rtf2latex2e: User's Manual

rtf2latex2e Documentation
version 2.2.1

Ujwal S. Sathyam
Scott Prahl

28 June 2012

1  Introduction

rtf2latex2e is an RTF→LATEX converter that takes as its input RTF files produced by Microsoft Word and comparable word processors such as Star Office and generates a TEX-able “.tex” file. It has the capability to handle fairly complex RTF files containing figures, tables, and equations. rtf2latex2e is written using ansi C and should compile on any platform supporting a C compiler. It has been tested on Mac OS X, Linux (Intel), and Windows.

rtf2latex2e uses the generic RTF reader framework by Paul DuBois. The framework is a general purpose tool for processing RTF files and may be configured in a well-defined manner to allow it to be used with a variety of writers generating different output formats. This provides a method for generating RTF-to-XXX translators. Paul seems to have stopped developing the reader code and Ujwal Sathyam (in 1999) adapted it to handle the latest version of RTF. More code evolution took place during development of versions 2.0 and 2.2.

If you expect a WYSIWYG reproduction of your RTF file, you may be disappointed. Our main concern has been translating the essential features of the RTF file such as characters, figures, tables, and equations. Visual formatting such as ruler positions, tabs (until I figure out a good way of doing this), paragraph indentations, and other fluff has been largely ignored. The translated LATEX 2є file will require some manual editing to put the finishing touches. We just want to make that task a little easier. In our opinion, expecting a WYSIWYG reproduction is not practical and misses the point entirely.

2  Installation

The source code and compiled binaries for Windows systems are available at SourceForge.1

2.1  Unix Installation

Open the rtf2latex2e directory and type:

   prompt> make install

This will compile the sources, create a binary rtf2latex2e and install into files into /usr/local. If you wish to install in a different directory (say /opt/local) then

   prompt> make install prefix=/opt/local

should do the trick.

To convert .emf, .wmf, and .pict images to the .pdf format, you will need to have unoconv installed.2 unoconv uses an installation of LibreOffice or OpenOffice to convert images. This conversion retains the vector format and therefore the resulting .pdf images can be edited in something like InkScape.

2.2  MacOS X Installation

Follow the Unix installation directions to install rtf2latex2e. Image conversion situation under MacOS X is more complicated. You must install both LibreOffice (version 3.5 or later) for MacOS X3 as well as unoconv.4 OpenOffice (as of 3.4.1) does not work because it does not contain all the necessary components to support conversion.

Unfortunately, the distribution of unoconv available at the moment (June 2012) does not work without modifying (1) the unoconv script and a script within the LibreOffice application. First download the subversion copy of unoconv and change the word ‘program’ to ‘MacOS’ in lines 136 and 137 to read

  if os.path.isfile(os.path.join(basepath,basis,'MacOS',bin)):
     nopath = os.path.join(basepath,basis,'MacOS')

Second, in your copy of LibreOffice (installed in your Applications folder) edit the file /Applications/LibreOffice.app/Contents/MacOS/python. Specifically, comment out line 47 by inserting a # at the start to read


Finally since conversion of .pict with unoconv is somewhat sketchy at the moment, you might also install want to install pict2pdf to improve the translation of .pict.pdf. If pict2pdf is installed, then rtf2latex2e will use pict2pdf for the conversion (otherwise it defaults to the unoconv).5

2.3  Windows Installation

Windows users get a pre-compiled binary rtf2latex2e.exe to be run from the command prompt. Just run it with the RTF file to be converted as the argument. To compile, uncomment the following line in the Makefile

    PLATFORM?=-DMSWIN # Windows

3  Using rtf2latex2e

This is a command-line program, which may be run with a variety of options

    prompt> rtf2latex2e [options] file.rtf
    prompt> rtf2latex2e foo              convert foo.rtf to foo.tex
    prompt> rtf2latex2e -p 33 -t 4 foo   minimal latex mark-up
    prompt> rtf2latex2e -e 15 foo        debug failed eqn conversion
    prompt> rtf2latex2e foo-eqn003.eqn   debug third equation 
    prompt> rtf2latex2e -D foo           put files in foo-latex dir
    prompt> rtf2latex2e foo.rtfd         convert to foo.rtfd/TXT.tex

3.1  Two useful options

  -b               best attempt at matching RTF formatting
  -n               natural latex formatting ... easiest to edit

This is what I do

   prompt> rtf2latex2e -n test.rtf

which gives (in my opinion) the best balance of minimal mark-up with conversion fidelity.

3.2  The new directory option

The option to create a new directory is interesting and useful

  -D               make a new directory for latex and extracted images

because RTF files often contain dozens of image files. All these files are extracted during conversion and this will clutter your current working directory. The -D option avoids this by placing all files in a new directory. For example

    prompt> rtf2latex2e -D file.rtf

creates a directory called file-latex and places the converted latex file file.tex inside. The file names are adjusted so that you can type

    prompt> cd file-latex
    prompt> pdflatex file.tex

to create a PDF file, for example.

