Microsoft Office Word Ending Formats

By FastQuestion · 21 replies
Jun 12, 2009
  1. Hi there,

    I wanted to ask this, and quite need your help. I have some confusion about why a certain document type (.rtf) takes a considerably long time, especially when compared to other documents (specifically of the .doc type).

    The documents in question here are .rtfs, around 250 megabytes, 209 megabytes -- in that range (some less); they contain a fair number of pictures. For an experiment, I tried saving one of the documents that took a long time to load (as .rtf) to a .doc, and then it loaded very quickly.

    Despite that, I'm asking here to also ask: what is the difference between .rtf and .doc? I don't want to change all of my picture-packed documents to .doc, and then they not be as safe.

    Thank you very much!
  2. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    Too much to tell you here, but there are loads of information on Rich Text Formats and other related formats that you can find with a Google search or Wikipedia search for RTF and .Doc among others.

    Here are some bits from a Wikipedia article: Rich text" redirects here. For the general term, see Formatted text.
    The Rich Text Format (often abbreviated RTF) is a document file format developed by Microsoft employees in 1987 for cross platform document interchange. Most word processors are able to read and write RTF documents.
    It should not be confused with enriched text (mimetype "text/enriched" of something called RFC 1896) or its predecessor Rich Text (mimetype "text/richtext" of RFC 1241 and 1521 which are completely different specifications.

    RTF is an 8-bit format. That would limit it to ASCII, but RTF can encode characters beyond ASCII by efforts called escape sequences. The character escapes are of two types: code page escapes and Unicode escapes. In a code page escape, two hexadecimal digits following an apostrophe are used for denoting a character taken from a Windows code page. For example, if control codes specifying Windows-1256 are present, the sequence \'c8 will encode the Arabic letter beh (ب).
    etc. etc.
    So a Google search will tell you more than you will ever want to know.
  3. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +184

    I don't purport to be an expert on the topic so do double check / look further at what i say.. but here's some thoughts

    1) As to "taking a long time to load" are you at all confusing the very first time you open any Word document vs. subsequent times? as the first time (after a reboot) requires extra time to first load Word itself followed by the document (regardless of its type)

    2) I believe .rtf came first. They tend to be more useful for documents across different machine platforms that run other then MS Word.

    3) .doc files are specific to Word. But assuming you are running word all the time, i don't think you have issue with converting .rtf to word and losing and formatting or pics

    4) There might be some question of whether .rtf files are less prone to viruses then .doc files.. and you might google that topic for more opinions then just my own... But if you run good antivirus protection (and take preventive action (as i do) like write-protecting your .dot files - which are the Word templates) you are very well protected . Or at least i can testify that in all my many years of running Word and .doc files i have yet to get any Word virus (note; that Word viruses tend to try and infect the .dot Word templates. Thus if you write protect your .dot template then if Word should ever prompt you to ask if it should update your template always say NO unless you know you just modified it yourself (e.g. by adding a new button to your toolbar, etc)
  4. FastQuestion

    FastQuestion TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 33

    I apologize for taking a while to return. I appreciate those two replies, but I am still unclear on some things. I indeed had more I wanted to say as well – I will start with what is still unclear. I hope you will hear me out!

    What I primarily needed to know about rtf. versus doc. was: is one safer than the other for putting pictures (and formatting, resizing them, and so on) in? I don’t want to do anything until I have a kind of confirmation.

    Also, in response to the second replier, loading times for both first opening and then opening again are fairly long. I noticed a correlation with the time and the document’s .rtf format and its size, but I still don’t know if that is true.

    Recently, when I was posting another picture into one of the documents (of rtf. format), it became corrupted suddenly. Do you have any idea why that would happen? As such, I’m being very careful now – I’m almost fearful of a similar fate occurring to my other documents.
  5. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    .rtf is seldom used, and is more fragile while being less reliable than .Doc format...
  6. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,177   +990

    RTF is much like HTML; tags with text

    the files are 3-4x the size of a .doc file (which is the binary equiv of the rtf).

    the whole point of RTF is to allow another word-processing-program (say word perfect) to be able to parse the tags and render a readable/printable version of the same .doc -- the BIG issue is cross platforms where the .doc is not usable and
    your favorite word-processing-program does not exist but something else might.

