DWG vs. DXF.

DWG and DXF files are vector image files created by Autodesk. DWGs are primarily for drawing, whereas DXF files are for sharing. Both file types are important tools for drafting and engineering — but which is better for your work?

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What you’ll learn.

  • What is a DWG file?
  • What is a DXF file?
  • What is the difference between DWG and DXF files?
  • DWG vs. DXF: frequently asked questions



What is a DWG file?

Autodesk created their proprietary DWG file format to store 2D and 3D images. This versatile image file type uses compact binary code to make it easy to store and move DWG files. 


Learn more about DWG files



What is a DXF file?

DXF is another Autodesk creation launched around the same time as DWG. The DXF name stands for Drawing Exchange Format and its purpose is right there in the name. DXF connects Autodesk files to dozens (or even hundreds) of other computer-aided drawing (CAD) and drafting programmes. 


Learn more about DXF files



What is the difference between DWG and DXF files?

Both DWG and DXF files are industry standards in CAD. Both files store the same type of data and have a similar level of quality — though they do this through different code. 


DWG and DXF are each better for different types of vector images and objects, which can affect their relative file sizes. Their biggest difference is how accessible and compatible they are — DXF files are open source, but you can only use DWG files with Autodesk programmes.


The value of vectors.

Vector graphics use mathematical algorithms based on points on a grid to display images. This means that no matter how much you scale them, their proportions remain the same. On the other hand, raster images use grids of pixels to create images. Because the number of pixels within a picture doesn’t change, raster images can blur or pixelate when resized. 


Both DWG and DXF files are vector formats. Their images contain elements like lines, arrows, arcs, circles, advanced curves, polygons and text. It’s easy to adjust, edit, add or remove individual elements.


File structure and size.

DWG files are more compact than DXF files and can also store a greater variety of files. DWG files use binary code — that is, a computer processing language made of zeroes and ones. DXF files use text-based coding (ASCII). Binary code is more compact, so DWG files tend to be about 25% smaller than DXF. 


In DXF vector drawings, every element is “spelt out” in ASCII. This makes DXF larger but also more compatible with other programmes. Some DXF files — especially those with many layers — can be hundreds of megabytes in size. In cases like these, a best practice is to split apart the large file, compress it or both.


DWG is more diverse.

DWG files can handle a full range of drawing types. 3D geometry is an important part of what DWG files do. DXF files mostly handle 2D vector images, especially in early versions of the format. DXFs may also face colour limitations. Most special functions and features are also unlikely to be supported in DXF files — they’re stripped down, by design, to make them more flexible, compatible and easy to share. 


DWG is for Autodesk.

DWG is the default file format for Autodesk. You can use DWGs with various Autodesk software applications, like AutoCad Civid 3D (for civil engineers and urban planners), Autodesk Revit (for architects) and Autodesk Inventor (for product developers). Because they’re built to work together, DWGs are the go-to file types when working with these programmes. 


DXF is for sharing.

If you’d like to share a DWG vector rendering or drawing, DXF files are the way to go. Not only are DXF files compatible with other software, but they can also transfer 2D images to other CAD viewing and editing programmes (while DWG files are strictly limited to Autodesk). DXFs are also useful for professionals who use multiple programmes on one project. You can even overlay some DXF images onto other file types.


Proprietary vs. open source.

DWG is proprietary — which means it is the sole property of Autodesk. Only the company can alter or modify the file format. To make the DXF file more effective, Autodesk designed it as an open-source file. The format is free to anyone and anyone can program or rewrite accompanying software. This means that, over time, DXF files get revised, redeveloped and improve by the people who use it.


DWG vs. DXF: frequently asked questions.

How do I convert DXF to DWG?

It’s easy to convert your DXF file to DWG. Follow these simple steps.

  1. Open your AutoCAD programme.
  2. Select File > Open and choose your DWF file.
  3. Select File > Save As.
  4. Select DWG from the File Types drop-down.


How do I open a DWG file in PDF?

To open a DWG file as a PDF, you’ll need to convert it first.


  1. Open Adobe Acrobat.
  2. Select Tools > Create PDF.
  3. Choose Single File > Select a File.
  4. Upload your DWG.
  5. Click Create to convert your DWG to PDF.
  6. Save your new PDF file.


Who uses DWG and DXF files?

The industries that most frequently use DWG and DXF files include architecture, city planning, engineering, product design, manufacturing and video game design.


What programme will open a DXF file?

Though open source, DXF is designed for use with Autodesk programmes like AutoCAD. However, you can also view a DXF file with software like Adobe Illustrator.

Compare DWG and DXF files to other file types.

DWG file image

DWG files

Learn more about the uses and history of DGW files. 

DXF file image

DXF files

Go on a deep dive into everything to do with DXF files.

STL file image

STL files

Discover more about STL — another type of CAD file used for 3D printing. 

3Ds file image

3Ds files 

Get the lowdown on 3Ds, a 3D image file type. 

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