, and various other things on 32-bit Windows. And this tool will let you poke around in such files and (if you dare) make changes.

Much of the information revealed may be opaque to you at first glance, depending on your experience with Windows internals. For example, the header information will show you things like the size of code and data in the application, and the heap it reserves. But some other chunks here will be more interesting even if you're just beginning to look at PE files. For example, you can look at all of the entry points that the file exports for other applications to call, or all of the stuff that it imports from other applications. If you like, you can also disassemble the PE file into assembly code (though this may not do you any good unless you know assembler already!).

Of special note is the resource view. Resources, in this context, are things like cursors and icons and bitmaps and dialog boxes. PE Explorer lets you easily browse through these, extract them to files, or edit them in place. Want to muck with the look and feel of a dialog box in your favorite application? Want to "borrow" an icon that you especially like? This tool can perform either task equally well. In addition to native Win32 resources, PE Explorer also supports Borland Delphi/Builder forms.

If you're new to PE files, be sure to look at the help file, which contains concise and useful explanations of the information that you're looking at. There are some miscellaneous bells and whistles here as well: the ability to insert an XP Visual Styles manifest, a UPX unpacker, a plug-in API, and automatic unmangling of C++ external entity names. Despite the amount of information that's being moved around here, response time is quite snappy, and although the user interface can spawn a lot of windows they're all clearly labeled.

If you'd like to give it a spin, you can download a fully-functional 30-day evaluation copy from the Heaventools Web site.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, is a former MCP columnist and the author of numerous development books.

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