    (we all understand that word-processing-programs have filters to read the other guy's
    formats w/o rtf but that's another issue)
  7. FastQuestion

    FastQuestion TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 33


    So, .rtf is automatically larger than .doc files? I’m beginning to make a decision, but I’d still like to address the rest of my postings.
    Also, what do you (the 3rd poster) mean in 4)? I understood the part about antivirus protection, but the rest went over me.

    Do you folks think it would be okay to change all of the existing .rtf picture Word documents to .doc, and save them as .doc from now on?

    Thank you.
  8. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    You can test a document on any machine that has word... pick a big file, and save it. Then see the size. Then save the same file as a Rich Text File.

    You will find that an RTF files is smaller...
    For instance, a common Word Document on our computer is 32 KB. The same file saved as a rich text format document is 21 KB

    You can pick a document with a lot of stuff, then save in each, and you will seldom see the file larger in .rtf.
  9. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +184

    .Doc vs. Rtf considerations
    I'm not casting a strong vote one way or the other. I think (in large) is based on one's own personal situation.. Here's just a few thoughts to consider
    • As stated before the big advantage to rtf (and one reason to stick to it) is if you require document portability between different word processing applications (e.g. Word vs. Open Office vs. WordPerfect) running on different machines (in which case .rtf standardizes your document format and can be read by any and all)
    • On the other hand, if you're mainly just talking about documents on your computer (or even different computers each running MS Word) I tend to favor sticking to the "native" format intended for Word (i.e. .doc files)
    • And (personally) i'd add put even heavier preference to using .doc files if
      >> You are an advanced Word user and/or
      >> Just want to guarantee that everything you do in Word (when formatting pictures/text/layouts/etc) can be subsequently saved just "as is"
      >> Remembering that .doc format is propietary so every feature and format in Word isn't guarnteed to be translated into the exact same feature and format when save as .rtf
    Preventing .doc virus/malware infections
    Each time you open a new Word document, you may (or may not) notice a choice of pre-defined document "layouts" (i.e. templates). For example there might be a pre-defined template for writing a letter vs. the standard "Blank Document" template.
    • Each document template is stored as a .dot file. (Versus the document you might create based on the template is stored as the .doc)
    • btw.. the default name for the "Blank Document" template is
    • One can open/edit and save templates. Just make sure the File->Open or Save As type pulldown includes the .dot extension
    • Modifying the .dot applies that change to all the documents you subsequently create based on the template (e.g. modify the toolbar buttons in a template and all your subsequent new documents will have the modified tool bar)
    • So to prevent a virus from infecting your template (which is how some viruses propagate themselves into every new file you open with the template), you can help protect yourself by setting your templates to "Read-Only"
    • If template is ever changed, Word will always ask your permission before saving any template changes
    What version of Word are you running? You might also want to set Macro security as well in your Word settings to help avoid problems

    /* EDIT */
    Most important, if you choose convert your stuff to .doc, is backup and save all your original .rtf files for the "just in case" and cya!
  10. FastQuestion

    FastQuestion TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 33

    I just tried saving a ‘test’ document from .rtf to .doc, and the loading/saving speed was noticeably faster.
    The details:
    document as .rtf – 250 MB
    same document as .doc -- 14.7 MB

    Now, as long as the .doc format is stable for pictures, (as I have no need to transfer the files to other computers at the moment), then I’m pretty confident that will work. I’m just still a little unclear, like the above.
    I don’t mean to be rude by repeatedly pushing for answers.

    P.S. I am running Microsoft Office Word 2003.

