What is a DWG File?

How to Open, Edit, & Convert DWG Files

DWG Files
DWG Files.

A file with the .DWG file extension is an AutoCAD Drawing Database file. It stores metadata and 2D or 3D vector image drawings that can be used with CAD programs.

DWG files are compatible with lots of 3D drawing and CAD programs, which makes it easy to transfer drawings between programs. However, because there are numerous versions of the format, some DWG viewers can't open every type of DWG file.

How to Open a DWG File

Autodesk has a free DWG file viewer for Windows called DWG TrueView.

They also have a free online DWG viewer called A360 Viewer that will work with any operating system.

Of course the full Autodesk programs - AutoCAD, Design, and Fusion 360 - recognize DWG files too.

Some other DWG file viewers and editors include Bentley ViewDWGSee, CADSoftTools ABViewer, TurboCAD Pro or LTE, ACD Systems Canvas, CorelCAD, GRAPHISOFT ArchiCAD, SolidWorks eDrawings Viewer, Adobe Illustrator, Bricsys Bricscad, Serif DrawPlus, and DWG DXF Sharp Viewer.

Dassault Systemes DraftSight can open a DWG file on Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems.

How to Convert a DWG File

Zamzar can convert DWG to PDF, JPG, PNG, and other similar file formats. Since it's an online DWG converter, it's much quicker to use than one that you have to install to your computer. However, it's only the best option if the file isn't too large since anything really big will take a long time to upload/download.

Other DWG files can be converted with the DWG viewers mentioned above. For example, the free DWG TrueView program can convert DWG to PDF, DWF, and DWFX; DraftSight can convert DWG files to DXF, DWS, and DWT for free; and DWG DXF Sharp Viewer can export DWGs as SVGs.

Newer DWG file formats can't open in older versions of AutoCAD.

See Autodesk's instructions on saving a DWG file to an earlier version, like 2000, 2004, 2007, 2010, or 2013. You can do it with the free DWG TrueView program through the DWG Convert button.

Microsoft has instructions on using a DWG file with MS Visio. Once opened in Visio, the DWG file can be converted to Visio shapes. You can also save Visio diagrams to the DWG format.

AutoCAD should be able to convert the DWG file to other formats like STL (Stereolithography), DGN (MicroStation Design), and STEP (STEP 3D Model). However, you might get a better conversion to the DGN format if you use the MicroStation software to import the DWG file.

TurboCAD supports those formats too, so you can use it to save the DWG file to STEP, STP, STL, OBJ, EPS, DXF, PDF, DGN, 3DS, CGM, image formats, and several other file types.

Other AutoCAD Formats

As you can tell from above, there are several different CAD file formats that can hold 3D or 2D data. Some of them look an awful lot like ".DWG," so it can be confusing how they differ. However, others use totally different file extensions but are still used within the AutoCAD program.

DWF files are Autodesk Design Web Format files that are popular because they can be given to inspectors who have no knowledge of the format or CAD programs.

The drawings can be seen and manipulated but some of the information can be hidden away to prevent confusion or theft. Learn more about DWF files here.

Some versions of AutoCAD use DRF files, which stands for Discreet Render Format. DRF files are made from the VIZ Render application that comes bundled with some older versions of AutoCAD. Because this format is so old, opening one in AutoCAD might make you save it to a newer format like MAX, for use with Autodesk 3DS MAX.

AutoCAD also uses the PAT file extension. These are vector-based, plain text Hatch Pattern files used for storing image data for creating patterns and textures.

PSF files are AutoCAD PostScript Patterns files.

In addition to filling in patterns, AutoCAD uses Color Book files with the ACB file extension to store a collection of colors. These are used to paint surfaces or fill in lines.

Text files that hold onto scene information created in AutoCAD are saved with the ASE file extension. These are plain text files so that they're more easily used by similar programs.

Digital Asset Exchange files (DAEs) are used by AutoCAD and a number of other similar CAD programs to exchange materials between the applications, like images, textures, and models.