You’ve got to hand it to Autodesk. With AutoCAD, they’ve managed to become the major worldwide force in the design community, developing the drafting platform for nearly every discipline in the AEC industry. Their BIM product, Revit will likely follow suit as the standard for Building Information Modeling in due time.
Because most clients do not have AutoCAD or Revit, Autodesk has also developed a format for viewing drawings that combines the visual functionality of .PDF, but can condense the information while retaining resolution and drawing scale in ways that are not achievable in .PDF and certainly not .JPG or any of the other image formats. And best of all, the viewer for this format is FREE. Enter the world of .DWF and this format works for 2-D and 3-D drawings and models generated from AutoCAD or Revit.
First off, please note that .DWF, like AutoCAD itself, is only supported by a PC, so if you own a MAC, you will need additional support in order to run PC applications. Or you can use the McDwiff viewer.
To install, go to www.autodesk.com and look for the link that says “Autodesk Design Review – FREE“. Click on the link and it will bring you to a registration page. Unless you would like to receive e-mails about products or updates, there is a link at the very top of the registration page that reads “If you do not want to register, click here to skip registration and start the download.” Click on “click here” and a window will pop up that will ask you if you want to run or save the setup file. I recommend saving the file somewhere on your hard drive, then running it from your hard drive (just in case your download should get interrupted for some reason). Have patience, the file is over 40 megs and will take some time to download, even for faster connection speeds.
Once you have downloaded the file, you can close your web browser and run the setup file off your hard drive. The setup wizard will walk you through the setup process, so follow the directions and voila, you will have the viewer set up on your computer and are ready to open and view .DWF files.
Once you have the viewer open with a .DWF file on the screen, you will find that the environment is very similar in look and feel to the Adobe Acrobat viewer for .PDF files, but there are some additional tools. Aside from the basics like zoom and print, you will see that there are measurement tools that allow you to do linear and area take-offs directly from the drawing. You can also redline the drawing and save it so you can collaborate with others.
We use .DWF for both our AutoCAD drawing files as well as our 3-D Revit models because the tools for the client are more advanced and the file sizes are significantly smaller than their .PDF counterparts. This allows us to manage a lot more drawing information across the internet without having to break up the plan sets. So enjoy your new free software tools and happy viewing!
Note: if you just want to view .DWF files without installing any software, the web-based viewer Freewheel does not require a download of any kind. Just open it in your web browser and open your .DWF files using the web interface. This is also an option for MAC users if you don’t want to install McDwiff. You can still zoom, pan and print from Freewheel, but you will not have the markup and measurement tools that you have in the full software version.