How to Convert DOCX to RTF

Joseph Dunne
Chief Technical Officer

Learn how to easily convert DOCX files to RTF format in just a few simple steps.

In today's digital world, documents are shared and accessed across different platforms and devices. To ensure compatibility and preserve formatting, it is sometimes necessary to convert file formats. In this article, we will guide you through the process of converting DOCX to RTF, two commonly used file formats. Whether you are a student, professional, or simply someone looking to convert a document, this step-by-step guide will make the process simple and hassle-free.

Understanding the Basics: DOCX and RTF File Formats

Before we dive into the conversion process, it's important to understand the basics of the DOCX and RTF file formats. Let's take a closer look at each format.

When it comes to creating and editing documents, Microsoft Word has become the go-to software for many people. With its user-friendly interface and powerful features, it has revolutionized the way we write and share information. But have you ever wondered about the file formats that Word uses to save your documents? That's where DOCX and RTF come into play.

What is a DOCX File?

DOCX is the default file format used by Microsoft Word, the widely used word processing software. This format was introduced in 2007 with the release of Microsoft Office 2007, replacing the earlier DOC format. The "X" in DOCX stands for XML (eXtensible Markup Language), which is a markup language used for structuring and storing data.

One of the main reasons behind the introduction of the DOCX format was to address the limitations of the older DOC format. DOCX files are based on XML and are designed to be more compact and efficient. This means that they take up less storage space on your computer and are easier to transmit over the internet.

Moreover, the XML structure of DOCX files allows for better compatibility with other software applications. This means that you can open and edit DOCX files not only in Microsoft Word but also in other word processing software that supports the format.

What is an RTF File?

RTF stands for Rich Text Format. Unlike DOCX, which is a proprietary format owned by Microsoft, RTF is a universal format that can be opened and edited by various word processing software programs. It was developed by Microsoft in the late 1980s as a means of exchanging formatted text documents between different platforms and software applications.

RTF files are plain text files that support basic formatting, such as font styles, images, and tables. The main advantage of RTF files is their compatibility across different platforms and software. Whether you're using Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, or even open-source software like LibreOffice, you can be sure that an RTF file will retain its formatting no matter where you open it.

Another advantage of RTF files is their simplicity. Since they are plain text files, they can be easily read and modified using any text editor. This makes them a popular choice for users who prefer a lightweight and portable format for their documents.

Now that we have a better understanding of the DOCX and RTF file formats, let's explore the conversion process in more detail.

Why Convert DOCX to RTF?

Now that we have an understanding of the two file formats, let's explore why you may need to convert DOCX to RTF.

Converting files from one format to another can sometimes be necessary to overcome compatibility issues. In the case of DOCX to RTF conversion, compatibility across different platforms is a key factor to consider.

Compatibility Across Different Platforms

As mentioned earlier, RTF files are compatible with a wide range of software programs, making them ideal for sharing and collaborating on documents across different platforms. This compatibility extends beyond just Microsoft Word. RTF files can be opened and edited using various word processing software, including LibreOffice Writer, Google Docs, and Apple Pages.

By converting a DOCX file to RTF, you ensure that the document can be accessed and edited by users who may not have Microsoft Word installed on their devices. This is particularly useful when working in a collaborative setting, where multiple team members may be using different software programs.

Furthermore, RTF files are platform-independent, meaning they can be opened and edited on both Windows and Mac operating systems. This cross-platform compatibility eliminates any potential barriers when sharing documents between users on different devices.

Preserving Document Formatting

Another reason to convert DOCX to RTF is to preserve the formatting of your document. While DOCX files are primarily associated with Microsoft Word, different versions of the software may interpret formatting differently. This can lead to inconsistencies when opening the document on different devices or software programs.

By converting to RTF, you can ensure that your document's formatting remains consistent across different platforms and software programs. RTF files are designed to maintain formatting elements such as font styles, sizes, colors, paragraph spacing, and indentation. This ensures that the document's visual appearance remains intact, regardless of the software used to open it.

Moreover, RTF files also support embedded images, tables, and other visual elements, further enhancing the preservation of the document's original layout and design.

Converting DOCX to RTF can be particularly beneficial when sharing documents with clients, colleagues, or stakeholders who may not have the same version of Microsoft Word as you. By using the universally compatible RTF format, you can ensure that everyone can access and view the document exactly as intended.

