What is an .RTF file?

An RTF file is similar to a standard text file, but the RTF format is a bit more advanced in that it can store extra information and data types.

This extra data can include font style, format and images. RTF was created as a universal format to be used by most word processors and to make it easy to share Word documents with users who didn’t necessarily have Microsoft Word.

What does .RTF stand for?

RTF’s meaning is ‘Rich Text Format’. Simply put, this just means that you can add visual features - like font size, colour, underline and shadows - whereas Plain Text (.txt) only features words, numbers and basic symbols.

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History of the .RTF file.

Microsoft created the .rtf file type in the 1980s as a universal file type to be used by most processors, as it can be transferred from one operating system to another without losing document formatting. It was created as the default format of the Windows WordPad app.

The format has since gone through multiple revisions, though Microsoft published the final version in 2008. RTFs were also used as the basis of Windows Help files - before they were replaced by HTML files.

These days, many operating systems have feature-rich operations that minimise the use of the .rtf file format.

That said, while RTF development was discontinued in 2008, it is still a widely supported file type on most operating systems.

What are .RTF files used for?

Thanks to its ability to retain formatting data and compatibility across different operating systems, the RTF format still gets plenty of use today. Whether you have a Mac or a Windows PC, the chances are you’ll be able to open RTF files. RTF files are often used in publishing for rough drafts and editing, before being imported into another layout programme for the final format.

They can also be used with:

File Syncing systems.

File syncing programmes - like OneDrive, Dropbox and Google Drive - are already prepped with built-in viewers to read .RTF files. Some, like Google Drive, also allow you to edit them.

Operating systems.

RTF files are easy to use across both Windows and Apple systems. You can open RTF files in programmes like WordPad or Microsoft Word on a Windows device or Apple Pages or Apple Text on your Mac.

Discover more document file types and text files today.

Pros and cons of .RTF files.


  • Widely accepted. Rich Text Format files are widely accessible across different operating systems and programmes. In fact, they were designed precisely for the ease of sharing documents, so are a good choice if you are unsure what type of document your receiver can open.
  • Lower virus risk. RTFs are commonly considered more secure than certain other document types. That’s because they’re not designed to carry computer code or use macros, so they’re relatively safe from viruses.
  • Easy to use. RTF files are universally simple and easy to use.


  • File size. RTF files are not compressed, meaning they are larger than the same document in other formats that compress the file - like .docx or .odt file types. This means they take longer to upload or download and occupy more disc space.
  • No encryption options. RTFs have no encryption option or password protection. They can also still be hacked and used to compromise a device.
  • Does not support all word processor features. An RTF file cannot support features like tables, images, tracked changes or comments.

How to open an .RTF file.

Double-click the file on your computer to open it directly. You are likely to already have an app install that can open the RTF file - like Microsoft Word or Word Pad on a Windows PC or Apple Pages or Apple TextEdit on a Mac.

If you would rather the RTF file open in a programme that isn’t the default, you can change this by right clicking the file, selecting Open With and then choosing the programme you’d like to use.

Opening an .RTF file with WordPad.

  1. Find the RTF file.
  2. Right-click the file and select Open with. Choose WordPad from the available applications.
  3. Click OK to open the file in WordPad.

Opening an .RTF file with Google Chrome.

  1. Visit the Chrome Web Store.
  2. Search for the Docs Online Viewer using the search option.
  3. Select Add to Chrome.
  4. Visit your browser’s extensions page and select the Docs Online Viewer.
  5. Locate the RTF file and click the document icon next to the link to open the file on a new browser page.

Opening an .RTF file with TextEdit.

  1. Open the TextEdit app on your Mac.
  2. Choose File and Open.
  3. Head to TextEdit and then select Preferences.
  4. Click Open and Save and then choose to Display RTF Files as RTF code instead of formatted text.
  5. Open the file.

Why can’t I open an .RTF file?

If you cannot open an RTF file, it’s important to remember that not all programmes that support RTF files can view them in the same way. For example, it could be the reader isn’t updated to the latest RTF specification.

How to create and edit an .RTF file.

RTF files are simple to use and easy to edit.

On Windows, save a document as an RTF file by navigating to File > Save as and then select RTF.

Once you’ve opened your RTF file on Microsoft Word, select the text you would like to edit. Start typing in this space to replace the current text with the new text.

You can easily adjust the text’s font, size and colour by navigating to the Home tab and clicking the Font group. While you’re there you can also adjust the alignment and spacing under the Paragraph group.

How to open an .RTF file as a .PDF.

Adobe’s online tools allow for seamless, simple and fast conversion of various text file types to the PDF format, including .RTF.


  • Head to Adobe’s FREE PDF converter online.
  • Select your RTF file from your device’s folders or drag and drop it into place.
  • Watch as the tool converts it to a PDF in seconds.
  • Download your new PDF. Simply sign in or create a free account to do so if prompted.

Convert .RTF files to .PDF.

Need to convert an RTF file to a PDF document? Adobe has a free online tool you can use to convert different file types into PDFs.

Learn more about similar file types to .RTF.


Discover more about the standard plain text document file type.


Learn about hypertext mark-up language files (HTML) with our handy guide.


Find out how to save a document as an XPS file and much more in this article.


Read all about MSG files and how they work in.

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Is an .RTF file the same as a .PDF?

No, an RTF file is not the same as a PDF, but you can convert an RTF to a PDF. RTF files can be read and used on almost any platform or word processor. PDFs, meanwhile, are extremely useful and versatile for a range of business and personal uses - and can be signed, for example.

How to change an .RTF file to a Word document?

It’s simple to change an RTF file to Word.

  1. Open the document and navigate to File and then Save As.
  2. Choose where you would like to save it.
  3. Find the Save File Type field and change the type from Rich Text Format to Word Document.
  4. Click Save.

Do people still use .RTFs?

Yes, they do. Although Microsoft discontinued the development of RTFs in 2008, they are still widely used. In fact, Rich Text Format can be quite helpful when you aren’t sure what the receiver of a file can accept, as they are so commonly accepted across operating systems.

How is an .RTF file different to Word?

DOC and RTF files are both text file types, but with different features. For example, RTFs contain basic formatting data whereas DOC files work with more complex formatting in Microsoft Word, including images, tables and more. RTF files are also widely accepted across different formats, but DOC files are the default format for Word specifically.

How do you print an .RTF file?

It’s simple to print an RTF file. In Microsoft Word, follow these steps

  1. Navigate to File and Open.
  2. Choose the document you would like to print and click Open again.
  3. Go back to File and this time select Print.
  4. Use the drop-down menu to select your printer preferences.
  5. Click Print.