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DWF Writer from Autodesk

reprinted by permission of Ralph Grabowski, editor

February 10, 2004

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Autodesk has said rude things about Adobe, its Acrobat software, and the PDF [portable document format] file format. Not so long ago, visitors to Autodesk's DWF Web site saw pictures of inept acrobats and the letters PDF struck through with a red diagonal line. The negative campaign made the self-proclaimed "world's leading design software and digital content company" sound like an underdog.

More recently, the anti-PDF rhetoric has been eliminated, with Autodesk's director of DWF strategy Tony Peach acknowledging that "Adobe's PDF is good for standard office applications..." and that "...the DWF file format was developed specifically for design and engineering industries...". At http://www.autodesk.com/dwf, the anti-PDF logo has been replaced with a curvy DWFit logo.

Until last week, it was only Autodesk products and a few other software packages that handled DWF. Available at the Revit Web site was a piece of software called "DWF Writer." It is a printer driver that allows any software package to generate DWF files. Last week, Autodesk made the 5MB download available officially from its own Web site at http://www.autodesk.com/dwfwriter (registration required).

In a press release, Autodesk pokes at competitors: "DWF Writer brings this same functionality to other CAD applications that do not offer built-in DWF publishing, such as Bentley MicroStation and SolidWorks." The truth is that neither company has any interest building-in DWF. Bentley is working with Adobe to make PDF more friendly towards CAD, and SolidWorks has its own highly-advanced eDrawings format. Adobe itself directly supports PDF output from AutoCAD 2004 (and earlier), but not for free.

Shyly deposited in the midst of the press release is mention of another piece of software: "For users that need electronic review and mark-up capabilities, the soon-to-be-released DWF Composer both helps reduce cycle time and costly printing and plotting throughout the design collaboration process. DWF Writer will be a key component of DWF Composer, enabling users to composite multiple file types into a single DWF file, further facilitating the exchange and archiving of drawing sets."

The DWF software collection from Autodesk now consists of:

  • DWFout (free) in AutoCAD and other products that exports drawings in DWF format.
  • DWF Writer (free) that lets any software output documents in DWF format.
  • Express Viewer (free) that views and prints DWF files.
  • DWF Composer that combines documents from various sources.
  • DWF Toolkit provides the API (applications programming interface) that lets DWF read/write be embedded in other applications.

Autodesk hopes DWF would become the universal exchange format for drawings in an uneditable format. Competitors are suspicious, and are developing their own formats (eDrawing) or relying on others (PDF and CSF). For now, Autodesk is making DWF generation, viewing, and printing available for free, perhaps hoping "grassroots" drafters will ingratiate DWF in their organizations. Missing from last week's announcement is mention of support for the Macintosh.

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