Researching file formats 10: HxC Floppy Emulator HFE File Format

This blog post is part of a series on file formats research. See this introduction post for more information.

Update: The official format definition is now online here: HFE (HxC Floppy Emulator) File Format. Comments welcome directly to the Library of Congress.

My starting point for this format was this PDF (with a sweet logo). And I spent a lot of time deep in the forums on this one.

It was nice to see a forum (and associated discords) be so active on the topic of floppy disk emulation – I had no idea, the reach. Maybe because it’s relatively simple and accessible to get into? Maybe because people really love games? I don’t know.

So, this format. This format has a 1.5-page PDF as a specification, which a lot of people question as being thorough enough to be a real format. It is pretty slim, yeah.

There’s also the question of versions: The decades-old PDF on the website is a version 1.1. There’s an unlisted version 1.0, allegedly a version 2, and there’s a more-commonly-used version 3 that is only documented in the source code (and that’s cannon – from the format author). Oh, and there’s a HFE stream format, too. So that was the big challenge with this format, a lack of clarity and the profound unhelpfulness at being told to “just look at the source code”, which, in my expert opinion, doesn’t have the answers that a well-written specification document would provide (especially when neither the source specification nor code is very clear).

Yeah, perhaps a short entry here – I don’t have too much to say on this one except if you want to know more, you’ll just have to read the source. ;)

The next two posts will also be about floppy emulation formats, stay tuned for MOOF and Kryoflux! But don’t get too excited, because I will still be grumpy about the whole format set.