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Posted 21 Sep 2014


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Convert RTF to Plain Text (Revised Again)

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4.91/5 (15 votes)
9 Apr 2016CPOL1 min read
Handling for hex expressions and the trailing '}'


Most solutions to convert RTF to plain text with pure T-SQL don't handle special characters like German umlauts and all the other special characters above ASCII(128) because they are not embedded in RTF tags but noted as escaped hex values. Also most of these solutions leave a trailing '}' at the end of the converted text. This revised procedure will solve these problems.


Searching the web for a T-SQL procedure to convert RTF-formatted text to plain text, you'll find a lot of matches. Mainly, there are 2 methods described: the first one uses the RichtextCtrl control with the need to reconfigure SQL server settings to allow access to OLE/COM which might be a problem in environments with high security guidelines (e.g. The second one will be found in some slightly different versions which all produce results with restrictions as described above (e.g.

Using the Code

Add the following SQL function to your database:

USE [<YourDatabaseNameHere>]


    @rtf nvarchar(max)
RETURNS nvarchar(max)
    DECLARE @Pos1 int;
    DECLARE @Pos2 int;
    DECLARE @hex varchar(316);
    DECLARE @Stage table
        [Char] char(1),
        [Pos] int

    INSERT @Stage
         , [Pos]
    SELECT SUBSTRING(@rtf, [Number], 1)
         , [Number]
      FROM [master]..[spt_values]
     WHERE ([Type] = 'p')
       AND (SUBSTRING(@rtf, Number, 1) IN ('{', '}'));

    SELECT @Pos1 = MIN([Pos])
         , @Pos2 = MAX([Pos])
      FROM @Stage;

      FROM @Stage
     WHERE ([Pos] IN (@Pos1, @Pos2));

    WHILE (1 = 1)
            SELECT TOP 1 @Pos1 = s1.[Pos]
                 , @Pos2 = s2.[Pos]
              FROM @Stage s1
                INNER JOIN @Stage s2 ON s2.[Pos] > s1.[Pos]
             WHERE (s1.[Char] = '{')
               AND (s2.[Char] = '}')
            ORDER BY s2.[Pos] - s1.[Pos];

            IF @@ROWCOUNT = 0

              FROM @Stage
             WHERE ([Pos] IN (@Pos1, @Pos2));

            UPDATE @Stage
               SET [Pos] = [Pos] - @Pos2 + @Pos1 - 1
             WHERE ([Pos] > @Pos2);

            SET @rtf = STUFF(@rtf, @Pos1, @Pos2 - @Pos1 + 1, '');

    SET @rtf = REPLACE(@rtf, '\pard', '');
    SET @rtf = REPLACE(@rtf, '\par', '');
    SET @rtf = STUFF(@rtf, 1, CHARINDEX(' ', @rtf), '');

    WHILE (Right(@rtf, 1) IN (' ', CHAR(13), CHAR(10), '}'))
        SELECT @rtf = SUBSTRING(@rtf, 1, (LEN(@rtf + 'x') - 2));
        IF LEN(@rtf) = 0 BREAK
    SET @Pos1 = CHARINDEX('\''', @rtf);

    WHILE @Pos1 > 0
            IF @Pos1 > 0
                    SET @hex = '0x' + SUBSTRING(@rtf, @Pos1 + 2, 2);
                    SET @rtf = REPLACE(@rtf, SUBSTRING(@rtf, @Pos1, 4), _
CHAR(CONVERT(int, CONVERT (binary(1), @hex,1))));
                    SET @Pos1 = CHARINDEX('\''', @rtf);

    SET @rtf = @rtf + ' ';

    SET @Pos1 = PATINDEX('%\%[0123456789][\ ]%', @rtf);

    WHILE @Pos1 > 0
            SET @Pos2 = CHARINDEX(' ', @rtf, @Pos1 + 1);

            IF @Pos2 < @Pos1
                SET @Pos2 = CHARINDEX('\', @rtf, @Pos1 + 1);

            IF @Pos2 < @Pos1
                    SET @rtf = SUBSTRING(@rtf, 1, @Pos1 - 1);
                    SET @Pos1 = 0;
                    SET @rtf = STUFF(@rtf, @Pos1, @Pos2 - @Pos1 + 1, '');
                    SET @Pos1 = PATINDEX('%\%[0123456789][\ ]%', @rtf);

    IF RIGHT(@rtf, 1) = ' '
        SET @rtf = SUBSTRING(@rtf, 1, LEN(@rtf) -1);

    RETURN @rtf;

When copying the above code to SQL don't forget to remove the underscore (wich is only required in codeproject to break long lines)!

To convert any RTF-formatted content, call the function above passing the RTF content as parameter of type nvarchar(max):

SELECT [<YourRTFColumnNameHere>]
     , [dbo].[RTF2Text]([<YourRTFColumnNameHere>]) AS [TextFromRTF]
  FROM [dbo].[<YourDatabaseNameHere>]

The function returns the converted text as nvarchar(max) too.

