What Is a DWF File?

How to open, edit, and convert DWF files

A file with the DWF file extension is an Autodesk Design Web Format file created in computer-aided design (CAD) programs. It's a highly compressed version of a CAD file that's useful for viewing, printing, and transmitting the design without the need for the recipient to understand how to use the CAD software that created the original drawing.

DWF files can be really simple and include just a single sheet or have multiples and be complex to the point of having fonts, color, and images,

What's more is that, similar to the PDF format, DWF files can be opened regardless of the hardware, software, or operating system that was used to create it. DWF files are also useful in that they can be created in a way that masks part of the design from the recipient, effectively sharing only what the creator wants to be seen.

How to Open a DWF File

DWF Files

Autodesk's AutoCAD and Inventor software, ABViewer from CADSoftTools, and likely many other CAD programs are able to open, create, and edit DWF files.

Autodesk has several free ways you can view a DWF file without the need for their AutoCAD software. This can be done through their Design Review program, the free online DWF viewer called Autodesk Viewer, and their Autodesk A360 mobile app (available for iOS and Android).

Autodesk used to offer a service called Freewheel that could view DWF files online without needing any software, but it was shut down in 2014.

The free Navisworks 3D Viewer opens DWF files as well but it, too, cannot edit them. The same is true for the free online DWF viewer at ShareCAD.org.

The Revit software from Autodesk can export to the DWF format, so it might be able to open DWF files as well.

DWF files, having been created with ZIP compression, can be opened with a file zip/unzip program like 7-Zip or PeaZip. Opening a DWF file this way lets you see various XML and binary files that make up the DWF file, but it won't let you view the design like you can with the programs I just mentioned.

How to Convert a DWF File

Using AutoCAD is, of course, the easiest way to convert a DWF file to another format. Look for the option in the File menu, or an Export or Convert menu.

AnyDWG's Any DWF to DWG Converter does just what you'd think—it converts the DWF file format to DWG or DXF, and can even do so in batch so as to convert several folders of drawing files at once. Also supported is the ability to extract images from the DWF file.

You might also be able to convert DWF to DWG using nothing but the Design Review program linked to from above. See this post at JTB World Blog for details.

Another DWF file converter from AnyDWG, called DWF to PDF Converter, converts DWF to the PDF format. AutoCAD and Design Review should have the ability to save DWF files as PDFs too, but if not, you can install a free PDF printer like doPDF, which lets you "print" files to PDF.

The AnyDWG converters above are trial programs. The DWF to DWG converter is free only for the first 15 conversions, and the PDF converter can only save DWF files to PDFs 30 times.

What to Do If the File Won't Open

It's possible that you have a file that isn't actually an Autodesk Design Web Format file but instead just a file that appears as such. Some file formats use file extensions that are very similar in spelling to .DWF but it doesn't necessarily mean that they can open with the same tool or can be converted in the same way.

For example, a WDF file shares all three of the same file extension letters as DWF but is instead used for Workshare Compare Delta, Windows Driver Foundation, WinGenea Genealogy, Wiimm Disc, or Wonderland Adventures Media files.

Two other examples are BWF and DVT. However, the former, is used for special WAV audio files called Broadcast Wave files.

Another file format that actually is similar to Design Web Format is Design Web Format XPS, which uses the DWFX file extension. However, even this file type isn't compatible with every program mentioned above that works with DWF files. Instead, DWFX files open with AutoCAD, Design Review, or Microsoft XPS Viewer (and possibly other XPS file openers).

The idea here is that if your file won't open even after trying all the DWF openers and converters above, double-check the file extension and then research those letters (and/or numbers) to learn more about the format it's in. From there, you shouldn't have any problem finding a compatible opener or converter.