Problems with RTFD files in DTtoGo

I routinely create rtfd files that I use for class notes. These files include my class notes, and are interspersed with jpg’s of screen shots from PDF text. It is the rare occasion when I replicate (or duplicate) a file from Devonthink to the mobile sync folder, that the file actually comes through in Devonthink to Go.

What happens is that it syncs, and then when I go to open it, DTTG tells me the file is a RTFD file, and does not display it.

I will then copy the content into a new rich text file in DT, it turns into a RTFD once the images are there. I try to sync that. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Today, it took 3 syncs, to get the file, which I recreated 3 times, to show up on my iPad mini 3 iOS8.

This has been a problem for awhile, and I thought I posted about it once before, but don’t recall getting any advice on how to fix it. But DT is an essential part of my teaching workflow in a case-law class, and I hate not being able to rely on it.


So the problem is that the RTFD files are actually not displayed in DEVONthink To Go or that they don’t sync? iOS itself has certain problems with RTF and RTFD so especially more “complex” documents such as ones with pictures can cause problems.

The RTFDs have text and jpegs in them.

So you are saying the app isn’t to fault, but iOS is?

Why does it work for some files, and not for others? The DTTG app seems very buggy.

Let me be more clear. THEY sync to DTTG. Then they do not appear. Just says "RTFD file.

I’ve got some databases on an iPad Air that contain a number of RTFD documents that include graphics or pictures. They display properly under DEVONthink To Go 1.5.4, with the exception of one that temporarily freezes the app. As capture of a selected area of HTML pages as rich text is my favorite capture mode from the Web, I’ve got many RTFD documents.

But a previous version of DEVONthink To Go couldn’t handle RTFD documents (and I had problems with RTFs as well) when iOS was upgraded to version 8.

Eric then released a series of updates to handle rich text files. Each update with changes to accommodate problems with rich text tested OK before it was sent to Apple for posting. But the environment in which code is developed and tested, although supplied to developers by Apple, didn’t really match what was happening on an iOS device. Did that result in bugs? Of course, and other developers ran into similar problems—for which Eric has my sympathy. I’m surprised that he has any hair left. :slight_smile:

Version 1.5.4 finally let me read collections of my rich text documents under iOS 8.x. I’m a happy camper.

Suggestion: before you declare DTTG to be buggy, can you take some of those non-displaying RTFD files, and launch them via “open in” in other iOS apps to see what happens? That way we and Eric can actually learn something.

Is this still an issue? As I can’t open any RTFD files in DTtoGo. If this is the case, it takes the value of using this iOS app, and DTP on the Mac, to essentially zero for me.

Which is a shame, as I’ve invested a lot of money and time into using DTP, including having to convince my wife that it was worth spending the money in the first place.

I need/want my files and data 100% accessible on my iOS devices. No excuses. No data loss. It just needs to work. Other apps can do it, why can’t DevonThink?

Earlier this year, I asked if this software was still actively being developed and got railed in the replies from other users. However, if the RTFD issue has been lingering for most of this year, I have to repeat the same question.

I read other posts from users equally bewildered about the lack on progressive development on this software. Which, I’d like to point out, is software we WANT to use. But you’re making it so difficult to maintain any loyalty here and causing people to look elsewhere.

No one wants to do that, it seems. So I went ahead and created a RTF on my Mac, and then pasted an image in (albeit in pdf format), turning it into RTFD. After syncing, this file appeared on DTTG, the text showed, but not the graphic. I then went ahead and sent this file to some other iOS apps that were offered in the “open in” menu: Foxit Reader, GoodReader, and Documents to Go. Foxit reader only showed the text part, like DTTG. DocsToGo showed nothing, and GoodReader revealed what RTFD really is: A package (folder) with an RTF file and individual graphic files inside. It showed the RTF (text only) correctly, and I could also view the pdf separately, but not embedded.

What does this tell me?

  1. DT/DTTG correctly sync all contents to iOS. And DTTG hands that content properly over, at least to GoodReader. However, no other iOS app can display RTFD properly.

  2. This indicates that this is more of a global iOS shortcoming.

Does that let the Devonthink devs off the hook? In my opinion yes. I’m sure others will not agree. However, it seems to me that in iOS, to a much larger extent than in OS X or Windows, it is advisable or necessary, to stick to official frameworks.

I think RTFD is a dying format. As far as I know, it has stagnated since the early days of NextSTEP. Seriously, how can one have non-scalable graphics? I have not found a reader, let alone an editor outside of OS X (not counting GnuSTEP here). This format has only survived because there is nothing ubiquitous beyond the capabilities of RTFD short of MS Word or maybe OO, which lack the small footprint. It is extremely handy to throw something quickly together in OS X. I constrain myself to RTF, though, because the “D” part is not robust. Apple’s missing support for it on iOS tells us what they think about it.

