AutoCAD DXF

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Title(s): AutoCAD DXF, DXF File Format, Drawing Interchange Format, Drawing Exchange Format

Version ID: u19.1.01

Date released: January 2008

Date: December 1982

Creator(s): AutoDesk - Created as part of AutoCAD 1.0

Contributor(s): AutoDesk

Description: The DXF file format is developed by AutoDesk and is used as a CAD file format. It was originally created as a way to increase interoperability between AutoCAD and other similar programs. The DXF file format was initially meant to provide exact representation of AutoCAD drawings which were natively stored in DWG(Drawing) format. Since AutoDesk did not release the DWG specification for some time, the DXF file format and the accompanying specification were meant to allow CAD drawings to be opened, edited, and exported by any CAD program.

History: Below is a short, bulleted history of the DXF file format.

  • December 1982 - DXF file format released as part of AutoCAD 1.0
  • October 1888 - Both ASCII and binary forms of the DFX file supported in AutoCAD
  • October 1994 - Specification first released as part of AutoCAD Release 13
  • February 1997 to Current - Specification updated and released as part of every release from AutoCAD Release 14 to the latest AutoCAD 2010

Example(s): An example file found here: [1] is shown below.


 0        // Delimiter means we're starting 'something new.'
SECTION    // Aha! The 'something new' we're starting is a section
  2        // What section? 2 means ENTITIES section.
ENTITIES   // ENTITIES also means ENTITIES section. Sound redundant?
  0        // Starting 'something new' again!
3DFACE     // Oh, yeah, baby! It's a 3DFACE!
  8        // 8 means the next line tells me what layer this is on
0          // It's on layer 0. I usually ignore the layer.
 10        // The line which follows will be vertex 1 X.
50.0       // X of vertex 1 is 50.0.
 20
-50.0      // Y of vertex 1 is -50.0.
 30
-50.0      // Z of vertex 1 is -50.0
 11
50.0       // X of vertex 2 is 50.0
 21
50.0       // Y of vertex 2 is 50.0
 31
-50.0      // And so on . . .
 12
-50.0
 22
50.0
 32
-50.0
 13
-50.0
 23
-50.0      // Once we read 'em all, we see that this 3DFACE has four
 33        // vertices with the following coordinates:
-50.0      // (50,-50,-50);(50,50,-50);(-50,50,-50);(-50,-50,-50)
  0        // Starting 'something new' again!
ENDSEC     // Ah, damn, it's the end of the ENTITIES section . . .
  0
EOF        // End of file, baby! You should stop reading now.

Identifier: [2]

Documentation: [3]

File Extensions: .dxf

Applications: - AutoDesk AutoCAD

  • Native application(s): AutoDesk AutoCAD (NOTE: this was meant as an interoperable format but was originally developed by and supported by AutoCAD so it is the only program listed here.)
  • Interoperable applications: The list below, found here - [4], is a list of many programs supporting this format.
   * A9Cad
   * Adobe Illustrator
   * AGI32
   * AI4CAD 3D
   * Alibre Design
   * Altium
   * ArchiCAD
   * ArcMap
   * AutoCAD
   * Blender - Using an import script
   * BRL-CAD
   * Cadwork
   * Corel Draw
   * DWGeditor
   * Drawbase
   * Easy-PC
   * Epanet
   * Eye-Sys
   * EnRoute[1]
   * FASTechnologies NC-CAM
   * Geosoft Oasis montaj
   * Google SketchUp
   * GraphCalc - Export only
   * Inkscape - export only as of version 0.46
   * IntelliCAD
   * Harness Expert
   * Hevacomp
   * Kabeja
   * Leica Geo Office
   * Lenel OnGuard
   * LD Assistant
   * Lightcalc
   * Manifold System
   * Maple 12
   * Mathematica
   * MetaCAM
   * Microlux
   * Microsoft Visio
   * Microstation
   * miniPLAN
   * Modo (software)
   * OmniWin Cadnest
   * Paint Shop Pro
   * PETRA
   * Pro/Engineer
   * pdf2cad
   * QCad
   * RackTools
   * Rhinoceros 3D
   * Solid Edge
   * Solidworks
   * VariCAD
   * VectorWorks
   * Visual

Magic numbers: The number 0 will appear at the beginning of the file and at the beginning of every new element. It is used as a delimiter in the file. There are also a number of other magic numbers that may appear in the header section, these are outlined in p13-34 in [5]

Format(s): application/dxf

Rights: Proprietary license distributed by AutoDesk

Sustainability Factors:

  • Standardization: AutoDesk controls this format. All other programs must conform to the standards and specification put forth by AutoDesk in their yearly release of AutoCAD.
  • Adoption: Given the list of programs supporting this file format shown above I would say that adoption is fairly widespread and that any major program in the the CAD field supports DXF.
    • Licensing and patent claims: None.
  • Self-documentation: The labels and section names make the files a little more understandable but there is no inherent ability for self-documentation.
  • External dependencies: None
  • Technical protection considerations: None

Typical use: CAD, specifically alternate, interoperable format of AutoCAD DWG files.

File classification:

  • Type {Binary, Text}: Binary and ASCII
  • Raster data:
    • Raster data 2D:
      • Is Supported: No
      • Description: N/A
    • Raster data 3D:
      • Is Supported: No
      • Description: N/A
  • Geometric representation:
    • Implicit representation:
      • Implicit surfaces:
        • Is Supported: No
        • Description: N/A
      • Implicit curves:
        • Is Supported: No
        • Description: N/A
      • Point set:
        • Is Supported: Yes
        • Description: An example of this is shown in the 3DFACE section shown in the example file above.
    • Mesh:
      • Manifold surface meshes:
        • Is Supported: No
        • Description: The only mesh type structure supported is the idea of a polyface mesh which is described in more detail in the specification document.
      • Manifold volume meshes:
        • Is Supported: No
        • Description: The only mesh type structure supported is the idea of a polyface mesh which is described in more detail in the specification document.
      • Non-manifold meshes:
        • Is Supported: No
        • Description: The only mesh type structure supported is the idea of a polyface mesh which is described in more detail in the specification document.
    • Parametric representation:
      • Parametric surfaces:
        • Is Supported: No
        • Description: N/A
      • Parametric curves:
        • Is Supported: No
        • Description: N/A
    • Contour sets:
      • Is Supported: No
      • Description: N/A
    • NURBS:
      • Is Supported: No
      • Description: Splines are supported but NURBS are not specifically supported in DXF as these type of spline is not in the specification document.
  • Multi-resolution models:
    • Is Supported: Yes
    • Description: Supports different levels. Each level represents a different slice of the overall drawing. See the level discussion in the specification file and in the example file comments.
  • Dynamics:
    • Kinematics:
      • Is Supported: No
      • Description: N/A
    • Assembly:
      • Is Supported: No
      • Description: N/A
    • Force(s):
      • Is Supported: No
      • Description: N/A
  • Boundary representation
    • Manifold surface boundary representations:
      • Is Supported: No
      • Description: N/A
    • Manifold volume boundary representations:
      • Is Supported: No
      • Description: N/A
    • Non-manifold boundary representations:
      • Is Supported: No
      • Description: N/A
  • Material transparency:
    • Is Supported: No
    • Description: N/A

References: