Rich Text Format, or RTF, is the internal markup language used by Microsoft Word and understood by dozens of other word processors. RTF is a universal file format that pervades practically every desktop. Because RTF is text, it's much easier to generate and process than binary .doc files. Any programmer working with word processing documents needs to learn enough RTF to get around, whether it's to format text for Word (or almost any other word processor), to make global changes to an existing document, or to convert Word files to (or from) another format.
RTF Pocket Guide is a concise and easy-to-use tutorial and quick-reference for anyone who occasionally ends up mired in RTF files. As the first published book to cover the RTF format in any detail, this small pocket guide explains the syntax of RTF with examples throughout, including special sections on Unicode RTF and MSHelp RTF, and several full programs that demonstrate how to work in RTF effectively.
Most word processors produce RTF documents consisting of arcane and redundant markup. This book is the first step to finding order in the disorder of RTF.
Sean M. Burke is an active member in the Perl community and one of CPAN's most prolific module authors. He has been a columnist for The Perl Journal since 1998, and is an authority on markup languages. Trained as a linguist, he also develops tools for software internationalization and native language preservation. Sean is also the author of O'Reilly's Perl & LWP.
This book saved me A LOT of time. I had to use PHP to write an RTF document with style definitions to be used in Word and Adobe InDesign. I spent a ton of time searching the web for tutorials or tips, but they were all complicated and incomplete. I also tried going through the source code of MS Word documents trying to figure out how it was written. After a lot of frustration, I found this book. It's short and easy to read and understand. It gives you the basics on how to construct an RTF file with code that is clean, easy to read, and easy to debug. It was just what I needed. I can't beleive there isn't any tutorial like this available on the web. I did still have to look at the MS Word code to fix a couple of things, and I also used an online reference to figure out some of the more obscure codes, but overall this book was very helpful. I recommend it.
RTF Pocket Guide is a slim volumn, but its size belies the wealth of explanation it contains. Even a cursory reading will leave you with a much better understanding of something almost all programmers know a little about.
To expand on the book itself, there are valuable supplements for download:
and click the Examples link.
(Parenthetically, I like topic-specific computer books, O'Reilly's Pocket Guides and Wrox's Handbooks).
The book's stated intent is to offer an introduction to Rich Text Format, and is a valuable preface to Microsoft's Rich Text Format (RTF) Specification. It does a good job of that, offering both analysis and caveats.
Now, if I don't offer a criticism or two this post will sound like it was done by the Marketing Department.
1. I'd like to see the Perl code in the addendums translated into C# or VB. That probably would make it more accessible to more users.
2. I wish the chapter on section breaks were fuller than it is. (Probably not a big deal for most programmers.)
I'd strongly recommend this book for any programmer needing to work with RTF files.