2D Drafting

Tuesday Tips - A quick guide to DXF

By Rose Barfield 4 min August 5, 2019
Tuesday Tips - A quick guide to DXF

We all know and love BricsCAD for its native .dwg format, but did you know that BricsCAD also fully supports another, highly compatible file format: DXF?

What is DXF?

D.X.F. stands for Drawing Exchange Format. Simply put: it's a highly compatible CAD file type, unusually compatible in fact. The information in the file can be used to transfer to a huge number of other CAD file types.

You can find a VERY long list of compatible software types, but that doesn't really touch the surface. They are used for a really wide range of applications from basic data transfer to CNC machines, plasma cutters to logo design.

It's a vector, which means it's completely scalable, much like its .esp, .svg, and .dwg counterparts. It's also possible to store 3D geometry in a .dxf file. However, this information may not be supported by some programs. In this case, a 2D representation will often be displayed instead. It even supports information such as color, line weight, and hatching style. The information is just saved differently.

Why was DXF created?

It was originally created as an open-source alternative to .dwg in 1982. You can access the full specification of .dxf files whenever you like. This has made this file type highly compatible, unlike .dwg.

.dwg was not made open-source until 2006 when the Open Design Alliance reverse-engineered the .dwg file type and made the full .dwg specification available free online.

The first .dxf file types were coded in plain text, making it easier for coders to interpret the information. Since 1988 both ASCII (plain text) and binary forms have been available.


.dxf files are created without units. This means that the user or file reader needs to know the drawing units or input them manually based on textual comments.

There is less precision in .dxf drawings than in their .dwg counterpart.

DXF does lose data. Custom objects are not supported. So you don't want to use this to save your data in BricsCAD. It is for export and import only!

These files are much larger because of the way that the code is written.

File size of the same drawing:

  • DXF (ASCII) 1,116 KB
  • DXF (binary) 581 KB
  • DWG 16 KB

Tuesday Tips - A quick guide to DXF- dwg dxf-1024x615

The last lines from the same drawing in various file types. Note the difference in number of lines of code for each file type. Left: dwg file code (981 lines). Middle: .dxf ASCII code (19,734 lines). Right: .dxf binary code (37,124 lines).

Working with DXF in BricsCAD

Because of its limitations, it's better to save BricsCAD files in .dwg unless you want to export them. This will prevent data loss and free up space on your hard drive.

BricsCAD supports even "partial" .dxf files with missing data, even a whole missing header!

You can even open and edit .dxf files free using our free software BricsCAD Shape.

BricsCAD supports many more file types.

When exporting files for CNC machines you might need to adjust the decimal places. Make sure you check. With BricsCAD you can enter any number between 0 (no decimal places) and 6. Many CNC (computerized numerical control) machines require 4 decimal places.

Some software can only read .dxf files up to a particular version. Make sure you check compatibility before you export. BricsCAD provides a huge number of export options.

Don't have BricsCAD yet?

Easy to try, easy to buy, easy to own. That's BricsCAD®. Try all of our products, for free for 30 days at www.bricsys.com. Freedom of choice, plus perpetual (permanent) product licenses that work with all languages, in all places. You'll love what we've built for you with the BricsCAD® product family.

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