I have tried LibreOffice, and Abiword on Linux Mint 13, and in both cases, on the sorts of RTF files I use (lots of font changes, language changes, color changes, underlining, etc.), the application always end up getting slower and slower over time with saves to the files, and the files get larger and larger, beyond what their content would seem to indicate the size should be (and as noted below, what Mac OS X TextEdit thinks they should be).

For example, LibreOffice had written one file to be about 3MB, and it could barely open this file, it took literally minutes. I transferred this 3MB RTF file to a Mac, opened and saved the file in TextEdit, and the file size reduced to 26KB with no loss of content! After copying back to linux, thereafer, LibreOffice/AbiWord were relatively fast to open and save that one file, but the problem is repeated on lots of files.

The RTF files originally came from a Windows system – the hard disk crashed, but I was able to recover the data and migrated it to a new disk running Linux Mint 13. The files were mostly edited with Microsoft Word and Wordpad.

  • Are Word/Wordpad known to create "toxic" RTF files for LibreOffice/Abiword?

  • How can I clean up the files and edit them on Linux just as I could on OS X, for example?

  • I am not sure about RTF but back in the days when I was still using windows and word (mind you, this is more than 10 years ago so my info could be outdated) I found that .doc files would get progressively larger as they were edited and I could fix that by copy/pasting the entire file into a new, empty file, and overwriting the original file with this copy.
    – terdon
    Nov 27, 2012 at 19:56
  • If I open the rtf file from linux (abiword, libreoffice) in emacs, I can't see the actual content of the file through the piles and piles of markup. After reading (not copying and pasting) and resaving the file in TextEdit on the mac, I can actually see the text content of the file with light markup here and there, and the file looks the same on the screen in each case. Clearly Mac TextEdit has smarts that LibreOffice and Abiword are lacking. Is there something else for linux with such smarts that writes reasonable rtf files?
    – Bogatyr
    Nov 27, 2012 at 20:32
  • I understand, that's why I posted a comment and not an answer. I'm just saying that as a workaround, you might be able to just copy/paste into a new file in abiword or LO. You could try the callilgra suite but I don't know if it will be any better.
    – terdon
    Nov 27, 2012 at 20:38

1 Answer 1


You could try using pandoc to convert the RTF or docx file to markdown, then edit the markdown with your favorite text editor and convert back.

  • I just installed pandoc (sudo apt-get install pandoc). It lists rtf only as an output format, not as an input format. (pandoc --help) Oct 26, 2016 at 17:51

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