What are RTF (rich text format) files, and why should one use them?
RTF (Rich Text Format) is a standard file format which simplifies
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.
- 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;
- No Risk of Viruses
RTF files, unlike Word .doc files, cannot contain the numerous
"macro" and other viruses that plague Microsoft Word documents (see Understanding Viruses and Attachments for
background). 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.
- 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.
Do Not Use Open Office To Produce RTF Files!
An exception to the rule that any word processor or text editor can
produce RTF files is the Open Office word processor, which can read RTF
files and in theory also create them. However, in practice Open Office
creates RTF files that are often horribly garbled when one next opens the
file (either you, if you edit the file again; or the recipient to whom you
have sent your RTF file), regardless of what word processor or text editor
is used to do so.
Therefore students shold NOT use Open Office when creating RTF
any UTA classwork. One option is to use the Microsoft Office
all university computers, or (for Windows users) to copy/paste your file
into WordPad, which can save files in RTF format. Another is to use
instead of Open Office
(open-source) Libreoffice Suite
(an improved version of Open Office created by a group of Open Office's
original development team, on which RTF works considerably better) or the
AbiWord word processor, an excellent
product that also produces proper RTF files.