How to open rtf files

Did your computer fail to open a RTF file? We explain what they are used for and recommend software that we know can open or otherwise handle your .RTF files.

What is a RTF file?

RTF stands for Rich Text Format. This file format was developed by the Microsoft Corporation. RTF files allow different word processing applications to transfer formatted text documents to one another. For example, if a user creates an RTF file in Word and sends that file to another user who does not have the Word word processing application, the recipient will still be able to open the RTF file on his or her computer.

RTF documents can contain a number of text formats including italic, bold and underlined texts as well as a variety of font sizes and text colors. RTF documents are not stored in binary format like many word processing documents. Instead, these files are stored in ASCII format.

How to open RTF files

You will need a program compatible with the specific file you are trying to open, as different programs may use files with file extension RTF for different purposes.

While we have not verified the apps ourselves yet, our users have suggested 10 different RTF openers which you will find listed below.

Suggest another file format using extension RTF

While we know of one file format using the .RTF file extension, there may be more. It is widespread that different programs use files with the same file extension for very different types of data. Please let us know if you are aware of a different kind of .RTF file.

Various viewers for this file format

These apps are known to open certain types of RTF files. Remember, different programs may use RTF files for different purposes, so you may need to try out a few of them to be able to open your specific file.

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How to open rtf filesBrady Gavin
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Brady Gavin has been immersed in technology for 15 years and has written over 150 detailed tutorials and explainers. He’s covered everything from Windows 10 registry hacks to Chrome browser tips. Brady has a diploma in Computer Science from Camosun College in Victoria, BC. Read more.

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Justin Duino is the Managing Editor at How-To Geek. He has spent the last decade writing about Android, smartphones, and other mobile technology. In addition to his written work, he has also been a regular guest commentator on CBS News and BBC World News and Radio to discuss current events in the technology industry. Read more.

How to open rtf files

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A file with the .RTF file extension is a Rich Text Format file. While a normal text file stores only plain text, RTF files can include extra information about font style, formatting, images, and more. They are great for cross-platform document sharing because they are supported by lots of apps.

What Is an RTF File?

RTF was created by the Microsoft Word team back in the 1980s. It was intended as a universal format that could be used by most word processors, making it easier for people to share Word documents with people who don’t use Word. It was also incorporated as the default format used by Windows’ built-in WordPad app—a lightweight word processor.

Before they were superseded by HTML files, RTF was also used as the basis for the Windows help files.

How to open rtf files

With most word processors being able to read and write an RTF file, this means if you create one on Windows, then you’ll be able to send it to a colleague who uses a Mac, Linux, or Chromebook without encountering any problems. It’s also widely used in other types of apps, such as email clients.

Microsoft discontinued the development of RTF in 2008, but it’s still widely supported by apps on almost every operating system.

How Do I Open an RTF File?

The first thing to try is just double-clicking (or tapping on mobile) to open the RTF file directly.

You almost certainly have an app already built-in or installed on your system for opening RTF files. To start with, if you have any word processing apps installed—Microsoft Word, LibreOffice, OpenOffice, AbiWord, and so on—you can open an RTF file with it.

Most file syncing services—like Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive—have built-in viewers that let you at least read an RTF file, even if you can’t edit it there. Google Docs does let you edit RTF files, though.

And most operating systems have a built-in editor that can open RTF files. In Windows, that’s WordPad. In Mac, you can use Apple TextEdit or Apple Pages. And unless you’ve installed something else (like Microsoft Word), those apps will be the default for opening RTF files. For example, even on a fresh install of Windows, double-clicking an RTF file opens it right up in WordPad.

How to open rtf files

If you prefer that RTF files open with a different app than the one currently set as the default, that’s easy enough. On Windows or Mac, just right-click the file and you’ll see an “Open With” command or something similar for picking the app you want to use.

Here’s the window that pops up when you do that in Windows (macOS is similar). It shows a list of apps that can open RTF files. Just pick the one you want to use. And you can select the “Always use this app to open .rtf files” option to have that app become the default.

How to open rtf files

How to Convert an RTF File

While many applications support RTF files, you might want to convert them to something else. You can’t just change a file’s extension to do that—you have to convert the file. Typically, you’re going to want to convert it to the format used by your word processor. The easiest way to do that is to open the RTF file in that app, and then use that app to save it in a different format.