Related: In OmniFocus, notes in rich text also tend to get mangled when synced through iOS, e.g. certain bullet lists. So overall, the state of rich text in iOS is not encouraging.

So, I did this too. When I made my first reply, I didn’t see all of the posts in this thread (only 2 loaded). Having seen all of the posts, I decided to try it and see what happened. Honestly, I thought it would be a waste of time, as RTFD were common, right?

Unfortunately, no. I shared an RTFD file with GoodReader and got the same result as within DTtoGo. Then I created an RTFD on my Mac and moved it to the iPad, where I opened it in GoodReader. Same result. Nothing displays, other than a notice listing the title of the file and that it’s an RTFD. Bummer.

I checked other available apps, too.

  • Notability could read it just fine.
  • Evernote couldn’t even import it.
  • Documents by Readdle would not read it.
  • OneNote “can’t insert this type of file.”

I also redid the test with RTFD documents in DTtoGo, including creating a new note in Apple’s Notes. Same results. Only Notability would display the contents.

So, on one hand, it is possible to view your RTFD notes in DTtoGo using Notability, but on the other hand, it’s sub-optimal. The content is there, but it doesn’t look quite the same. Most likely, this explains why so many other apps are using proprietary formats for saving their notes.

I really would like to continue using DevonThink Pro on the Mac and synching those notes as I have been to DTtoGo. Is there any chance we’ll see an RTFD reader built into DTtoGo in the near future?

It is possible but, as noted, RTF / RTFD have been on the decline for awhile. (I used to swear by them myself but have found myself moving deeper and deeper into plaintext and Markdown.)

If RTF/RTFD has been on the decline for a while, then will be seeing a new and/or proprietary format for DevonThink products? if not, where does that leave its users?

Even though many of my notes are such, I have little to zero interest in text only notes. When I need to add images or files, it’s extremely handy to do so. Of even more importance, is having my notes available to me on my iOS devices.

No. We are not interested in creating proprietary formats for general use.

As you can see from other apps, many developers don’t support RTF(D) files, especially in iOS. We will continue to try and offer what support we can support as long as the need is great enough.

This is where you may be forced to make hard decisions. With all these apps you noted that don’t support what you want to do, you may want to start looking at better / more modern / more supported alternaitves.

Color me confused. The DevonThink mobile app stops viewing the RTFD files that were created in the Mac version of DevonThink Pro, and it’s of little importance to the company to fix it?

Just to clarify, I’m not trying to view RTFD files created elsewhere. I just want the advertised function of the mobile app to work.

What am I missing here?

Yes, sounds paradoxical, but it’s not that simple.DT on the Mac and DTTG on iOS devices rely on OS frameworks provided by Apple. The weird things is that Apple did/does not provide full-fledged, standard, rich text capabilities on iOS. I guess they would point at Pages, or Word for that matter. Initially, the much-used rationale was that iOS devices were not powerful enough, but I think that’s laughable if you see what else these devices can do. So we have this paradoxical situation that we have no lightweight, robust, reasonably powerful (tables, scalable images, etc.) text framework that spans the Apple ecosystem.

DT could overcome that by rolling their own, but that sounds easier than said, and I don’t want them to get bogged down by something like that.

Initially, I thought that a good solution would be to get a dedicated RFT editor on iOS. Surely, there must be something like that. I tried Textilus, but the formatting did not survive well when bringing in stuff created on OS X. Notability imports the stuff alright, but you can only get stuff out of Notability as pdf, text-only, or proprietary Notability format. So much for that. If Microsoft provided the “open in” route, I’d probably use Word as my cross-platform rich text platform. Now, I only use it for the really fancy stuff.

I have recently moved to take lightweight notes (no imagery or tables) using Markdown. The app Editorial on iOS is amazing. For quick checks, I can look at the raw markdown in DTTG, and I can also make quick edits, for anything more, I’ll send the stuff to Editorial or iWriter Pro. The great thing is that markdown is nothing but plain text, so no mechanism can muck it up when transferring.

On the high end, Word for iOS is actually amazingly good. The compatibility with the desktop version is stunning, everything transfers 1:1. On my brand new iPad Pro, Word docs with all the works (images etc) look great. But there always has to be a caveat: While I can easily send Office docs from DTTG to Office on iOS, the “open in” mechanism does not exist in Word, so I can’t get the stuff back into DTTG without an online detour through Dropbox. Very annoying.

