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Rich Text Format (RTF)

What is Rich Text Format (RTF)?

Rich Text Format (RTF) is a file format that lets you exchange text files between different word processors in different operating systems (OSes).

For example, you can create a file in Microsoft Word and then open it in another word processor, such as Apple Pages or Google Docs. RTF is supported by many word processors, making it a useful format for exchanging files between different software programs.

How are text files encoded?

RTF files are encoded using the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) standard, which makes them easy to transfer between different computers and OSes. ASCII is a standard code that represents characters using numbers, and it is the most common encoding used for text files.

RTF files use control words to format the text. Control words are short codes that represent various formatting options, such as bold or italic.

When saving a file in Rich Text Format, the file is processed by an RTF writer that converts the word processor's markup to the RTF language.

When being read, the control words and symbols are processed by an RTF reader that converts the RTF language into formatting for the word processor, which displays the document.

RTF, word processors
The Rich Text Format (RTF) file format enables users to exchange text documents between different word processors in different OSes.

Why use Rich Text Format?

The primary advantage of using RTF is that it is a cross-platform format. This means that you can open and edit RTF files on any word processor that supports the format.

Another advantage of RTF is that it preserves the formatting of your document. This is useful if you want to maintain the same layout and design across different word processors.

What are the disadvantages of Rich Text Format?

One disadvantage of RTF is that it does not support all features of a word processor. For example, RTF does not support tables or images.

Another disadvantage is that RTF files can be larger than other types of text files, such as plaintext files. This is because RTF files contain more information about the formatting of the document. So, sending and downloading these files can be time-consuming.

How to open an RTF file

To open an RTF file, you need a word processor that supports the format. As previously stated, some of the most popular word processors that can open RTF files include Microsoft Word, Apple Pages and Google Docs.

If you don't have a word processor that can open RTF files, you can convert the file to another format using a file converter. For example, you can use a free online converter to convert an RTF file to a Portable Document Format or DOCX file.

Explore top Microsoft Office alternatives for enterprise use and paperless office software tools to consider.

This was last updated in September 2022

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