For example, if you open your RTF file in Microsoft Word and then use the Save As command, you’ll come to the Save As dialog box. You can then use the “Save As Type” dropdown menu to choose from a bunch of different formats.

How to open rtf files

If you don’t have a full word processor installed, you can also try whatever comes with your OS. The WordPad Save As window, for example, doesn’t offer as many formats as Microsoft Word does, but there are still a few useful ones.

How to open rtf files

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Brady Gavin has been immersed in technology for 15 years and has written over 150 detailed tutorials and explainers. He’s covered everything from Windows 10 registry hacks to Chrome browser tips. Brady has a diploma in Computer Science from Camosun College in Victoria, BC.
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How to open rtf files

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What to Know

  • An RTF file is a Rich Text Format file.
  • Open one with Notepad++ or some other text editor.
  • Convert to PDF, TXT, DOCX, etc. with FileZigZag.

This article explains what RTF files are and how they're different from other text documents, as well as how to open one or convert one to a different format like PDF or DOCX.

What Is an RTF File?

A file with the .RTF file extension is a Rich Text Format file. It’s different from a plain text file in that it can hold formatting like bold and italics, plus different fonts and sizes, and images.

RTF files are useful because lots of programs support them. This means you can build one through a macOS program, for example, and then open the same file in Windows or Linux and have it look basically the same.

How to Open an RTF File

The easiest way to open an RTF file in Windows is to use WordPad since it’s pre-installed. However, other text editors and word processors work in basically the same way, like LibreOffice, OpenOffice, AbleWord, Jarte, AbiWord, WPS Office, and SoftMaker FreeOffice.

How to open rtf files

Zoho Docs and Google Docs are two ways you can open and edit RTF files online.

If you’re using Google Docs to edit the RTF file, you can upload it to your Google Drive account and then import it into Docs, or learn how to upload it directly from the Docs site.

It's important to realize that not every program that supports RTF files can view the file in the same way. This is because some programs don't support newer specifications of the RTF format. More on that below.

Some other, not-free ways to open RTF files include using Microsoft Word or Corel WordPerfect.

A few of those Windows RTF editors also work with Linux and Mac. If you're on macOS, you can also use Apple TextEdit or Apple Pages to open the file.

If the file is opening in a program that you don’t want to use it with, you can change the default RTF opener in Windows. For example, making that change would be helpful if you want to edit the file in Notepad but it’s instead opening in OpenOffice Writer.

How to Convert an RTF File

The fastest way to convert this type of file is to use an online tool like FileZigZag. You can save the RTF as a DOC, PDF, TXT, ODT, or HTML file. Another way to convert an RTF to PDF online, or to PNG, PCX, or PS, is to use Zamzar.

How to open rtf files

Doxillion is a free document file converter that can save RTF to DOCX and a number of other document formats.

Yet another method is to use one of the RTF editors from above. With the file already open, use the File menu or some sort of Export option to save to a different file format.

More Information on the RTF Format

The RTF format was first used in 1987 but stopped being updated by Microsoft in 2008. Since then, there have been some revisions to the format. What defines whether one document editor will display the file in the same way as the one that built it depends on what version of RTF is being used.

For example, while you can insert an image in an RTF file, not all readers know how to display it because they aren't all updated to the latest RTF specification. When this happens, images won't be displayed at all.

RTF files were once used for Windows help files but have since been replaced by Microsoft Compiled HTML Help files that use the CHM file extension.

The first version of the format was released in 1987 and used by MS Word 3. From 1989 to 2006, versions 1.1 through 1.91 were released, with the last RTF version supporting things like XML markup, custom XML tags, password protection, and math elements.

Because the RTF format is XML-based and not binary, you can actually read the contents when you open the file in a plain text editor like Notepad.

RTF files don't support macros, but that doesn't mean that ".RTF" files are macro-safe. For example, an MS Word file that contains macros can be renamed to have the .RTF file extension so it looks safe, but then when opened in MS Word, the macros can still run normally since it's not truly an RTF file.

Although their file extensions look similar, RTF files aren’t the same as WRF or SRF files.

Yes, but rarely. As with most file formats, there have been cases of RTF files containing malware, so scan any files you download from the web with one of the free antivirus software programs.

The official Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft Office ​apps can open RTF files on Android. You can also find plenty of apps dedicated to opening RTF files in the Google Play Store.

In Microsoft Word, go to File > Save As > Save as Type and select Rich Text Format (*.rtf). To open an RTF file in Word, make sure All files is selected when browsing for the document.

