Rich Text Format (RTF)

May 20, 2023

Rich Text Format (RTF) is a file format that is used for encoding text documents that contains formatting information, such as fonts, styles, colors, and images. It was developed by Microsoft Corporation in 1987 and has since become a widely used file format for exchanging text documents between different operating systems and applications.


The purpose of the Rich Text Format is to provide a standard file format for text documents that can be used across multiple platforms and applications. It allows users to create documents with formatting such as bold, italic, underlined text, different font types and sizes, and images, while preserving the formatting even if the document is opened in a different application or operating system.

The RTF file format is particularly useful for sharing documents between different word processors and other applications, as it is supported by many different software programs. This makes it a valuable tool for businesses and individuals who need to collaborate on documents with others who may be using different software programs.


RTF files can be created and edited using a variety of software applications, including Microsoft Word, OpenOffice Writer, and Google Docs. RTF files can be opened by any application that supports the format, including web browsers, text editors, and word processors.

One of the advantages of RTF files is that they are generally smaller in size than other file formats, such as Microsoft Word’s DOC or DOCX formats. This makes them easier to share over the internet and by email.

RTF files can be used for a variety of purposes, including creating reports, memos, business letters, academic papers, and other types of documents. They can also be used for creating web pages, as many web browsers are capable of reading RTF files.

Formatting in RTF

RTF files can contain a wide variety of formatting options, including fonts, font styles, font colors, bullets, numbering, margins, tabs, tables, images, and hyperlinks. The formatting options are usually specified using RTF control words, which are codes that tell the application how to format the text.

Some of the most commonly used RTF control words include:

  • \b – bold
  • \i – italic
  • \ul – underline
  • \strike – strikethrough
  • \fs – font size
  • \fonttbl – font table
  • \colortbl – color table
  • \par – paragraph
  • \tab – tab
  • \page – page break
  • \pict – picture

RTF files can also contain nested formatting codes, which can be used to create complex formatting options. For example, it is possible to create a table with different font styles and colors for each cell.


One of the main advantages of RTF files is their compatibility with a wide variety of applications and operating systems. Since the file format is widely supported, users can create and share documents with others without worrying about compatibility issues.

In addition, RTF files are often used for creating documents that need to be shared with others who may not have access to the same software or operating system. For example, a business might create an RTF file to send to a client who is using a different word processor.


While RTF files are useful for many purposes, they do have some limitations. For example, they do not support advanced formatting options such as styles, macros, or templates. In addition, they may not be suitable for creating complex documents that require a lot of formatting, as they can become difficult to manage.

Another limitation of RTF files is that they do not support multimedia content or interactivity. This means that they cannot be used for creating interactive documents, such as web pages or multimedia presentations.