Preparing Your DOCX File for Conversion

Before you jump into converting your DOCX file to RTF, it's important to prepare the document properly.

When it comes to converting files, it's always better to be safe than sorry. Taking the time to prepare your document can save you from potential headaches down the line. So, let's delve into the steps you should follow to ensure a smooth conversion process.

Checking Your Document's Formatting

Before converting, take a moment to review your document's formatting. This step is crucial to make sure that your converted file looks just as you intended.

Firstly, pay attention to your headings. Ensure that they are properly formatted and consistent throughout the document. Consistency in font type, size, and style will make your document more professional and visually appealing.

Next, take a look at any images or tables you have included. Make sure they are correctly placed and appear as intended. It's always a good idea to double-check that the images are not distorted and that the tables are properly aligned.

Furthermore, it's important to remove any unnecessary formatting or hidden data that may interfere with the conversion process. Sometimes, when editing a document, we unintentionally add hidden characters or formatting that can cause issues during conversion. So, take a thorough look and remove any unwanted formatting or hidden data to ensure a seamless conversion.

Saving Your Original DOCX File

Prior to the conversion, it's crucial to create a backup of your original DOCX file. This step acts as a safety net in case anything goes wrong during the conversion process.

Imagine spending hours perfecting your document, only to encounter an unexpected issue during conversion that corrupts the file. By having a backup of your original file, you can easily revert back to it and start the conversion process again without losing any of your hard work.

To create a backup, simply save a copy of your document with a different name or in a different location. This way, you can rest assured that your original file remains intact while you venture into the world of file conversion.

Now that you have taken the necessary steps to prepare your DOCX file, you are ready to convert it to RTF with confidence. So go ahead, embark on your conversion journey, and enjoy the benefits of having your document in a different format.

Step-by-Step Guide to Converting DOCX to RTF

Now that we've prepared our document, let's dive into the step-by-step process of converting DOCX to RTF.

Using Microsoft Word for Conversion

If you have Microsoft Word installed on your computer, you can use this software to convert your DOCX file to RTF.

  1. Open Microsoft Word and navigate to the "File" menu.
  2. Click on "Open" and browse for the desired DOCX file.
  3. Once the file is open, go to the "File" menu again and choose "Save As".
  4. Select "Rich Text Format (*.rtf)" from the dropdown menu of available file formats.
  5. Choose a location to save the converted RTF file and click "Save".

Using Online Conversion Tools

If you don't have Microsoft Word or prefer an online solution, there are several websites that offer free DOCX to RTF conversion services. Here's a simple guide on using an online conversion tool:

  1. Open your preferred web browser and search for "DOCX to RTF converter".
  2. Choose a reputable online conversion tool from the search results.
  3. Follow the instructions provided on the website to upload your DOCX file.
  4. Select the desired output format as RTF.
  5. Click on the "Convert" or equivalent button to start the conversion process.
  6. Once the conversion is complete, download the converted RTF file to your device.

Troubleshooting Common Conversion Issues

While converting DOCX to RTF is usually a straightforward process, there are some common issues that may arise. Let's take a look at a couple of these issues and how to resolve them.

Dealing with Formatting Loss

In some cases, you may experience formatting loss during the conversion process. This can happen if your document contains complex formatting or uses advanced features not supported by RTF. To minimize formatting loss, it's best to simplify your document's formatting before converting and use basic styles and formatting options.

Resolving Conversion Errors

If you encounter any errors during the conversion process, try the following troubleshooting steps:

  • Ensure that your DOCX file is not corrupted. Try opening it in Microsoft Word to confirm.
  • Check if you have the latest version of the conversion software or website you are using.
  • Temporarily disable any antivirus or firewall software that may be blocking the conversion process.
  • If all else fails, consider using an alternative conversion tool or reaching out to technical support for assistance.

By following these troubleshooting steps, you can address common issues and successfully convert your DOCX file to RTF.


Converting DOCX to RTF is a simple and effective way to ensure compatibility and preserve formatting when sharing or collaborating on documents. With the step-by-step guide provided in this article, you can confidently convert your DOCX files to RTF, regardless of your technical expertise. Remember to always prepare your document properly and keep a backup of the original file. Happy converting!