Glossary - DWG File Format

What Is a .dwg File

What Is a .dwg File? |  DWG File Extension / Format

What is a DWG file? Native to AutoCAD, Autodesk’s computer-aided design (CAD) suite, DWG is both a file format and a CAD operating environment. DWG files are among the most popular and widely utilized CAD file formats among engineers and designers in almost every industry.

Let's dive deeper into:

  • What is a DWG file? 
  • What applications can import/export them
  • Common problems users encounter working with the DWG file type
  • How you can import files with the .dwg extension without introducing translation errors or breaking metadata.


What Is a .dwg File Format: Origins and Use 

A DWG file is a proprietary (closed-source) file format used for storing two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) drawings, model data, and metadata. 

The DWG file extension is a binary file format that stores data in a highly compressed form. This makes it ideal for storing large design files but can also make it difficult to open DWG files if you don't have the right software.


What Is the .dwg File Extension?

The file ext .dwg is the file extension used by DWG files.

Don’t confuse DWG files with DXF files.  In 1982, Autodesk also released the neutral (open-source) DXF file format to store 2D and 3D design data. 

Though both file types are used in CAD/CAM applications, they are not the same. Unlike DWG, DXF stores data as plain text, which makes file sizes large.


What CAD Programs Can Open the .dwg File Type?

DWG File Extension

Only Autodesk and licensed software can read and write DWG file formats. Some software and DWG viewers that can open the .dwg file extension are:

  • Autodesk AutoCAD 
  • Autodesk DWG TrueView
  • IntelliCAD
  • Open Design Alliance applications
  • Caddie
  • IMSI TurboCAD 
  • CorelCAD 
  • Dassault Systemes DraftSight
  • Adobe Illustrator 
  • Canvas X
  • CADSoftTools ABViewer
  • progeCAD iCADMac
  • Bricsys Bricscad


Common Problems Users Face Opening DWG Files

DWG file extension is not a widely supported file format, meaning users can encounter errors trying to open files. Some common issues users report trying to use or view .dwg files are:

  1. Incompatible software: as mentioned above, you need a program that supports the DWG file format in order to open it. If you don't have a compatible program, you won't be able to open the file.
  2. Corrupted files: DWG files can become corrupted if they are not properly saved or exported. This can make them difficult or impossible to open.
  3. Large file size: DWG files can be quite large, especially if they contain a lot of vector image data. This can make them difficult to open and process, particularly on older computers.
  4. Outdated software: if you're using older software, it may not be able to open newer versions of DWG files. Features built into newer versions of the file may also make files unusable.

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Can You View a DWG File With Non-Autodesk Licensed Applications?

Since DWG files are a proprietary file type, non-Autodesk CAD applications cannot open the file natively. In order to import a file with the DWG extension, it must first be converted by the application. This can cause issues such as:

  • Slowing down workflows 
  • Version control issues
  • Errors in model data
  • Loss of metadata
  • Long import times


How to Open DWG Files in CAD/CAM Applications Reliably

Import DWG files to your application and improve user experience with Spatial’s 3D InterOp. A ready-to-use SDK for your CAD/CAM application, 3D InterOp offers users a seamless experience. 

  • Support a wide range of 2D and 3D object file types
  • Allow users to perform selective data imports
  • Preserve metadata
  • Eliminate data translation errors
  • Output to non-native formats without disrupting workflows

Learn how 3D InterOp can help you improve interoperability and grow your customer base.