What Is a DWF File?

How to open, edit, and convert DWF files

What to Know

This article explains what a DWF file is, how to open one on your computer or phone, and how to convert one to a different file format.

What Is a DWF File?

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 software that created the original drawing.

DWF Files

The file 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.

Similar to the PDF format, DWF files can be opened regardless of the hardware, software, or operating system that was used to create it. They're 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

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 the file without the need for their AutoCAD software. This can be done through their Design Review program, the free online Autodesk Viewer, and their A360 mobile app (available for iOS and for 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 this format as well, but it, too, can't edit the file. The same is true for the viewer at ShareCAD.org.

Revit can export to the DWF format, so it might be able to open these files as well.

Having been created with ZIP compression means you can open one with a file zip/unzip program like 7-Zip. Opening one this way lets you see various XML and binary files that make up the drawing, but it won't let you view the design like you can with the programs mentioned above.

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 section.

AnyDWG's Any DWF to DWG Converter does just what you'd think—it converts the file to DWG or DXF, and can even do so in batch 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 to DWG using nothing but the Design Review program linked to from above. See this post at JTB World Blog for details.

Another converter from AnyDWG saves DWF to the PDF format. AutoCAD and Design Review should have the ability to save to PDF as well, but if not, you can install a free PDF printer that 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 to PDF 30 times.

If none of those programs are helpful, try Filestar. It's a desktop app, so you install it to your Windows or Mac computer. It can convert from DWF to over 10 formats.

Still Can't Open It?

It's possible that you have a file that isn't actually an Autodesk Design Web Format file but, instead, just appears to be. Some file types use an extension that's spelled a lot like 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 formats such as Workshare Compare Delta and Windows Driver Foundation.

Three other examples are BWF, WRF, DRF, and DVT. 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. It's usable with AutoCAD, Design Review, and 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/numbers to learn more about the format it's in. From there, you shouldn't have any problem finding a compatible opener or converter.

  • What is DWF underlay?

    In AutoCAD, underlays provide visual content and support object snapping and clipping, but they cannot be bound to the drawing. When you attach a DWF underlay to a drawing, you can modify its position, scale, or rotation.

  • What's the difference between DWG and DWF files?

    DWG is the default file type used by AutoCAD. You should save files in the DWG format if you plan to open and edit them in AutoCAD later. When it comes to DWF files, you can only view them in AutoCAD—you can’t edit DWF files. Autodesk created the DWF file format to share drafts with people who don’t have access to AutoCAD.

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