Delayed coverage from Wellington NZ


Question: RTF is a standard, true or false?

Answer: False.

To be honest with you, I’m surprised. I’d never considered this before, I guess I have always assumed that RTF was a standard. In fact, it is not a standard at all. Rob Weir has an enlightening post that summarises the issues surrounding RTF and OOXML. Found on Slashdot, you can lose yourself for a while in the comments.

According to Wikipedia:

The Rich Text Format (often abbreviated to RTF) is a proprietary document file format developed by Microsoft in 1987 for cross-platform document interchange. Most word processors are able to read and write RTF documents.

Using Linux exclusively at home I’ve become really interested in (and frustrated by) standards for exchanging information other than HTML. The Webstock committee are constantly sending various documents around and trying various formats (we have three Mac users, two Windows users and moi on Linux). We use various tools (including Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, Basecamp, Google docs, and so on), but there isn’t a decent non-proprietary way to share data. We are using RTF more and more as it’s light weight and it works for our documents. We’ll continue to use it, but I was amazed to discover that Microsoft can change RTF whenever they like.

Rob Weir again:

This should sound familiar. OOXML is nothing more than the preferences of Microsoft Office. Whenever Word changes, OOXML will change. And if you are a user or competitor of Word, you will be the last one to hear about these changes. ISO does not own OOXML. Ecma does not own OOXML. OOXML, in practice, is controlled and determined solely by the Office product teams at Microsoft. No one else matters.

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