3.3  The preference path option

This is important if you’re developing or having issues with the installation.

  -P path/to/preferred/preference/directory

rtf2latex2e reads a bunch of font encodings rtf-encoding.*, rtf-ctrl, and latex-encoding before it can convert anything. These are all located in the preference directory.6 In addition to these critical files, some user configurable files r2l-head, r2l-map, and r2l-pref are also read from this location.

There are three ways to specify the location of this directory,

3.4  The text conversion option

Obviously text can have a bunch of formatting applied to it. c o l or, bold, italic, underlined, font selection, and font size. The font sizes specified in the RTF file get mapped to the the nearest relative LATEX sizes like \small and \large. All these can be turned off with the -t option. Just add the numbers together to get a combination of items

  -t #             text conversion options
      -t1              font size
      -t2              font color
      -t4              font formatting
      -t8              replace tabs with spaces

Thus -t 6 will cause rtf2latex2e to convert formatting and color, but ignore size changes and replace all tabs with spaces.

Disabling font size conversion is often a good idea because LATEX usually makes reasonable assumptions about the font size. It is a nuisance to edit the LATEX file if every paragraph is bracketed with {\Large ... } because the RTF document was written in 14 point font.

No support for font family changes exists in rtf2latex2e version 2.0 — maybe in another ten years.

3.5  The paragraph conversion option

Paragraphs are nasty beasts. Just consider indenting. In an RTF file, indenting can be achieved

Well, that was not as bad as I remembered it being. But that is just the first indent. There is also line spacing before and after the paragraph, line spacing, left and right margins, and overall alignment.

  -p #             paragraph conversion options
      -p1              'heading 1' style -> '\section{}'
      -p2              indenting
      -p4              space between paragraphs
      -p8              line spacing
      -p16             margins
      -p32             alignment

If all the options are on then a ton of cruft is added to the latex document. For example, using -p 63 each paragraph might come out looking like

    This architecture allows the reader to remain constant, 
    so that different translators can be built by supplying 
    different writer and driver code....

Although, the LATEX’ed file looks great, it is a nuisance to edit. Since presumably, this is the only reason that you are converting to LATEX, you probably don’t want the extra markup. I personally like -p 33 which is the default for the -n option described below.

I should describe the -p 1 option, but I really am tired of this document. So I won’t.7

3.6  The equation conversion option

The most common source of the RTF files is Microsoft Word. Equations in Word are created in Equation Editor (MathType), and when saved into an RTF file, the equation is saved as MTEF embedded in an OLE object. rtf2latex2e uses the cole library8 to extract the embedded equations from the OLE structured format. The equation is then converted into LATEX format. If everything goes well, then the conversion can be surprisingly good. If the native equation conversion fails, or if the option to convert equations is disabled, rtf2latex2e reads that picture and outputs the equation as a picture file.

Not surprisingly, sometimes the conversion fails. One of the major improvements in version 2.0 was to properly extract the MTEF record of the equation from the encoded OLE. During processing, rtf2latex2e saves this as a separate file. For example, the thirty-third equation when translating file.rtf might get saved as file-eqn033.eqn. This file is then processed to produce a string that is inserted into the converted latex document. If something goes wrong with processing this particular equation then it is very handy to be able to access this equation directly. So how do you know it was equation 33 and not equation 19? Use -e 15 according to

  -e #             equation conversion options
      -e1              convert to latex
      -e2              insert image
      -e4              keep intermediate eqn file
      -e8              insert eqn file name in latex document

Then in the converted document (or more likely the partially converted file.ltx document, insert a final \end{document} so that you can see the converted latex file. The -e 2 allows you to visually compare the converted latex with an image of what it should look like. The -e 8 option will insert the name of the associated .eqn file. Then it is just an issue of debugging the equation using

    prompt> rtf2latex2e file-eqn033.eqn

and figuring out which one of the MTEF commands is getting mangled.

3.7  Table conversion options

In an RTF document with tables, the tables have an explicitly defined width. This differs a tabular environment in LATEX in which the width of columns are (usually) dynamically calculated during typesetting. Furthermore, in a tabular environment the horizontal alignment of every column is indicated at the start. RTF tables are designated cell by cell and therefore every table cell has to have specific alignment directives. This all leads to a bit of a mismatch when trying to translate.

There are two switches that can be used to manipulate the results for translated tables, but these have not been thoroughly tested yet.

  -T #             table conversion options
      -T 1              keep column widths
      -T 2              keep column alignment

3.8  The trivial options

The trivial options are

  -h               display help
  -v               version information

and should require no explanation, so I won’t bother.

4  The Preference files

4.1  r2l-pref

rtf2latex2e reads a preference file r2l-pref where you can specify various options

The options are self-explanatory. If not, then read the comment text in r2l-pref. These preference selections are overridden by command line options.

4.2  latex-encoding

The default charset for the latex file is Unicode, the text file is written using UTF8. This is specified by the file latex-encoding. Others encodings are possible but I think they should all be dropped. Unicode works with LATEX so why bother with any other representation. Consider the others deprecated.