Did your computer fail to open a RTF file? We explain what they are used for and recommend software that we know can open or otherwise handle your .RTF files.

What is a RTF file?

RTF stands for Rich Text Format. This file format was developed by the Microsoft Corporation. RTF files allow different word processing applications to transfer formatted text documents to one another. For example, if a user creates an RTF file in Word and sends that file to another user who does not have the Word word processing application, the recipient will still be able to open the RTF file on his or her computer.

RTF documents can contain a number of text formats including italic, bold and underlined texts as well as a variety of font sizes and text colors. RTF documents are not stored in binary format like many word processing documents. Instead, these files are stored in ASCII format.

How to open RTF files

You will need a program compatible with the specific file you are trying to open, as different programs may use files with file extension RTF for different purposes.

While we have not verified the apps ourselves yet, our users have suggested 10 different RTF openers which you will find listed below.

Suggest another file format using extension RTF

While we know of one file format using the .RTF file extension, there may be more. It is widespread that different programs use files with the same file extension for very different types of data. Please let us know if you are aware of a different kind of .RTF file.

Various viewers for this file format

These apps are known to open certain types of RTF files. Remember, different programs may use RTF files for different purposes, so you may need to try out a few of them to be able to open your specific file.

What is rtf? The RTF, short for rich text format, was released by Microsoft in 1987. The purpose of creating the rtf file is to make the cross-platform document interchanging as reality. The majority of word process programs that are applied at present can read this format without any issues.

Since, it is a cross-platform document, it allows you to open am rtf file on other operating systems besides the one that you build the file. For instance, you build a rtf file on Windows OS, but you can open this file on a MacOS, or Linux device after you sends it to the device. It is also widely used in many other kinds of applications like email clients.

How to open rtf files

What makes the rtf format different from other text formats? MiniTool will show you in the following content.

You can only store the plain text with a normal text file, while you are allowed to store different formatting such as italics, bold, fonts, sizes, and images with a rtf file. This feature makes rtf unique over other text formats.

The rtf even becomes the default format for Microsoft WordPad. In addition, rtf files were used as the basis of Windows help files before they were replaced by HTML files. However, Microsoft stopped updating rtf since 2008.

Even so, this text format is still supported by applications on almost every operating system. So, you can continue running your rtf files on older or other platforms. If you lose or delete this sort of files, you can recover them easily with MiniTool Power Data Recovery Software.

How to Open RTF Files on Windows 10

It is rather easy to open rtf files. Here are multiple ways to open rtf files on Windows 10 or on other operating systems. The first method you can try is to simply double-click or tap on mobile to open your rtf files.

If you have any built-in or installed applications like WordPad on your operating system, you can use them to open rtf files on your device. Certainly, you can also open rtf files with other text editors or word processors.

For instance, you can use LibreOffice, OpenOffice, AbleWord, WPS Office and SoftMaker FreeOffice to open the rtf file. Most file syncing services like Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive allow you open your rtf files through their built-in viewers. But you cannot edit rtf files with these services.

If you would like to edit and open rtf file online, Google Docs and Zoho Docs can be of great help.

How to Convert RTF Files to Other File Formats

Though rtf files are supported by plenty of applications and operating systems, you may still want to convert them to other text forms. One of the most common conversions is rtf file to pdf. You can convert rtf file to any formats that are used by your word processor.

The conversion requires you convert the file truly so you can’t simply change its file extension to do that. The easiest and most simply way convert rtf file is to open the file in an app, and then save the file in the target format via the application.

Alternatively, you can also convert your rtf files via an online RTF converter like FileZigZag. This converter enables you to convert your rtf file to a DOC, PDF, TXT, ODT, or HTMLfile. There are some other rtf converters for you like Zamzar and Doxillion.

These converters can help you convert your rtf files to different text formats. In a word, the rtf file can be converted to other text formats easily. You can pick one based on your demand.

How to open rtf files

You must be eager to recover PDF file rather than rewriting a new one if lost PDF file contains a lot of significant information.

The Bottom Line

What is rich text format? How to open rtf file? How to convert rtf format file to other formats? Read here, you may have answers to these questions. In fact, you will have a comprehensive understanding of rtf files after reading the post. If you are going to convert your rtf files, you can do that job easily with the programs given in this post.

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After double-clicking on the unknown file icon, the system should open it in the default software that supports it. If this does not happen, download and install the TextEdit software and then manually associate the file with it.

