What Is a DXF File?

How to open, edit, and convert DXF files

What to Know

  • A DXF file is a Drawing Exchange Format file.
  • Open one online with ShareCAD, or offline with eDrawings Viewer.
  • Convert to SVG, DWG, PDF, etc., with various converter tools.

This article explains more about this vector file format, including how to open a DXF file and how to convert one to a different format.

What Is a DXF File?

A file with the .DXF file extension is a Drawing Exchange Format file developed by Autodesk as a type of universal format for storing CAD models. The idea is that if the file format is supported in various 3D modeling programs, they can all import/export the same documents with ease.

DXF Files
DXF Files.

This format, also called Drawing Interchange Format, is similar to the AutoCAD Drawing Database file format that uses the DWG file extension. However, DXF files are more widely used in CAD programs since it can exist in a text-based, ASCII format that naturally makes it easier to implement in these types of applications.

DWF files are similar files but are instead used to share files online or via a free viewer program, while DXF is for interoperability.

How to Open DXF Files

Autodesk has a couple free viewers available, including the online Autodesk Viewer, as well as the DWG TrueView desktop program. There's also the AutoCAD 360 mobile app that lets you view your DXF files that are stored in online file storage services like Dropbox.

Another way to quickly open the file online is to use ShareCAD.

DXF file open in ShareCAD
DXF file open in ShareCAD.

The free eDrawings Viewer from Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks works, too.

Some other compatible programs include Autodesk's AutoCAD and Design Review programs as well as TurboCAD, CorelCAD, CADSoftTools' ABViewer, Adobe Illustrator and Canvas X Draw.

Cheetah3D and some of the programs mentioned above will work for opening the file on macOS. Linux users can work with the format using LibreCAD.

Since ASCII versions of the DXF format are just text files, they can be opened with any text editor. Doing this, however, doesn't let you see the drawing like you would in an actual model viewer. Instead, there will just be several sections of letters and numbers.

How to Convert a DXF File

Use Adobe Illustrator to convert DXF to SVG. Another option is to to use a free online converter like Convertio.

Getting it in the DWG format (current and older versions) can be done with a trial version of AutoDWG DWG DXF Converter. You can only use this software for 15 days and on a single file at once.

The eDrawings Viewer program mentioned above can save one to a variety of formats like EDRW, ZIP, EXE, HTM, BMP, TIF, JPG, and PNG.

Filestar is an excellent option because it supports a huge number of conversion formats. It can convert your DXF file to over 100 formats, all listed here.

If you'd rather not install Filestar to convert the file to PDF, upload it to DXFconverter.org and choose the PDF option. That website also supports saving the file to JPG, TIFF, PNG, and SVG. You can also use Adobe Acrobat to convert DXF to PDF.

Bear File Converter might be useful if you want the DXF file to be in the STL file format. It's an online converter.

dxf2gcode can save a DXF file to the G-CODE for Linux CNC format with the NGC file extension.

To use the text content of the file with Excel or some other spreadsheet software, you can convert the file to CSV with MyGeodata Converter.

One of the viewers above might be able to convert the file to a different format as well, like to an Adobe Illustrator AI file.

Still Can't Open the File?

If none of those programs or services are opening your file, double-check that the file extension really does read .DXF and not something similar, like OXT. Lots of files share similar file extension characters, but that doesn't mean the formats are related or that they are compatible with the same software.

DXR (Protected Macromedia Director Movie) and DXL (Domino XML Language), for example, both open with programs unrelated to the CAD software mentioned on this page.

A similar one is DFX. This one is actually a CAD document, too, that can be used with AutoCAD, but it's normally created and used by CAD programs from Drafix.

More Information on the DXF Format

Since the DXF format was released in 1982, there have been several changes to its specifications, which is why you might have one DXF file in binary format and another in ASCII. You can see a PDF of the specifications on AutoCAD's website.

Recent versions of AutoCAD support both ASCII and binary DXF files. However, if you happen to be running Release 10 (which has been available since 1988, so it's unlikely), you can only work with ASCII DXF files.

A typical DXF file is organized, in order, with a HEADER, CLASSES, TABLES, BLOCKS, ENTITIES, OBJECTS, THUMBNAILIMAGE and END OF FILE section. You can read all the details about each section in the PDF linked above.

Scan2CAD and myDXF are a couple websites where you can get free DXF files.

  • Can you export to DXF in Photoshop?

    No. DXF files are vector files, traditionally managed by programs like Adobe Illustrator, and, as such, Photoshop doesn't support direct exportation to DXF.

  • What are DXF files used for?

    DXF files are used in a variety of industries, from the engineering and design of products, to creating photorealistic models for marketing campaigns. In the CAD world, DXF files solved many compatibility issues, allowing both artists and engineers to work together on one file format.

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