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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

AnswerRe: bullets and table Pin
NightWizzard20-Mar-17 2:26
MemberNightWizzard20-Mar-17 2:26 
GeneralRe: bullets and table Pin
Syed Sumair21-Mar-17 4:10
MemberSyed Sumair21-Mar-17 4:10 
GeneralRe: bullets and table Pin
NightWizzard21-Mar-17 4:44
MemberNightWizzard21-Mar-17 4:44 
QuestionBig thanks Pin
Member 1305089110-Mar-17 2:11
MemberMember 1305089110-Mar-17 2:11 
AnswerRe: Big thanks Pin
NightWizzard10-Mar-17 4:43
MemberNightWizzard10-Mar-17 4:43 
QuestionInvalid length parameter passed to the LEFT or SUBSTRING function FIX Pin
Member 1292776529-Dec-16 17:45
MemberMember 1292776529-Dec-16 17:45 
AnswerRe: Invalid length parameter passed to the LEFT or SUBSTRING function FIX Pin
NightWizzard29-Dec-16 21:59
MemberNightWizzard29-Dec-16 21:59 
QuestionConvert data type error Pin
WIZZs27-Jul-16 22:14
MemberWIZZs27-Jul-16 22:14 

When I try to parse my RTF column it get following error in SQL Server 2014 Express.
MyRTFColumn = ntext, so I cast it to nvarchar(max) before converting the RTF to text.
SELECT MyRTFColumn, dbo.fn_ParseRTF(CAST(MyRTFColumn AS nvarchar(MAX))) FROM dbo.MyTable

Msg 8114, Level 16, State 5, Line 33
Error converting data type varchar to varbinary.

Do you have any idea how to solve this?
AnswerRe: Convert data type error Pin
NightWizzard27-Jul-16 23:38
MemberNightWizzard27-Jul-16 23:38 
GeneralRe: Convert data type error Pin
WIZZs28-Jul-16 1:04
MemberWIZZs28-Jul-16 1:04 
GeneralRe: Convert data type error Pin
NightWizzard28-Jul-16 7:29
MemberNightWizzard28-Jul-16 7:29 
AnswerRe: Convert data type error Pin
deafsquad19-Jan-17 4:12
Memberdeafsquad19-Jan-17 4:12 
GeneralRe: Convert data type error Pin
NightWizzard19-Jan-17 7:20
MemberNightWizzard19-Jan-17 7:20 
Questiongetting error Pin
Member 1191328327-Jul-16 5:20
MemberMember 1191328327-Jul-16 5:20 
AnswerRe: getting error Pin
NightWizzard27-Jul-16 7:17
MemberNightWizzard27-Jul-16 7:17 
AnswerRe: getting error Pin
zapp44216-Sep-16 1:44
Memberzapp44216-Sep-16 1:44 
GeneralRe: getting error Pin
NightWizzard16-Sep-16 5:39
MemberNightWizzard16-Sep-16 5:39 
GeneralRe: getting error Pin
Member 119132835-Oct-16 4:59
MemberMember 119132835-Oct-16 4:59 
GeneralRe: getting error Pin
NightWizzard5-Oct-16 7:10
MemberNightWizzard5-Oct-16 7:10 
GeneralRe: getting error Pin
Member 119132835-Oct-16 4:59
MemberMember 119132835-Oct-16 4:59 
QuestionConverting RTF to plain text (for RTF documents that can be read by Microsoft Word) Pin
Member 1245022910-Apr-16 15:19
MemberMember 1245022910-Apr-16 15:19 
AnswerRe: Converting RTF to plain text (for RTF documents that can be read by Microsoft Word) Pin
NightWizzard10-Apr-16 22:15
MemberNightWizzard10-Apr-16 22:15 
AnswerRe: Converting RTF to plain text (for RTF documents that can be read by Microsoft Word) Pin
NightWizzard11-Apr-16 6:34
MemberNightWizzard11-Apr-16 6:34 
QuestionThere are some \f1 still left over Pin
ozz.project9-Apr-16 4:44
Memberozz.project9-Apr-16 4:44 
AnswerRe: There are some \f1 still left over Pin
NightWizzard9-Apr-16 6:32
MemberNightWizzard9-Apr-16 6:32 

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