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Minecraft saves a lot of data in a file called level.dat. What can I use to edit this? When I try to open it in Notepad++ all I get is a bunch of random symbols... æ&$+¿[w.ÜŠÖÄŸ¶…9É2þ

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I don't know what you are looking to do with level.dat, but to edit a map, you could use MCEdit. To edit your inventory there is also InvEdit. – Djorak Aug 9 '11 at 12:43
up vote 19 down vote accepted

Minecraft's data files are in a proprietary file format called NBT (named binary tag).

You're gonna need an editor specifically designed to open these, such as NBTExplorer (runs on Windows, Linux, Mac).

There is also the appropriately named NBTedit, but apparently it is no longer being updated and the author himself recommends NBTExplorer.

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I prefer NBTExplorer. Just thought I'd share it for completeness. EDIT: Sorry, but I didn't notice how old this question is :/ – Lars Aug 4 '13 at 7:10
@Lars Yep. When I answered this question, NBTExplorer didn't even exist. Thanks for the heads up though, it does appear to be the best option now. – a cat Aug 4 '13 at 14:17
For anyone else on Arch Linux: Install mono, run mono path/to/NBTExplorer.exe, open your saves directory, open level.dat and then Data, set allowCommands to 1, save. Bish bosh. – l0b0 Nov 29 '15 at 22:22

You can open it with WinRAR or Windows Explorer, then edit the file inside with Wordpad, Notepad, or any other program.

The file contains the /gamerule's and the properties like: Cheats, your Seed, the directory of all the world files, the game mode, and more.

But I have not edited it this way though, I just viewed it. So if it breaks your world, then it's not my fault.

So the best way to edit it is NBTExplorer.

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