Computer-aided design (CAD) applications are used by professionals like architects, engineers, drafters, artists and others to create precision drawings or technical illustrations. CAD software can be used to create two-dimensional (2-D) drawings or three-dimensional (3-D) models. These models are represented by a number of CAD file formats for storage and display on computer systems. is your one stop for guidance about such file formats. Its unique combination of file format wiki, news and support forums gives you the opportunity to get knowledge about file types and engage in fruitful discussions with file format community.

CAD File Formats

The CAD file format category on includes file formats that can be processed by popular CAD software applications such as AutoCAD. Let us have a look at some of these file formats.


Design Web Format (DWF) represents 2D/3D drawing in compressed format for viewing, reviewing or printing design files. It contains graphics and text as part of design data and reduce the size of the file due to its compressed format. The reduced file size makes the distribution and communication of rich design data efficient. DWF doesn’t require the recipient to know about the usage of CAD software that created the original drawing. The contents of DWF file format can be simple and include just a single sheet or complex enough to have fonts, color, and images.


Files with DWG extension represent proprietary binary files used for containing 2D and 3D design data. Like DXF, which are ASCII files, DWG represent the binary file format for CAD (Computer Aided Design) drawings. It contains vector image and metadata for representation of contents of CAD files. There are free viewers available for viewing DWG files on Windows Operating System such as the Autodesk’s free DWG TrueView. There are other third party applications as well that support reaching DWG files. DWG files contain user created information and includes:

  • Designs
  • Geometric data
  • Maps and photos

This format is widely used by architects, engineers, and designers for various designing purposes.


STL, abbreviation for stereolithrography, is an interchangeable file format that represents 3-dimensional surface geometry. The file format finds its usage in several fields such as rapid prototyping, 3D printing and computer-aided manufacturing. It represents a surface as a series of small triangles, known as facets, where each facet is described by a perpendicular direction and three points representing the vertices of the triangle. Resultant data is used by applications to determine the cross section of the 3D shape to be built by the fabber. There is no information available in the STL file format for representation of colour, texture or other common CAD model attributes.


Files with IFC extension refer to  Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) file format that establishes international standards to import and export building objects and their properties. This file format provides interoperability between different software applications. Specifications for this file format are developed and maintained by buildingSMART International as its Data Standard. The ultimate objective of IFC file format is to improve communication, productivity, delivery time and quality throughout the life cycle of a building. Due to the established standards for common objects in the building industry, it reduces the loss of information during transmission from one application to another. IFC can hold data for geometry, calculation, quantities, facility management, pricing etc. for many different professions (architect, electrical, HVAC, structural, terrain etc.).

File Format Resources

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