Rich Text Format

What Does Rich Text Format Mean?

Rich text format (RTF) is a specific type of word processing document format evolved by Microsoft. This universal format helps provide compatibility between different word processing applications and operating systems, which is important for a diversified system where text document files move from one user’s desktop to another.


Rich text format is also known simply as rich text.

Techopedia Explains Rich Text Format

The rich text format allows for encoding basic elements of the file, such as the size, color and font of text. This format may not support more nuanced visual features in specific word processing applications like a modern version of Microsoft Word, but it does preserve a lot of the core design of the document file as it has been rendered in a particular word processor. For example, proprietary formats such as .docx, .doc or .wp may not translate as well between different systems as an .rtf version. For that reason, rich text format is often used when emailing documents to a wide set of recipients or otherwise transporting them between different parties that may be using radically different word processing setups.


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Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…