Notability iOS syncs with Notability OS X, and Notability OS X can export RTF / RTFD. The export is not always WYSIWYG.

Thanks, @gg378 and @korm for chiming in here. It is true that there is not the expected parity between OS and iOS that one would expect (especially from Apple). Remember this simple thing: OS X is NOT iOS, and vice versa :mrgreen:

I don’t know where you got the idea, “it’s of little importance to fix it”. I can’t comment too much on what we are (or aren’t doing) but we are doing an incredible amount of work to try and overcome obstacles Apple sometimes puts in our path.
However, if the majority of Users abandon RTF(D) in the future, and other developers are also dropping all support, I can’t say how long we’d continue to support it too.

Good to know. Didn’t even know that there is a Notability on OS X. But the fact that the process does not maintain WYSIWYG seems to be the hallmark of passing RTF(D) around in the OS X - iOS environment. Presumably for the very same reason that DT has this problem: All these companies don’t use their own frameworks, so have no control over the RTF part. That’s where Word on iOS now shines, they really made sure that their iOS engine is 100% compatible (or at least 100 - epsilon).

Going completely off topic – I’d have to say my own experience with Word iOS is I avoid it for anything other than simple documents. For anything slightly technical or more than lightweight formatting, Word iOS in my experience does not play well at all with Word 2016. Your main thesis (and Jim’s, I think) that iOS is not a place to be expect to natively compose rich text is spot on.

First, I don’t mean to be adversarial, so my apologies if it came off that way. Second, I got the idea from the replies you made, which basically said tough luck.

Please know, though, that Markdown is not for everyone. Possibly great for bloggers, but not so much for people simply wanting to store text and media in the same note. I like the power of DTP, but

The other thing I don’t understand, is if RTFD has been “dying” for a while now, why no effort to replace it? I understand the frameworks issue and how Apple has been making it difficult for developers, but losing features or functionality seems like going backwards, not forward.

BTW, I tried Markdown in DTP and find two big issues with it. 1) inserting images takes far longer than it does with drag and drop, and 2) you lose the ability to Undo once you view the Best Alternative. I see the advantage of Markdown for those who type a lot and want a simpler way to mark the text, but when all you want to do is have some (non-rich) text and an image in the same note, I find it takes too much time.

And just to clarify, I’m not trying to create RTF(D) files in iOS, nor am I trying to view these files from outside DTtoGo. I’m not even wanting to edit or create from within DTtoGo. I’m simply wanting to view what I have in DTP in the DTtoGo iOS app.

RobH: I think we’re pretty much all on the same page. But it is relevant that the RTF capabilities are not in the hands of DT. Short of Apple-independent efforts to create a platform-independent rich text framework, there is not much one can do. I simply state that I don’t see such an effort, and I’m stunned.

In my view, it should/can not be the task of a smaller company that specializes in knowledge management to spearhead this. Instead I expected this to be accomplished by one of the outfits that specialize on editors. People who make apps like Textilus. But I had no luck with that either.

Having said that, RTF(D) is such a half-a**ed format, that even if implemented properly on iOS, would not really make me happy. Not being able to scale imported images, seriously?

I find myself now in this position facing a big gap: At the low end, plain text, and markdown, which can turn plain text into amazingly beautiful renderings, but still only powerful enough for some applications. Images, despite being supported, are essentially a non-starter. The point of rich environments is to drag and drop. Seems I cannot color text, and I also cannot change font size in the text. The later two should be absolutely no problem to implement (and you could throw them in by using html defs, but then the Markdown readability goes overboard). I have only bothered with RTF at all (and now markdown) because it offers this incredibly fast editing capability within the DT window.
On the high end there are Word and Pages. The latter is out because Apple has shown repeatedly that backward capability is not high on their list. My not-so-old Keynote presentations have to be opened by the OLD version of Keynote to translate into a newer format readable by the new Keynote. So they can’t be bothered with writing an import filter for the new version. And then it’s likely that some new OS X version will no longer run the old iWork apps. Then it’s “end of line”. Microsoft has a harder time doing this, because the business world would be in uproar.

Important to know that Korm finds poor compatibility between Office 2016 and the iOS app. My experience with Office 2011 has been excellent. So I won’t update any time soon. If iOS Word just had the “open in” functionality, I would probably shift most of my docs into Word, at the cost of not being able to edit directly inside the DT window on the Mac side. But now, that I finally have an SSD in my machine, Word actually pops up fast. So I could live with that. For reading and clicking links, the DT inline view is actually mostly sufficient.

But, yes, it’s incredible that in 2015, moving RRTF (real rich text) transparently, painlessly, between OS X and iOS is something that lacks a solution. Ridiculous.