More improvements may be added. If you find any RTF part that isn't covered by the function above, please drop a line here.


Thanks to all the authors in the web that have posted their solutions until now and therefore deserve the applause. I simply enhanced these solutions to complete the basic conversion.

Thanks also to all users here posting their tips to make the procedure more robust.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Software Developer (Senior)
Germany Germany
30+ years experience as developer with VB.NET, VB, VBA, VBScript, C#, WPF, WinForms, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, Delphi, ADO, ADO.NET, ASP.NET, Silverlight, HTML, CSS, XAML, XML, T-SQL, MySQL, MariaDb, MS-ACCESS, dBase, OLE/COM, ActiveX, SEPA/DTAUS, ZUGFeRD, DATEV Format and DATEVconnect, DSGVO, TNT Web-API, MS-Office Addins, etc., including:
- 10+ years experience as developer and freelancer
- 10+ years experience as team leader
- 13+ years experience with CRM solutions

Comments and Discussions

QuestionGreat code but fails when there is text in between { and } as in my example below. Could you help? Pin
sureshppaul15-Mar-21 1:09
Membersureshppaul15-Mar-21 1:09 
QuestionMessage Closed Pin
28-Feb-21 12:21
Memberrunbikelive28-Feb-21 12:21 
QuestionStruggling with embeded urls Pin
SparkythePilgrim9-Jun-20 16:34
MemberSparkythePilgrim9-Jun-20 16:34 
QuestionStrips first word on non-RTF values Pin
Member 1469268914-Jan-20 5:54
MemberMember 1469268914-Jan-20 5:54 
QuestionThis is great - thanks very much [+small suggestion] Pin
Member 1412753123-Jan-19 7:22
MemberMember 1412753123-Jan-19 7:22 
QuestionA little help on this RTF Pin
Member 114390624-Dec-18 0:56
MemberMember 114390624-Dec-18 0:56 
SuggestionVery nice component Pin
Mystcreater1-Aug-18 7:58
MemberMystcreater1-Aug-18 7:58 
QuestionThe code does not process group {} Pin
Win32nipuh30-Apr-18 0:10
professionalWin32nipuh30-Apr-18 0:10 
QuestionGreat, but problem with unicode Pin
Win32nipuh16-Apr-18 5:01
professionalWin32nipuh16-Apr-18 5:01 
Questionoutput look like chinese.. Pin
sieb12316-Apr-18 5:04
Membersieb12316-Apr-18 5:04 
QuestionBest approach is to use a .NET component such as System.Windows.Forms.RichTextBox Pin
Code_1_Dreamer22-Mar-18 11:47
MemberCode_1_Dreamer22-Mar-18 11:47 
AnswerRe: Best approach is to use a .NET component such as System.Windows.Forms.RichTextBox Pin
Win32nipuh16-Apr-18 5:02
professionalWin32nipuh16-Apr-18 5:02 
QuestionSome parsing errors when using line breaks /line Pin
Norbert Haberl7-Mar-18 5:44
MemberNorbert Haberl7-Mar-18 5:44 
AnswerRe: Some parsing errors when using line breaks /line Pin
Win32nipuh24-Apr-18 22:42
professionalWin32nipuh24-Apr-18 22:42 
Questioncompatibility with SQL 11.0..... Pin
calwil6-Feb-18 9:56
Membercalwil6-Feb-18 9:56 
QuestionSome cases in which it fails Pin
Member 132487038-Jun-17 7:46
MemberMember 132487038-Jun-17 7:46 
AnswerRe: Some cases in which it fails Pin
NightWizzard9-Jun-17 0:01
MemberNightWizzard9-Jun-17 0:01 
AnswerRe: Some cases in which it fails Pin
blhf24-Apr-18 18:15
Memberblhf24-Apr-18 18:15 
AnswerRe: Some cases in which it fails Pin
ronschuster9-Jul-19 8:04
Memberronschuster9-Jul-19 8:04 
Questionbullets and table Pin
Syed Sumair19-Mar-17 4:27
MemberSyed Sumair19-Mar-17 4:27 
AnswerRe: bullets and table Pin
NightWizzard20-Mar-17 3:26
MemberNightWizzard20-Mar-17 3:26 
You are free to enhance the RTF sample with any extension you need. Surely bullets and tables will be enveloped by special tags (or characters like german umlauts) within RTF so that any RTF parser can identify and handle them. If you have found these tags you are able to make an extension to my sample code to handle them the way you need.
GeneralRe: bullets and table Pin
Syed Sumair21-Mar-17 5:10
MemberSyed Sumair21-Mar-17 5:10 
GeneralRe: bullets and table Pin
NightWizzard21-Mar-17 5:44
MemberNightWizzard21-Mar-17 5:44 
QuestionBig thanks Pin
Member 1305089110-Mar-17 3:11
MemberMember 1305089110-Mar-17 3:11 
AnswerRe: Big thanks Pin
NightWizzard10-Mar-17 5:43
MemberNightWizzard10-Mar-17 5:43 

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