Friday, 02 January, 2004

RTF Pocket Guide

Author Sean M. Burke contacted me last month about his book RTF Pocket Guide, and was kind enough to have the publisher send me a copy.  RTF (Rich Text Format) is the markup language that Microsoft uses for many different things:  Office applications (including Exchange Server, if you can believe it), the rich text controls in Windows, and the old (really old now) Windows Help all use RTF.  Even in the presence of HTML and XML, RTF serves as a universal text format.  Many non-Microsoft applications support it.

The RTF Pocket Guide explains simple RTF:  the file format and basic commands, and also has a section on creating Windows Help files.  The book doesn't explain everything.  For that you want to study the RTF Specification.  (Oddly, Microsoft says that the current RTF Specification version number is 1.7, but version 1.6 is the latest version available on the site.)  This book will give you the information you need to get started, including a few sample programs written in Perl that generate RTF documents.  Noticeably absent is any information about parsing RTF, but that's understandable considering that the book is not intended to be exhaustive.  All in all, it's a great reference guide that I recommend for anybody who's working with RTF documents.