4.3  r2l-head

rtf2latex2e also reads a file (if present) called r2l-head. In this file, you can specify any additional packages that you want to use in your LATEX file, e.g., a babel hyphenation package or a font encoding. The contents of this file are just copied into the preamble of the LATEX file.

4.4  r2l-map

rtf2latex2e also reads a file (if present) called r2l-map. In this file, you can customize mappings for section headings. Other style conversion may be possible, but it should be considered experimental (aka, flakey) at the moment.

5  Features

rtf2latex2e is designed to convert journal articles, reports, and letters written in Microsoft Word. That means I would like it to handle the following:

5.1  Figures

rtf2latex2e can read figures of format PICT, EMF, WMF, PNG, and JPEG embedded in RTF files. These are the most common formats encountered in RTF files. When rtf2latex2e encounters an embedded figure, it reads out the figure into a separate file. The output format of the PNG and JPEG figure is the same as the original format. Under UNIX or MacOS X, PICT, EMF, and WMF files are converted to PDF files using unoconv.

5.2  Tables

Yeah, it does tables!! However, this is the weakest link in the chain and the messiest part of the code. This is largely due to the fact that RTF does not have a separate “Table” group. It is also due to the fact that TeX likes to know in advance the number of columns in the table, and RTF does not tell us that. Ujwal spent a lot of time to support tables to this extent. Some of the test files have tables in them. To get an idea of the type of tables that rtf2latex2e can handle, take a look at test/table.rtf.

Tables have way more mark-up than desired.

5.3  Character mapping:

Character mapping is largely complete for the most common latin scripts. Characters are translated by referencing character set maps and the output map file latex-encoding. The platform and locale dependent character set, e.g. latin-2 (Eastern European), is converted to an internal platform-independent representation by reading the appropriate character map file, in this case rtfencoding-cp1250. For example, character 192 (hex 0xC1) represents Á in the latin-2 character set. rtf2latex2e uses rtfencoding-cp1250 to translate this character to Aacute. Finally, Aacute is translated into the LATEX representation \'{A} using the file latex-encoding.9 This two-step character mapping allows for easy addition of support for additional character sets such as latin-5 (Turkish) or cp1251 (Russian).

5.4  Test files

There are several test files in the test/ directory of the rtf2latex2e distribution that demonstrate the capabilities of the converter. You can also download a larger set of test files to see how the program behaves. These test files are in a tarred gzipped archive in the same place where you downloaded the rtf2latex2e distribution. “RTF-test-files” contains several RTF files that have been successfully tested on rtf2latex2e. By success, I mean that rtf2latex2e processes the RTF file without any problems (except maybe giving a few warnings) and produces a “.tex” file that is LATEX 2є-able!! It does not mean that the LATEX 2є output file will look exactly the same as the RTF input file. In fact, most of the time, it will not. Some features like I do not care to convert, others like Unicode support will be implemented in future versions.

6  Acknowledgements

I would not even have attempted this thing had it not been for Paul DuBois’ very nicely designed RTF tool. I did not have to bother with parsing the RTF tokens and understanding it. All I had to do was write code to act upon the token. Thanks, Paul, for simplifying it.

Steve Swanson of Mackichan Software, makers of Scientific Word and Workplace, contributed the early equation converter code. With this ability, rtf2latex2e has advanced to version 1.0. Hopefully, this essential feature addition along with rtf2latex2e’s other capabilities will make this program the de facto tool for converting word processor documents to LATEX 2є.

7  Legalese

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation.

The initial equation converter capability was provided by Steve Swanson from Mackichan Software, makers of Scientific Word and Workplace.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details. If you format your hard disk, or do anything else inconvenient, it’s not my fault.

The reader part of this code is copyright Paul DuBois.

If you make any modifications that you think makes this program better, please send me the modifications so that I can incorporate them in later versions. Please do not distribute modified versions. I plan to keep working on this project, and anybody is welcome to help.

It is understandable that Apple has deprecated the PICT format and is pushing PDF. PICT is an old format, true, but I am always stumbling across legacy RTF files with embedded PICT images. The only way to properly convert the PICT vector image to a PDF vector images is to use the QDPictCreateWithURL() call. This function is not available when compiling 64-bit binaries and therefore the -m32 option is required while compiling and linking. Of course, this does not work at all under Lion (10.7) and therefore the binary needs to be compiled with Snow Leopard (10.6) or earlier.
Arguably, all these files could be compiled into the binary. Certainly, the only file that a user might actually modify is the latex-encoding file, but now that we have UTF8, why bother?
Ironically, now that I am editing this a year later, I would have to look at the source code to document this properly. I just don’t remember anymore.
originally available in 2000 from http://arturo.directmail.org/filtersweb
Although now it is just translated to the Unicode value 0xE1. Anyhow, you get the idea.
Get RTF to LaTeX converter at SourceForge