Why use RTF files?


What are RTF (rich text format) files, and why should one use them?

RTF (Rich Text Format) is a standard file format which simplifies the exchange of documents between different word processors and computer operating systems. For example, one can send an RTF file created in Microsoft Word 2002 using Windows XP to someone who uses Word 97 in Windows 98, WordPerfect 6.0 on Windows 3.1, StarOffice on a Linux system, or Word 5 on a Macintosh system and all users will be able to open and read the file regardless of the software version or operating system.

The rtf format can be produced by any standard word processor. Simply go to "save as" and choose Rich Text Format from the options menu. The file you save will have a .rtf extension, e.g. filename.rtf. If one normally uses Word and saves texts in Word format with the default .doc extension, changing a saved text to .rtf will not delete the original .doc file. One can also select rtf as the primary mode for saving texts with one's word processor.

With received rtf files, most web browsers and word processors will recognize and open the file automatically. With some word processors one may have to go to the File-Open menu and then select either "All Files" or "Rich Text Files" from the File Type menu at the bottom in order for the RTF file to be visible (if, for example, you are using Word and the default for the File Type menu is to show only DOC files).

RTF may be thought of as a more sophisticated equivalent of the "plain text" (ascii text) format for universal document transmission. Plain text files were the "original way" to send and receive by any user regardless of the word processor, version, or operating system used by either the sender or receiver. However, plain text files cannot include "text markup" data such as boldface, italics, and underlining, not to mention tables and graphics.

RTF enables one to include all the text markup which had been in the original Word, WordPerfect or other word processor document. An RTF file will look and print exactly like the original. It can also be easily converted by the receiver's word processor into .doc or other format for revision, and reconverted back to rtf for re-sending.

Advantages of the RTF Format

There are several significant advantages to the RTF file format when one needs to send or receive files from others, either via diskette exchange, e-mail attachments or putting the file on-line in a web directory for others to retrieve.

  1. File Transparency
    First is simply the ability mentioned above of RTF files to be read by the receiver regardless of the type of word processor or its version or the operating system being used. While in some cases this may be the most essential requirement, the following may also often meet critical needs;
  2. No Risk of Viruses
    RTF files, unlike Word .doc files, cannot contain the numerous "macro" and other viruses that plague Microsoft Word documents. As a consequence of all the viruses that may be carried by Word .doc files, many business and other e-mail servers refuse to accept e-mailed "attachments" which are in .doc format. However, they will accept the same document in RTF, since the RTF file cannot transmit viruses. This security against the risk of virus infection applies regardless of whether your document would be conveyed via diskette, e-mail attachment, or as an archived web file.
  3. Smaller File Size for Text Documents
    If your document only includes text (including text markup, but no graphics, sound files, etc.) then saving it as RTF rather than as a
    DOC file usually also results in a considerably smaller file size. This means that upload, download, and e-mail transmission times would be quicker, and one would have greater disk storage capacity due to the smaller file sizes of your documents. These may sometimes be considerable advantages.

Conversely, if the document contains embedded graphics, audio files, etc., then an RTF version may be considerably larger than the DOC version, as RTF would have to convert highly-complex graphics information into RTF format, which would involve a considerable amount of coding instruction.

Also Tech Tip for saving files in RTF format:



RTF format stands for Rich Text Format. It is a universal format and can be viewed using almost all type of word-processing software.

Here is how to save a new file in rft format:

  1. Open your word processing software
  2. Create the document
  3. Click on File
  4. Click on Save As
  5. In the "File Name" field, enter a file name
  6. In the "Save as Type" filed, click on the drop-down menu and select Rich Text Format (.rtf)
  7. Click Save

Here is how to save a file in rft format that was already saved in another format:

  1. Open your word processing software
  2. Click on File
  3. Click on Save As
  4. In the "File Name" field, enter a file name
  5. In the "Save as Type" filed, click on the drop-down menu and select Rich Text Format (.rtf)
  6. Click Save