It’s easy to display 2D and 3D design drawings with the DWF file format. DWF files support detailed vector graphics and text without the large file sizes found in Computer Aided Design (CAD) files. Explore the pros, cons and history of the DWF format — plus, how you can create and edit them.
What you’ll learn.
- What is a DWF file?
- History of the DWF file
- How to use a DWF file
- Pros and cons of DWF files
- How to open a DWF file
- How to create and edit a DWF file
- DWF files: frequently asked questions
What is a DWF file?
DWF is short for Design Web Format (DWF). This file format helps designers and engineers share their CAD drawings, data, graphics, text and 3D models in a zip-compressed file.
Like PDFs, DWF files are standardised and extremely accessible. You can open, view and mark them up without any specialised software programs. Creators can choose which parts of the design they share and which they don't.
Also, DWF files are vector-based. This means they’re built using mathematical formulas rather than pixels, which means they can clearly display images at any scale.
History of the DWF file.
Autodesk introduced the DWF format as Drawing Web Format in 1995 to share design files that were previously only available on AutoCAD systems. The company initially created DWFs purely for AutoCAD drawings, but later adapted them for other design programmes. The updated name, Design Web Format, references this wider usage.
Today, Autodesk programmes like Inventor and Navisworks use DWF files. They're versatile for both 2D and 3D drawings and models — making them a handy collaboration tool for industries ranging from architecture to product design.
How to use a DWF file.
A wide variety of industries use DWF files to:
Compress and share design drawings.
DWFs simplify, reduce and compress CAD files so you can share them with people who don’t have specialised design software. Creators can share multi-page designs in a single file. If needed, they can also hide certain design elements.
Open and view design drawings.
DWF files allow any user to view drawings in an open format. The DWF format includes complex metadata from the original design and can also include mark-ups and comments. You can reintroduce the data when you convert the DWF file back into its original format. This makes the DWF file a flexible tool for reviews and collaboration.
Discover more vector file types
Pros and cons of DWF files.
Before using the DWF file format, consider its advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of DWF files.
- Although it’s a smaller and simpler file type, DWFs hold large amounts of metadata, fonts, colour and images, including 3D models. Different users can add comments and mark-ups and reintroduce the original CAD format if required.
- Unlike DWG files, DWFs are open format. Users can open and share the files without paying licence fees for CAD software.
- Creators can conceal parts of the design — only displaying what they want recipients to see.
Disadvantages of DWF files.
- You need a specific viewer, such as Autodesk’s Freewheel, to open a DWF. Alternatively, you can convert a DWF file to a PDF with Adobe Acrobat.
How to open and edit a DWF file.
Follow these four easy steps to open a DWF file.
- Install a compatible programme, like AutoCAD or Autodesk Viewer.
- Unzip your DWF files. This process depends on whether you use Windows or macOS, but generally requires creating a new file location on your desktop and choosing the Extract all option.
- Click your file and select Open with. Find your DWF-compatible viewer and open.
- Edit your file with comments and mark-ups.
How to create and edit an DWF file.
Follow these three easy steps to create a DWF on AutoCAD:
- Save your DWF file.
- Click Output > Export to DWF/PDF > Export > DWF.
- Enter a file name in the Save to DWF box and press save.
DWF files: frequently asked questions.
How do I convert a DWF file to PDF?
Follow these four steps to convert a DWF to PDF:
- Open Adobe Acrobat. Click Tools > Create PDF.
- Using the Options menu, select your DWF file.
- Click Create to convert your DWF to PDF.
- Save your PDF to your desktop or other preferred location.
Or you can convert a DWF to PDF online with Adobe Acrobat.
Can I open a DWF in Illustrator?
Adobe Illustrator doesn’t support the DWF format — but you can convert your DWF files to a compatible format like a PDF or DWG file.
How do I convert a DWF to DWG?
Follow these five simple steps to convert your DWF file to DWG in AutoCAD:
- Open AutoCAD and create a new drawing.
- Use the command DWFATTACH to attach your DWF.
- Export the drawing as a PDF and save the file.
- Use the command PDFIMPORT and import your exported file.
- When prompted, select Import the PDF file as AutoCAD geometry.
Are DWFs raster or vector files?
DWF files are vector files built from mathematical formulas and algorithms, making them scalable without losing resolution. On the other hand, raster file formats use pixels instead of algorithms. Learn more about the differences between raster and vector files.
What’s the difference between DWF and DXF?
Both DWF and DXF are used to change DWG files into new formats. However, DXF is generally used to share information between other CAD-based programmes.
Learn more about similar file types to DWFs.
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