Salvaging a corrupted RTF file in TextEdit
November 18, 2011 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Is there any way to salvage a corrupted RTF file in Mac TextEdit?

I made the spectacularly stupid decision to work on my novel in TextEdit on Mac. Originally it was a ".doc" file, and this got corrupted; tech support advised me to work on it as an RTF file instead, which was working fine for a couple weeks.

I haven't been able to work on it for a while. Now, when I open the RTF file, it is corrupted too. Most of it is blank. There are a few sections remaining -- these seem to be the sections I worked on most recently. The rest is gone.

I have tried reverting back to earlier versions and those are all blank too; the file says that the last time it was modified was Oct 27th and that is not correct, it should have been sometime in early November.

I have only had a Mac for a few weeks and I can't figure out how to do anything. I am very unhappy at the prospect of losing days of work when I was so close to done. Is there anything I can do to salvage this file? Please please please hope me.
posted by crackingdes to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Go to Preferences from the "TextEdit" menu, select the "Open and Save" tab. Check both boxes at the top about ignoring Rich Text commands. This will let you open the rtf file as a raw text file and see what is inside it. That might let you salvage something. Copy and paste what you want out of that raw text file into a new text file or MS Word doc. You won't get the formatting but you'll get the text contents.
posted by alms at 8:59 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Alms has the solution. I want to add that hopefully you were working on this in a folder backed up by Dropbox or Time Machine. Either of those will let you go a few days/weeks back to retrieve an earlier version of just that file.
posted by michaelh at 9:01 AM on November 18, 2011

Response by poster: alms: Thank you so much for your quick answer. I followed your suggestion. The raw text file shows the same text as before -- except where there were blank pages it now has something like:


Do you think that means the text that was there is just gone?
posted by crackingdes at 9:18 AM on November 18, 2011

Try opening the file in this hex/text editor just to be sure:

It might not make a difference, though.
posted by michaelh at 9:22 AM on November 18, 2011

You're seeing everything that is in the file. There's nothing hidden behind fancy document formats or anything. So if you don't see something that means it isn't there, sadly.

Do you have any older versions you could look at?
posted by alms at 9:22 AM on November 18, 2011

Response by poster: Yes, I have an older version from a back-up on Oct 25th. (This is not a NaNo novel, I've been working on it for some time.) Worst case scenario I have to redo about a week's worth of work. Which is pretty shitty, but not catastrophic I guess.
posted by crackingdes at 9:27 AM on November 18, 2011

It sounds like you might have a larger problem with your system than TextEdit, too. I'd get your disk checked.

But that said, maybe switch to I think OO handles .rtf pretty well.
posted by zomg at 9:30 AM on November 18, 2011

Response by poster: michaelh: I downloaded Oxed at your suggestion and gave it a shot, same text as before though. :/
posted by crackingdes at 9:31 AM on November 18, 2011

Yeah, something sounds off here. I've been writing on Macs for over a decade and never had a corrupted file. Was this a brand new system? I'd be talking to Apple.

Also, backups! Time Machine works very smoothly and comes free with your Mac. Dropbox is also very easy to use. Personally, I use both. TM for everything and then my writing is also automatically backed up to Dropbox every time I save.

A file that exists in only one place is way too fragile.
posted by Georgina at 12:03 PM on November 18, 2011

If you are working in text mode then Mercurial or Git are great solutions. If you have an academic email you can get a free Bitbucket or Github private account, and both also have free public options. There are of course pay options for the general public.
posted by Canageek at 2:03 PM on November 18, 2011

sorry, no help in terms of recovery, but my guess as to how it happened is that you had a word doc, maybe from PC, that was converted straight to .rtf and that some of the formatting gunk is causing the file to fail.

i would recommend, for the text you can recover, copy and paste into a plain text (.txt) file. does a good job for me of stripping out formatting crazyness. You can then convert that into .rtf so that you can change the font to something readable, etc.

bummer. good luck!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 5:57 PM on November 18, 2011

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