RTF, OpenType, macOS

Do you want proper glyphs in your text on macOS? Go deeper, deeper, deeper.

Have you ever tried to use TextEdit to give format to a text? Don’t do it. That’s a job for Pages, the handsome but not-so-full-fledged text processor provided by macOS. However, Pages won’t open RTF files.

Example of some OpenType features that can be set in TextEdit. The operative system, macOS, provides full support of OpenType. However, the Notes app won’t allow the user to use many of the typographic capabilities built in the fonts.

That’s what we have:

  • Notes app provides a small set of paragraph styles, not character styles. It uses rich (though basic) typographic format without an actual file format.
  • TextEdit supports two file formats: plain text and RTF. Setting paragraph styles in it is a pain in the neck. Character styles are non-existent.
  • TextEdit isn’t a light version of Pages. As is, it will never be a typesetting application.
  • Pages has its own file format and doesn’t support RTF. It treats character styles as a second-rate feature.
  • Let’s not talk about assigning a language to a piece of text, something not even Pages does.
  • Accessing OpenType features within an RTF file is a functionality that text processors can implement.

A few questions:

  • What is RTF providing that prevents macOS from putting an end to its support? Is it only backward compatibility?
  • Independently of file formats, given that macOS fully covers OpenType, why don’t we have (see the image above) a better access to proper super- and subscripts, fractions, alignment to all caps and to small caps, and even the choice of modern and oldstyle figures? (that is, instead of a five-level menu: Format > Font > Show Fonts > [dented button] > Typography).
  • What’s hampering the implementation of better text formatting in all those applications which rely on the operative system to render the available typographic features (Scrivener, mindmapping apps, outliners…)?

Paradoxically, at present, the best text processor in the Mac environment (not in the category of page-layout applications) uses the RTF file format to run. It’s called Nisus Writer Pro.