    P.P.S. So, does a corrupted file result because of something having to do with a template? I looked about, and I don’t seem to have any templates, so I’m scratching my head.
  11. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +184

    It's absolutely stable for pictures. I routinely use it to insert most of the common types of image files (click Insert->Picture->From File or you also just simply copy and then paste an image directly into your Word file
    Please feel free to ask what you need to know. We're all glad to try and help :)
    Excellent. Same version i currently run. So i'm fairly sure any of my instructions should work for your version as well.
    I would think a corrupted file might occur for many many different reasons. Templates are used at time of document creation. If the file became corrupted sometime AFTER you first save it, it wouldn't have anything to do with the template it was first created from
    >> Are you running XP or Vista? Templates are (by default) stored in a folder that's normally hidden from view (but can be unhidden)
    >> But simplest approach for you is via Word itself: click Help and enter .dot in the Help search box. It should return info about "How to save" and instructions how to find it on your system
  12. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    NO! .RTF files are smaller... depending what is containted in the file as far as graphics, drawing's, spreadsheets, .RTF files are on average 40% smaller than Word or .doc files. It depends somewhat on whether the files are first created as .rtf files, or if they are created as .doc files and converted.
  13. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +184

    Raybay, please explain the following (vs your post)
    FastQuestion stated .doc=14.7MB .rtf= 250 MB (we can assume started as .rtf)

    I just picked a random .doc file and converted to rtf (btw.. my doc file included no images)
    .doc= 264KB and the .rtf=370KB!

    In BOTH case the .rtf files are larger!? So now i'm certainly confused about your emphatic statement
  14. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    It depends a bit on whether your are converting or creating... Anytime you confirt, there is a hidden file of what was converted... it can be removed, but until removed it is there, adding to the
    "size" of the file

    If you create a file in .rtf, and create a document with the same information... (type the same stuff) you will usually find that the .doc file is about 30 to 41 percent larger. However, if you use spreadsheets, graphics, or other useful stuff, then sizes can change dramatically depending on what the document is... and how large...

    .RTF is an ancient format now, with .Doc being better for most.

    But RTF has better conversion scripts, and allows more software to use it... e.g. WordPerfect, Wordstar, WordPlex, Wang, Northpad, WorkSaver, Lexitron, Easyone, Wordmate, WordStar, Xywrite, Displaywrite, LeadingEdge, Multimate, PeachText, Visiword, and Xywrite.

    Conversions of Word documents will be larger in whatever they are converted to... because Microsoft Word was uncooperative in easing those converstions... So if you convert a Word.doc into something else, you have a great deal of hidden code that remains stored with the file.

    But If you convert a .rtf document to Word, you will have a bigger file, usually.

    When you type each as a separate "document" without converting the .RTF is usually much smaller because it doesn't have the burden of all that word code.

    That does NOT make .rtf better, just because it is smaller.

    In a way you are comparing apples to oranges, and when you convert again you have plums and bananas.. then ....

    There are well over 100 different word processing programs that were terrific in their own way... now we have a very few...

    But if you have to store one million .rtf documents vs one million Word or .doc files, the .rtf storage will require about 40% less room, on average.

    Not that any of it makes a difference.

    The only reason to use.rtf documents is they can read more different kinds of files (without the formatting) and they can be imported into more different processors, and they are basically free whereas the Word documents are EXPENSIVE because of the enormous cost of Office and word, and the nearly free versions of .rtf

    This probably does not explain it to your satisfaction.. that would take a manual the size of a comic book.
  15. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +184

    I'd settle for a few simple (and coherent) sentences :)

    But we can leave it as a difference in technical view of how things work
  16. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +184

    Hi FastQuestion :wave:

    The smaller doc size (you note above) also translates to reduced file loading time.
    >> And (i'm just guessing at this now) that .rtf would require some additional processing time for Word to convert from rtf to its internal format (which i would think is gonna be slower then simply loading its native format). If you have a newer and fast processor the additional CPU may not be significant vs. if your computer is a bit older and slower

