When was the last time you received a file type your computer couldn’t open? If you’re working on a project involving computer-aided design (CAD), the answer might be very recently. Many computers can’t read CAD file extensions like DXF, DWG and DGN. And even those who regularly work with CAD might need a simple, straightforward DXF viewer from time to time. This article has you covered.
What Is a DXF File?
A DXF file is an ASCII file format used in computer-aided design (CAD) programs that contains headers and lines of text describing the geometry to be rebuilt later. DXF stands for “drawing exchange format,” which represents what this file type was created for: sharing and collaborating in various CAD programs. Industries like architecture, engineering, construction, interior design, landscape design, product design and more all use DXF files. Many people also use DXF files for laser cutters, computer numerical control (CNC) machines and 3D printers.
Unlike other CAD file types, like DWG and DGN, the DXF file extension isn’t proprietary. That is why these files can be easily imported and exported using different CAD software. It also makes finding a DXF viewer and opening your files relatively easy.
How to Open a DXF File
Many CAD programs will import and convert a DXF file into its native format, such as DWG or DGN, where it can be edited, printed, or saved into the CAD format.
You can find plenty of DXF viewers online. There are free versions that are ideal for students or those who simply need to view a file someone else sent them, without manipulating it. DXF viewers for Windows are the most common option, but you can also find DXF viewers for Mac – just be sure to check the system requirements before you download.
What Can a DXF Viewer Do?
It goes without saying that a DXF viewer lets you convert a file into graphical format so you can view it. But do they have any other features? This is an important question that will help you determine whether you need a DXF file viewer or a more advanced program.
In addition to converting a file into graphics, you’ll likely be able to zoom in and out and pan across the image. Some also let you rotate the image, measure the area and measure the distance between two points. These are all considered basic features that you’ll find in many DXF viewers.
Open Other File Types
DXF isn’t the only file type that’s frequently used in CAD. Some DXF viewers will also let you open DWG and DGN files, which are the vector image formats created by AutoCAD and MicroStation. You might also need to open scalable vector graphics (SVG), a web-friendly 2D file format, or standard ACIS text (SAT) files, a solid modeling format. These file types aren’t as common, and not all DXF viewers will be able to open them. If you work with these file types, you might need a more advanced program.
Edit and Comment
Considering that this file format was designed originally as an exchange format, the ability to edit and comment on a file are also “nice to have” features. Some DXF viewers will let you comment, but most of them won’t be able to make edits directly to the file. To do that, you’ll need CAD software, like DraftSight.
Convert DXF Files
DXF files are easy to share and view, but they’re not always the file type you need. Some DXF viewers will let you convert the file into other vector formats like DWG, as well as common raster image formats like JPG, PNG and PDF. However, if you need to use a DXF file for CNC machining, you might need a professional software that converts 2D drawing entities to G-Code files, like DraftSight.
What if you want to convert a file to DXF? You might have received many legacy PDF files that you need to convert to DXF, which is easy to do with DraftSight’s Batch Processing feature. Or, you might have another raster image, like a BMP, JPG or PNG, that you need to edit in your CAD program. With DraftSight, you have the option to SAVEAS to a different file type option.
Print DXF Files
The easiest way to print DXF files is to convert them to PDF or another common file format, like JPG. That’s because most standard printer drivers, which is the printing software that comes installed on your computer, won’t recognize DXF files. If you need to print, be sure to download a DXF viewer that can convert to PDF.
To 3D print a DXF file, you’ll need to convert it to STL format, which stands for stereolithography, a format that contains only the surface geometry of the object without texture, color or other attributes. Standard DXF file viewers may not be able to do this, so if you often work with 3D printers, you’ll want to upgrade to a professional CAD software.
Need to access your files on-the-go? Many viewers let you open DXF files from a tablet or smartphone. There are DXF viewers for Android and iPhone that use lightweight file formats to let you view and share 2D drawings from anywhere, at any time, as long as you have an internet connection.
Finding the Best DXF Viewer
The best DXF viewer for you depends on what you’re going to use it for. Free DXF viewers primarily let you open and view this file type – if you need any features beyond that, you’ll probably want to look into a paid viewer. Not sure? Go for a DXF viewer with a free trial, which lets you test out the features to see if it’s the right fit.
DraftSight offers a 30-day free trial of our Premium software, which includes comprehensive CAD features in addition to basic DXF viewing, editing, converting and printing. Sign up for your free trial today with no payment information required, and start viewing your DXF files right away.