DXF: what you should know about this file format

DXF, file icon

You may have come to this article because you know the files in DXF format and you need to know something more about them, or simply out of curiosity because you did not know them. In both cases, I will try to show you everything you need to know about this very important file format in the field of design.

In addition, you should know that there are many compatible software with this format, and not only AutoCAD can store designs or open them in DXF. In fact, the possibilities are quite numerous ...

What is DXF?

CAD design

DXF is the acronym in English for Darkwing Exchange Format. A file format with a .dxf extension used for computer-aided drawings or designs, that is, for CAD.

Autodesk, the owner and developer of the famous AutoCAD software, was the one who created this format, especially to enable interoperability between the DWG files used by their software and the rest of similar programs on the market.

Arose for the first time in 1982. , along with the first version of AutoCAD. And it is that with the passage of time the DWGs have become more and more complex, and its portability through DXF has been complicated. Not all DWG-compliant functions were moved to DXF and this leads to compatibility issues and mismatches.

In addition to that, DXF was created as a type of drawing interchange file to be a universal format. In this way, CAD models (or 3D modeling) could be stored and used by other software or vice versa. That is, everyone could import or export from or to this format with ease.

DXF has an architecture similar to a drawing database, storing information in plain text or binaries to describe the layout and everything that is needed to rebuild this one.

Compatible software


There are endless software applications that can handle these files in DXF format, some can only open and display the designs, others can also import / export as well as modify the designs.

Between the software list known that can be compatible with DXF would highlight:

  • Adobe Illustrator
  • altium
  • ArchiCAD
  • AutoCAD
  • Blender (using import script)
  • Cinema 4D
  • CorelDraw
  • DraftSight
  • FreeCAD
  • Inkscape
  • FreeCAD
  • Microsoft Office (Word, Visio)
  • Paint Shop Pro
  • SketchUp
  • Solid Edge
  • SolidWorks

According to the platform with which you work you can use one or other applications. For example:

  • Android- You can use AutoCAD which is also available for mobile devices and accepts DXF.
  • Windows- You can also use AutoCAD and Design Review among others, such as TurboCAD, CorelCAD, CorelDraw, ABViewer, Canvas X, Adobe Illustrator, etc.
  • MacOS: There are several well-known design programs, one of them is AutoCAD, but you also have SolidWORKS, DraftSight, etc.
  • Linux: one of the best known and most used is LibreCAD, but you can also use DraftSight, Inkscape, Blender, FreeCAD, etc.
  • Navigator: to open a DXF online, without the need for programs, you can also do them from your favorite browser from ShareCAD or also ProfiCAD.

And of course, there are online and local tools to convert between different file formats, including DXF. Therefore, you can convert to or from other formats without problems. Although I do not guarantee that the design will be the same or something misaligned ...

3D and DXF printing

printer 3D

If you use a printer 3D you have to know that there is also software for convert between different formats very interesting. It is the case of these two alternatives:

  • mesh lab: a portable, open source software that is widely used to process and edit 3D meshes. You can generate objects in different formats, such as OBJ, OFF, STL, PLY, 3DS, COLLADA, VRML, GTS, X3D, IDTF, U3D and, of course, DXF. It is available for Linux (both in universal Snap packages and in AppImage for any distro), macOS, and Windows.
  • MeshMixer: is similar to the previous one, an alternative. In this case it is also free and available for macOS and Windows.

DXF for 3D and CNC printing

Cnc machine

With the proliferation of 3D printing and CNC machines In the industry, DXF files have become quite important. You should know that there are some websites that allow you to download DXF files with ready-made designs to facilitate the construction of objects. That way, you won't have to create them yourself, which is very helpful, especially if you don't know how to handle CAD software.

There are some websites that are paid, that is, you must pay a subscription to be able to access the designs and download them freely. Others are Returns, and you can find a bit of everything. From simple logos so that you can create them from the DXF downloaded with your machine, to objects, ornaments, furniture, plates, etc.

For example, if you want to start testing DXF in any of the software programs listed above, I recommend that you make use of one of these free websites:

So you will become familiar with the format and with these designs, or test the machine you have purchased to see if it does its job correctly ...

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