March 08, 2004
Is DWF Necessary?
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Message from the Editor -

Welcome to GISWeekly! Autodesk is working on creating a demand for their DWF file format to replace PDF. They’re also working on getting their DWF products to cross industry groups from AEC to GIS, and to many other industry groups as well, as word gets around. Read about it in this week’s Industry News.

GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Alliances/Acquisitions, Announcements, Appointments/Resignations, New Products, Going on Around the Web, and Upcoming Events.

GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me at

Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

Is DWF Necessary?

By Susan Smith

Creating a demand for a file format may be a tough row to hoe, but that’s just what Autodesk has set out to do with its family of DWF products that originally were designed for design creation through to design collaboration of architectural, engineering and construction projects. DWF is intended to replace the need for Adobe PDF (Portable Document Format) files, which, in most industries, are a semi-standard format for exchanging documentation. Autodesk is working on getting their DWF products to cross industry groups from AEC to GIS, and to many other industry groups as well, as word gets around.

Bentley Systems, a competitor of Autodesk for many years, is not developing an alternative to PDF, although CAD designers have said for years that PDF doesn’t meet all their needs. Instead, Adobe, creators of PDF, and various CAD (including Bentley) vendors are working together to make the PDF file format friendlier towards CAD drawings. A new official group to this end, PDF Engineering (PDF/E) Working Group, hopes to "advance standards and best practices for the use of the Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) in engineering workflows." The group hopes to create an ISO standard by 2006.

AIIM and NPES, two organizations with a website that isn’t quite up yet, are spearheading this project. Among their members:

* Adobe Systems

* Agile

* Bentley Systems

* Hewlett Packard

* Océ

* Intel


* Layton Graphics

* Dell

* UGS PLM Solutions

The first planning meeting will take place March 10 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York, and is part of AIIM Standards Week 2004. Other companies are invited to take part

The question that arises often when discussing DWF products from Autodesk is, why? Why would anyone need an alternative file format to PDF? What are the advantages of DWF as opposed to PDF? “The PDF structure is not set up for the design environment,” explained Tony Peach of Autodesk. “DWF has a significant understanding of where objects are in space - you can’t get that in PDF.”

DWF helps speed up big processes, simplify data distribution, secures intellectual property, and share with those who don’t have a CAD package.

This offering is bigger than it may seem - the new product DWF Composer is a new viewer that debuted with 2005, although as yet it is not sold with it. It costs only $99 (as an introductory offer, $199 thereafter), is built on DWF Viewer, (a product that allows you to only view and print), but it does much more than that.

Mark Fritz, Senior Marketing Manager for AutoCAD PDT, said that DWF Composer was designed to smooth the transition for users from 2004. It is compatible with 2004, can be installed side by side with 2005, has integrated migration tools, is third party application compatible, and has an interactive new feature workshop.

With DWF Composer you can do space calculations, add notes, and have tight integration with both downstream tools and AutoCAD. “People will re-evaluate their use of PDF in the next years,” concluded Peach.

From customer studies the DWF Viewer was found to be useful and data rich, but it was non editable. Composer addresses customer demand in that it allows you to view, print, extract information and add redlining, and it’s also integrated with 2005. Target customers of this product are not necessarily AutoCAD users, they can be sales people or others using published data.

DWF Composer can do the following:

- feature integration with AutoCAD 2005, which completes the workflow process.

- markup browser (also in LT)

- export reports of comments

- navigate with captured views

- manipulate DWG

- signatures

It can also view raster, spreadsheets, Word documents, renderings and sketches, and has time snaps of when and who does the markup. The markup goes on top of the original DWG Sheet Set (Sheet Set Manager is a feature of the new AutoCAD 2005 release). “Now we’ve completed the round trip cycle and can bring that DWF back to AutoCAD so that you can compare the original file with the markup file and actually walk through the changes, modifications, and questions that have been added to that DWF file,” summarized Fritz. “It targets that sphere of influence around designers that typically don’t use AutoCAD a lot, but need to be integrated into the process--owner,
developer, contractor, or senior
designer who doesn’t have AutoCAD on their desktop. Being able to talk to their AutoCAD personnel digitally is really great.”

DWF Writer is a free print driver product that works with DWF Composer. “Many times as a designer I have a number of different types of documents that I want to send over to someone to support maybe a design or a problem we’re having on the site,” cited Fritz. “For instance, we’re having a building being built, something is going wrong, there’s an unforeseen condition, so I take a photo of that. I also have a Word document that describes that condition, maybe a question or two, maybe it’s an RFI -and maybe I had a little detail that I had drawn up in AutoCAD that’s part of my design documents. I can use the DWF Writer to actually produce a
single multi-sheet DWF file that contains all that
information, because I can write from Word, I can make a DW F out of that RFI, from the photo, I can make a DWF of that photo, I can actually bring jpegs into DWF Composer, and I can have that original detail in DWF format as well. And with Composer I can bring them all into one file so I can see them all at once. And then I can send that out to a contractor and say 'here’s my information, here’s my photo of the problem, here’s the detail I was supposed to have built. What do you think we should do'?”

GIS users requirements are clearly different than those of architectural and engineering designers, but Autodesk sees the possibilities for all industries. With the focus on CAD/GIS solutions recently, it makes sense that DWF might ultimately appeal to both CAD and GIS users. When I asked if users would also be able to read in ESRI shape files and other non-AutoCAD data, Fritz said: “Think of DWF as the base file format that everything else can be published into.”

What does the future hold? Autodesk is working towards developing 3D DWF, “so DWF today has really only 2D capabilities--it can view 2D documents and 2D drawings,” according to Fritz. “Later this year we’ll be offering up 3D capabilities, so that terrain mapping products will be able to view DWF in 3D as well. That takes us to the next level of differentiation between something like a PDF and DWF.”

For GIS users who may see a need for DWF Composer and the other products, AutoCAD Map, based on AutoCAD 2005, will have saved markup review integration with the DWF Composer products. MapGuide is not AutoCAD-based so no integration is available with that product currently. “The Mapguide group is actually doing some modifications to start working closer and tighter with DWF file format, so it’s going to be a better integration between Map and Mapguide along with the DWF file format,” Fritz explained. The next release should include that capability as well.

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