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RTF Pocket Guide Paperback – July 29, 2003

12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0596004750 ISBN-10: 0596004753 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Sean M. Burke is an active member in the Perl community and one of CPAN's most prolific module authors. He has been a columnist for The Perl Journal since 1998, and is an authority on markup languages. Trained as a linguist, he also develops tools for software internationalization and native language preservation. Sean is also the author of O'Reilly's Perl & LWP.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 158 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (August 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596004753
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596004750
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.4 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,565,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sean Michael Burke is the author of "Perl & LWP" (softcover version, and free online version) and "RTF Cookbook", and was a columnist for "The Perl Journal" for several years. His columns often focused on processing (human) languages, and most are collected in "The Best of the Perl Journal: Games, Diversions, and Perl Culture" and free online.

He has a master's degree in linguistics from Northwestern University, with the thesis "The Design of Online Lexicons", which appears as a chapter in "A Practical Guide to Lexicography". He has written several dozen Perl Archive (CPAN) modules including Maketext, the basis of Perl software localization; HTML-Tree, Perl's notably robust HTML parser; and the specification and modern implementation for Pod, Perl's documentation system.

Burke currently works for several projects for the preservation of endangered North American languages. He wrote "RTF Pocket Guide" after having learned RTF (a text format like .doc) as part of those projects, for the step where lexicon databases need to be turned into conventionally formatted dictionaries for publication. Examples now in print: "Dictionary of Alaskan Haida" and Dictionary of Jicarilla Apache: Abáachi Mizaa Iłkee' Siijai".

He makes programmers think he's basically a linguist and linguists think he's basically a programmer. He is a sparklingly charismatic yet always modest person who really does enjoy writing about himself in the third person like this. He currently lives on a small island off the coast of Canada.

(This Sean Burke is not the (Irish scholar) Sean Burke who wrote "Death and Return of the Author", "The Ethics of Writing", and "Deadwater"; nor is he the (Canadian athlete) Sean Burke who was a goalee in the National Hockey League; but he assumes they're nice people anyway.)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 14, 2003
Format: Paperback
This little gem saved me a lot of time and hassle. RTF is notoriously under-documented and your only option (AFAIK), until now, was to wade through a dense and cryptic 150+ page spec. I needed to generate word processor files from DB data and I wanted to avoid the messy XML, XSLT, FO, Gee-Whizz-ML overkill at all costs. This guide enabled me to knock up a working program in just a few hours. Yes, the book has some omissions, but you cannot condense the RTF spec into a pocket guide.
Unfortunately the author has been let down by poor copy editing. There are some non-trivial errors such as "The syntax for a font table is {colortbl...", and there are quite a few woolly sentences here and there. But that's par for the course with cutbacks at publishing houses these days.
Overall, if you need generate WP docs from an app, this little guide is worth it's weight in gold.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Clarion on August 7, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
RTF Pocket Guide is a slim volumn, but its size belies the wealth of explanation it contains. Even a cursory reading will leave you with a much better understanding of something almost all programmers know a little about.
...
(Parenthetically, I like topic-specific computer books, O'Reilly's Pocket Guides and Wrox's Handbooks).
The book's stated intent is to offer an introduction to Rich Text Format, and is a valuable preface to Microsoft's Rich Text Format (RTF) Specification. It does a good job of that, offering both analysis and caveats.
Now, if I don't offer a criticism or two this post will sound like it was done by the Marketing Department.
1. I'd like to see the Perl code in the addendums translated into C# or VB. That probably would make it more accessible to more users.
2. I wish the chapter on section breaks were fuller than it is. (Probably not a big deal for most programmers.)
I'd strongly recommend this book for any programmer needing to work with RTF files.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. Gauer on August 12, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
RTF Pocket Guide is an extremely useful guide to RTF and makes for much better and faster reading than Microsoft's RTF specs. As the book itself points out, it is an introductory guide and does not discuss parsing RTF documents as well as it does creating them. It gave me the information I needed to create programs to write database data out as RTF and certainly does a great job of explaining syntax and constructs.

As mentioned in other reviews, however, the editing for the July 2003 first edition is simply awful. A number of obvious errors exist in the initial sections. The overall content is so good that these errors are all the more glaring: How could an editor read the text and not catch them? If you treat these errors as opportunities to test your own growing knowledge of RTF syntax, they are actually kind of fun to find... but not what you would expect in a reference text. I have not found any obtuse errors; most are obvious as soon as you read them.

Overall: well worth the money, but also an imperfect tool at best.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jack D. Herrington on July 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
There was more introductory and expository material in the book than I would have expected for a pocket guide weighing in it only a scant 150 pages. In addition, the reference I would have expected, which would allow me to navigate an RTF exported from Word, I did not find.

I recommend this to anyone who has some experience working with RTF and who wants to try to actually understand it. For those looking for an RTF decoder ring, you won't find it here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Lambird on January 1, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sean M Burke has written the RTF Pocket Guide, The RTF Cookbook and other technical materials on the Rich Text Format (RTF). These writings are worthwhile, and should be mandatory reading for anyone attempting to program RTF readers or writers.
In my case, I needed to produce neat, printable reports from an Excel application written in Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). (It is not commonly known that many Visual Basic features are not supported in VBA, including the ones I required for my output.) After some research, I concluded that adding an RTF writer to my application would produce a quality product with limited additional programming.

Microsoft's RTF Specification version 1.9 is NOT the place to learn RTF. It is very complete, but anything but a text book. Sean M Burke's writings brought me from the stage of RTF novice to an adequate programmer of complicated financial tables in short order. Thank you, Sean.
Robert J Lambird
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sarah on July 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book saved me A LOT of time. I had to use PHP to write an RTF document with style definitions to be used in Word and Adobe InDesign. I spent a ton of time searching the web for tutorials or tips, but they were all complicated and incomplete. I also tried going through the source code of MS Word documents trying to figure out how it was written. After a lot of frustration, I found this book. It's short and easy to read and understand. It gives you the basics on how to construct an RTF file with code that is clean, easy to read, and easy to debug. It was just what I needed. I can't beleive there isn't any tutorial like this available on the web. I did still have to look at the MS Word code to fix a couple of things, and I also used an online reference to figure out some of the more obscure codes, but overall this book was very helpful. I recommend it.
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