Step 1. Download and install TextEdit

If there is no TextEdit or similar software in the system that supports files with the RTF extension, you must first download and install it. Below you will find a list of the most-used applications that work with RTF. After going to the subpage of the program you will find a link to the developer's website, where you can safely download the software installer.

Programs that open files RTF

How to open rtf files

Windows

How to open rtf files

MAC OS

How to open rtf files

Linux

How to open rtf files

Android

How to open rtf files

Step 2. Associate TextEdit with the RTF file extension

If the user already has one of the applications installed, the next step will be to associate it with the file extension RTF. This can be done in two ways – one is to manually edit the Windows Registry and HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT keys. The second way is simpler and definitely recommended for less advanced users.

  • Right click on the unknown RTF file you want to open
  • Select "Open with" from the menu
  • Click "Choose another application"
  • Click "More applications"
  • Click "Find more applications on this PC" and indicate the installation location of the appropriate program
  • Finally, select the "Always use the selected program to open RTF files" option and confirm the whole operation.

Remember! Manually editing the system registry is only recommended for advanced users, and changes made to it without proper knowledge may result in damage to the system.

Step 3. Check out other possible problems related to RTF files.

Sometimes it happens that despite having the right application and the correct configuration, there are still problems with opening the RTF files. You should then find out what is the reason of the problem.

  • Check if the RTF file is not infected – When the file RTF is infected with a virus or malware, it probably will not be able to be opened correctly. In this case, scan the RTF file and take the actions recommended by the antivirus program installed on the system. Most often it is disinfection or deletion of an infected file.
  • Check if you, as the operating system user, have appropriate permissions to work with the file RTF
  • Check if the icon is an element of the correct file but not only a shortcut to the location where the RTF file no longer exists.
  • Check that the system has the necessary resources to run the TextEdit application and open the RTF file.
  • Check if the file is complete – Sometimes it happens that the RTF file was not copied completely from the external Flash memory, or downloaded from the Internet. When the file is incomplete, it is not possible to open it correctly. In this case, please download or copy the file RTF again.

Step 4. Contact an IT expert

When all of the above methods have failed, it remains to contact an IT specialist or developers of the TEXTEDIT program.

RTF, short for Rich Text Format, is a proprietary file format developed by Microsoft Corporation since 1987 for Microsoft products like Microsoft WordPad and for cross-platform document interchange.

RTF file format supports several types of text formatting, such as customized fonts and font sizes, bold, italics, etc. It can also include images in the formats of JPEG, PNG, Enhanced Metafile (EMF), Windows Metafile (WMF), Apple PICT, Windows Device Independent bitmap and so on.

RTF Frequently Asked Questions

How to select a program to open RTF files?

When you double click RTF files on computer, the associated program will be launched to open the selected RTF file. But you can change it to any program at your pleasure.

a) Select a program to open RTF files on Windows

Right-click on the RTF file and go through ‘Open with’ > ‘Choose default program’. In the pop-up windows, choose a program as the RTF file opener. If you decide to always open RTF files with the program, only check the option ‘Always use the selected program to open this kind of file‘.

How to open rtf files

b) Select another application to open RTF files on Mac

First Get Info about any one of RTF files by right-clicking or Command-I, and click ‘Open with’ arrow to choose a program to start your RTF file. Click ‘Change All’ button to set the selected application as the default RTF file opener app.

How to open rtf files

File Viewer Plus can open RTF (Rich Text Format) files. It includes a professional-quality text editor similar to Microsoft Word and allows you to save your RTF file in various document formats, such as DOCX, DOC, PDF, and ODT.

Open, edit, save, and convert RTF files with our fully-featured text editing program. Try File Viewer Plus for free today!

Free 14-day trial. 93.1MB

What is an .RTF file?

RTF files are documents, such as letters, resumes, reports, and invitations. The files may be created by various word processors, such as Microsoft Wordpad, Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect, and Apple Pages. The format is widely supported, making it especially useful for sharing documents between programs and operating systems without much change in formatting.

You may receive RTF files as email attachments from coworkers, friends, or family members looking to share formatted documents. File Viewer Plus can open RTF files, and comes with many useful tools for editing the files. File Viewer Plus can also save and convert RTF files to other formats, such as DOCX, DOC, PDF, ODT, and EPUB.

File Viewer Plus RTF Support

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How to open rtf files

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