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What is RTF?

Format description

RTF, short for Rich Text Format, is a propriety text file format developed by Microsoft. It is still controlled by Microsoft, but unlike other Microsoft text formats, RTF is openly available, thus allowing any word processor to freely use the format.

This makes RTF a cross-platform format, which means it can be saved and used on any version of any document creating word processor on any computer system. This feature makes an RTF file easily accessible by all and edited if need be. If a document is not to be changed, it is saved in the PDF format.

What makes the interchange across platforms possible is RTF’s use of ANSI (American National Standards Institute), PC-8, Macintosh, and IBM PC character sets embedded in ASCII text. These character sets contain control words and symbols that serve as common formatting commands. When an RTF file is saved, it is processed by an RTF writer which converts the word processor's markup into RTF language. When this file is opened in another word processor, an RTF reader converts the RTF language into the formatting of the word processor in use. All versions of Microsoft Word for Macintosh and all versions of Microsoft Word for Windows have built-in RTF readers and writers. All other word processors and computer systems require a separate writer and reader.

RTF is a combination of plain text files and rich text files, and allows several formatting features – like bold, italic, underline, different fonts in different sizes, and custom tab settings. The RTF file format also supports images saved in the text.


Wit of the day

A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila.
Mitch Ratliffe, U.S. journalist