    ALSO... here's some additional tips to even further reduce file sizes in Word

    /* EDIT */
    Also, since you're running MS Word 2003, note you can click Tools->Macro->Security to further restrict the security for the macros that might get installed to run in a Word document. ("Macros" are essentially like a small program that can be added/made part of your Word template. As an example, a legit macro might be added by your antivirus software to help it run scans of your .doc files)
  17. FastQuestion

    FastQuestion TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 33

    Wow, that’s baffling -- so templates weren’t involved. It was that last Corruption that scared me well enough to actually make a membership here to find out all of this. I really don’t want you guys to be comfrontational, I appreciate all of this.
    Can pasting pictures first into another program, say Paint, and then copy/pasting it from there into a document inject a virus or cause a corruption?

    Also, I don’t know if I mentioned it before or not, but by ‘converting’, I was talking about using ‘Save as’ from the original .rtf file.

    Hm, just a question on whim, is there a document file size that is seen as a reasonable size (like an upper limit)?
  18. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,177   +990

    yes, Save As ... is the conversion technique (btw, it works both ways doc->rtf and rtf->doc)

    TEMPLATES Can be a problem! That is how corporate sites contaminated large percentages of their internal systems.

    infect ONE template on the Lan and that then infects every NEW document created with it.

    copy/paste of bmp paint images is safe.

    I'll reiterate the cross platform use of RTF by citing
  19. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +184

    I only take exception with (or at least want to clarify) one point.
    With all due respect and IMHO: While it’s true to say “Templates can be a problem” I think is somewhat akin to saying “Email can be a problem”

    Both statements are true. And, historically, both have had problems. But with much improved A/V software, application security (email and word processing) and careful “internet/network smart” users problems with either can be avoided

    1) Infections have to get on your computer in the first place before there can be a infection
    2) It pays to be careful of documents you accept from others (via email or friend’s USB flash drive)
    3) Always run good A/V software and always scan documents from somone else before you open them
    4) Also, a virus can’t infect a template if you don’t allow that template to change! So as advised earlier, set all your templates to Read-Only. If Windows ever prompts you to save template changes, answer NO unless you know you, yourself, has made a change to affect templates
    5) And (also as said before) set your Macro security to either disallow, prompt, or only allow Macros from signed, trusted sources

    Of course, viruses can and do occur, but I can state that in umpteen years of using Word (whether for business or personal) I;ve never had a Word infection
  20. FastQuestion

    FastQuestion TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 33

    Okay. Thank you everyone. My nerves are more eased on this subject now.
    I'm deciding to put my pictures into .doc files instead of .rtf now.

    Another other thing: can a corruption of a document specifically be caused by pasting into an already large file (sort of like the sizes I mention above)?
  21. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +184

    1) In general, is advised you regularly backup your stuff.. so if something gets corrupt (for any reason) you have a backup copy to rely on. btw.. do NOT rely on USB flash drives for your important stuff. They're way to unreliable for that purpose. IMHO: use something link a USB external disk that comes with it's own AC adapter

    2) I don't think that size, itself, would cause corruption. But, on the other hand, continuing to keep pasting everything into a single document which continues to grow in size can cause other issues (as you've seen - even if just a matter of time it takes to load). And i'm sure at some point a massive file just gets to be a pain to manage

    >> To reduce .doc file sizes see the link i provided in an earlier post
    >> You might also reduce the file size of the image itself before copy/pasting into the document (e.g. converting a .bmp or .tiff image file to a .jpg - assuming the image quality still looks the same to you - and usually does (at least to me) assuming you don't need to dramatically enlarge the image either at some future date
  22. FastQuestion

    FastQuestion TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 33

    Wow, that’s quite handy to know, I will remember that for the future.

    Images taken directly from the internet aren’t predetermined as .bmp, .tiff, are they?
    Do images (whether copy/pasted from an unsaved Paint file or just copy/pasted from the internet) carry yucky/malicious things – like a virus, or otherwise an "attachment" to cause corruption?
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