Software Review: Free software for sharing DWFs

Oct. 11, 2007
Autodesk Design Review is intuitive software that lets users mark up and measure DWF design files, without the original CAD program.

By Leslie Gordon

Best yet, the software comes as a free download from Other programs there include DWG TrueView, a standalone that translates DWGs to DWFs, and DWF Writer, a printer driver that converts to DWFs the output of any Windows application, including those in Microsoft Office, as well as SolidWorks, Pro/Engineer, Catia, and Acrobat files. The developers says Design Review is intended to let designers communicate and collaborate easily with customers, suppliers, and even the shop floor.

The most basic use of the software might have a designer using AutoCAD and a reviewer using Design Review. Opening a DWF file of interest in Design Review brings up the Navigator window. A Contents palette to the left-hand side of the window displays thumbnails of every image, document, 2D sheet, 3D model, and image in the DWG file.

Taking measurements on the shop floor, for example, is simply a matter of first selecting the Zoom Rectangle button and dragging it across the area of interest. (Other buttons let users zoom in or out of a sheet or fit it to the main window.) Click on the ruler icon in the main toolbar and hover the cursor over one end of the object to be measured until a red snap-point appears. Clicking and dragging until the same point shows on the other end of the object displays the distance between the end points. Other measurement options let users measure areas and lengths along polylines, among other things.

Standard markup tools include straightforward text, shapes, stamps, and revision clouds. According to the developer, markup tools “persist,” which means they remain part of the 3D file, rather than being mere blocks of text. A nifty markup tool called the Stamp lets users import DWFs as symbols. Users can publish a graphics file to DWF with DWF Writer, import it as a symbol, and then use it just like a stamp. Other, more-conventional stamps include Final, Approved, Rejected, and Preliminary. A neat Snapshot tool located near the Stamp lets users capture any portion of the onscreen window. The saved image appears at the end of the Contents list.

Reviewers can change a markup’s status by choosing the Select Objects tool, clicking on the markup, and then selecting from Done, Question, or For Review. For visual reference, the markup highlights with green, purple, or yellow to indicate its new status. Reviewers can also add notes in the Notes section. The software tracks all markups along with their status and notes throughout the revision.

Users can publish DWF files with animations, assembly instructions, and table data such as BOMs and parts lists. Reviewers see the animations by selecting the particular sequence in the Animations palette, and by using the animation tools in the main toolbar. Assembly instructions are attached to individual sequences in an animation, and can include text instructions and parts lists. A Canvas Pane in the lower right of the Design Review window displays assembly instructions.

The developer says designers with later versions of AutoCAD and Inventor can directly import reviewed DWFs with markups to make revisions and additional annotations. Files can be exchanged as often as needed until all design issues are resolved. Advanced users might embed Design Review or DWF Viewer in HTML to post DWF files on the Web. For more information, see Those not wanting to embed large files can visit, which provides a way to share 2D and 3D designs without downloading software or design files.

The software is available on a CD from Autodesk Inc., 111 McInnis Pkwy., San Rafael, CA 94903, (415) 507-5000.

A single DWF file in Design Review combines a sheet set, a 3D model of an assembly, and an image captured by the Snapshot tool. The highlighted thumbnail displays a full-size version in the main window.

The main Navigator window includes a Contents palette that displays thumbnails of each sheet in a DWG file. Hovering the cursor over each thumbnail displays the sheet title.

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