Rich Text Format

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Rich Text Format
File extension : .rtf
MIME type : text / rtf, application / rtf
Magic number : {\ rtf
Developed by: Microsoft
Type: Document format

The Rich Text Format ( RTF ) is a proprietary file format for texts that was introduced by Microsoft in 1987. It can serve as an exchange format between word processing programs from different manufacturers on different operating systems. It is also used, for example, to display formatted text in database fields.


In contrast to plain text , which only transports the pure text characters, but no formatting such as font sizes, types or layouts, an RTF document also contains numerous text formatting features, including embedded graphics, without being tied to a specific software . Virtually all word processing systems can write and read RTF files. However, there is no guarantee that the layout will be true to the layout; for example, changes to the page breaks on the target system may occur.

Technically speaking, RTF files are pure text files , but contain formatting instructions embedded within the actual text content. This procedure is called text markup , it works in a similar way to HTML and LaTeX . In addition, binary data, e.g. B. an image, be embedded.

The RTF versions defined from version 1.0 from 1987 onwards are upwardly compatible .


The user selects RTF as the file type in his word processor in the "Save dialog" in order to save the text as an RTF file with the file extension .rtf . The text can then be opened again with another word processing program. The simpler the text is formatted, the more reliably it will be reproduced with other programs as desired. Templates and object anchors (pictures, text frames and other objects) in particular can affect the layout when played back with another program. Typically, fonts are not embedded and must therefore be installed on the target system for faithful reproduction of the original.


The following example shows how an RTF file is structured internally.

The RTF file content:

Guten Tag!
{\i Dies} ist \b{\i ein
\i0 formatierter \b0Text}.
\b Das \b0Ende.

The representation:

Good day!
This is one of formatted text.

The end.

Paragraphs are separated by \ par , blank lines are inserted with \ line , {\i <Text>}italicized within {\b <Text>}standing text and bold within standing text, etc. Further text properties are marked in the same way, and a list of all fonts used can also be saved at the beginning of an RTF file.


RTF is the standard file format of WordPad and one of the few possibilities to exchange texts between DOS and Windows applications without great effort. Wordpad also allows RTF texts to be provided with images available as bitmaps via the "Insert object" dialog, to change their size (with a mouse click) and to display or delete them yourself. However, additional editing options for images are not offered.

Apple's TextEdit , the standard editor of macOS , and all other programs based on the Apple TextEngine framework also use RTF as the standard format. However, these programs do not support any integrated graphics or footnotes. Apple has introduced the proprietary RTFD format for this purpose : a package file that consists of the text in Rich Text Format and other files inserted in the text, such as images, but also films, etc.

With the increasing performance of import filters for proprietary file formats and the growing popularity of Markdown , RTF is becoming less important as an interchange format .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Application Media Types , accessed on February 26, 2013 (English).